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At last, co.za grows up

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After more than a decade of market demand, the process of co.za domain registration in South Africa has finally been modernised and the market for domain name registrations has been opened up, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK.

For the first time since website domain registration began in South Africa, a near-instant registration system has been introduced that allows for interactive control panel management and live registration detail updates.

Until recently, anyone wanting to register a co.za domain had to fill in an obtuse form and e-mail it to UniForum, the company responsible for administering domain name registrations in South Africa since the mid-1990s.

Now, both UniForum and domain registrations are evolving. UniForum is becoming a central registry for domains, which will probably go hand-in-hand with a name change for the organisation. In turn, it will offer accreditation to independent registrars, who will be able to allow customers to register domains directly via an Extensible Provisioning Protocol (EPP). (See http://registry.coza.net.za/doku.php for detailed background)

UniForum’s role will become more of a behind-the-scenes one that entails the maintenance of the registry of domains in the country whereas the registration will be the role of service providers that have a direct interface with the registry.

The fast-tracked registration process is made possible by UniForum’s adoption of an internationally-recognised domain registration protocol known as Extensible Provisioning Protocol (EPP), which is both more advanced and more secure than UniForum’s legacy system. Over time, EPP could replace the legacy system entirely.

Hosting service provider DiaMatrix recently became the first .co.za Registrar in South Africa to register domains on UniForum’s new EPP system. Last month, the company unveiled its own Multi-Registrar EPP Control Panel, at www.domains.co.za. The Domains Control Panel allows DiaMatrix to certify other service providers / or corporate clients as Registrars of domains.

‚The control panel turns ISPs into certified Registrars within 35 minutes, eradicating their need to develop their own plugin, saving development time and money,‚ says DiaMatrix CEO Wayne Diamond.

‚The DiaMatrix Multi-Registrar Control Panel speaks directly to the UniForum EPP system via the Registrar’s account details and allows the Registrar to register new domains and manage all other domain names effectively from within the Control Panel, or CP. The CP also allows the Registrar to import all Legacy domains into their account and manage them from there. DiaMatrix is also currently the only Registrar that has successfully migrated legacy domains to the new EPP system.‚

Becoming a Registrar with UniForum requires a two-fold accreditation process.

‚The Registrar documentation is first completed and this is then followed by the Registrar’s Technical Accreditation, which requires that every technical element performs successfully before UniForum will approve it technically and allow the Registrar to move on to the next step in the approval process.‚

Typically, says Diamond, for an ISP to develop its own integrated CP, they would need two to three months development time, followed by another two months in the ‚sandbox‚ before migrating to the live .co.za system. DiaMatrix’s Multi-Registrar EPP CP at www.domains.co.za was developed over 18 months in conjunction with UniForum, and allows other ISPs to short-circuit their own development time.

The system is fully white-labelled, allowing any information pertaining to a domain on UniForum to reflect the ISP’s brand and not that of DiaMatrix.

An API (Application Programing Interface) used by DiaMatrix will allow ISPs to integrate the system into their own billing solutions. It allows for domain functionalities, such as registrations, deletes and updates via the EPP system. It already includes functionality like domain lock, auto renew and DNS, along with various other features.

The system allows legacy domains ‚ those registered under the old system ‚ to be migrated to the new system. However, once this move has been made, they can’t be moved back to the old system.

‚South Africa has now moved in line with international standards, from an old e-mail-based legacy system, to an international standards-based online solution,‚ says Diamond.

The DiaMatrix domains system is available to all ISPs / corporates at a low cost as an initial promotion.

* Arthur Goldstuck heads up World Wide Worx and is editor-in-chief of Gadget. Follow him on Twitter on @art2gee

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