The word is out: Google is secretly working on a project that is capable of making it dominate Nigeria’s Internet ecosystem in years to come. That, I call Net-Colonialism! You may call it Colonialism 2.0, if you like.
The search behemoth succeeded in keying into the interest of the Nigerian Internet Registration Association (NiRA) by pledging their ‘support’ for the promotion of the adoption of .ng domain names.
If truth be told, Google wanted to get 40,000 (.com.ng) domain names for FREE from NiRA to show their support for the adoption of .ng domains and get small businesses to own a website with all the goodies that Google would offer the small businesses.
But NiRA refused to give away their domain names for free since that would affect their core business. So when Google was willing to pay for the domains, which would provide NiRA a whooping revenue of N40 million annually (at the rate of N1,000 per domain), NiRA bought the idea as nairastic since it would only affect web design and hosting companies which is not their core business.
Google then sought to partner with all the domain registrars in Nigeria and have them become ‘domain resellers’ (domain agents, if you like) to Google. This move would have automatically made Google a ‘Super Registrar’ and given it full control of the Nigerian domain and hosting business, perhaps fixing prices at their will.
As soon as Google realised how unethical this move would have been percieved, they backed out of the negotiations. According to a statement from Google:
“…After much internal discussion, we have decided to provide the domains at cost and have the SMEs pay the standard N1,500 /domain. However, we will no longer require NIRA to provide discounted .com.ng domain names and Upperlink will remain as our only recognized registrar.”
So why did Google back out of the discussions if they really had good intentions for the ecosystem?
If the deal had continued, what would have been the implication for domain registrars, web design/hosting companies and local developers and entrepreneurs?
Domain registrars would have had no choice but to become resellers
to Google (just as recharge card sellers are to MTN, Glo etc) and this would barely make them survive.
Web design and hosting companies would have become support staff to Google, more like labourers that would scavenge content and customers for Google and would no longer have control of the customers and thus would not make any revenue on a yearly basis either from domain/hosting renewal or from web design.
Is there a Win-Win Situation?
In my opinion, Google’s approach did not really show they wanted to become a committed partner. With this approach, Google was looking to take over and dominate the market. Period.
Google should have invited interested partners (domain registrars, web design and hosting companies) to work with them to put Nigerian businesses online in a win-win approach.
In this case, Google should have provided the software (Google automated site builder, Google apps for email and other collaboration services) and market visibility (free listing on Google Maps, etc), while the local partners provide the domains, web hosting, maintenance and support to the small businesses. NiRA, on the other hand, should have provided 1 year free domains to the small businesses in support of the initative. NiRA can charge yearly after first year, at their discretion.
A good example of this approach is Microsoft’s BizSpark programme, which essentially helps fast-track the success of early stage technology startups with all the right resources, including software, support & marketing visibility.
Here, Microsoft’s BizSpark Network Partners share their passion for driving the success of software startups through mentoring, networking, business advice, financial assistance, and peer connections. The Network Partners also understand the startup environment and understand what it takes to succeed.
If Google had borrowed a page from Microsoft’s book, this would have been a welcomed development and I’d probably be the first person to laud this move. Most domain registrars, web design and hosting entrepreneurs I’ve spoken with between yesterday and today think that Google may have a good intention, but their approach wasn’t right.
Of course, I’d love to see 40,000 local websites of small businesses that can’t afford standard costs of web designers and developers on the Internet in Nigeria within the next one year, if only Google does the right thing.
If Google had adopted this approach, the locals would be actively in the game and in charge of the customers, and not a Google-dominated Internet economy. Still, Google will make revenue from adverts in email and Google Apps will be more popular and relevant to Nigeria.
Image courtesy of Opinion Maker.
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