WHY .CO.KE WEBSITES ARE GOING OFFLINE IN KENYA
.CO.KE domain names have been exiting the Kenyan cyberspace at an alarming rate. These are domain names of websites which, ideally, should be up and running. Due to hard economic times, however, these websites' domain names expire after one year and never renewed thereafter.
It is under these domain names that websites are created. All other pages in a website have to incorporate the domain name as a sub folder or a subdomain. The difference between sub-folders and subdomains is a matter for another day.
Domain names therefore, are a prime real estate in the internet. Some attractive domain names are known to be on sale on various market places for thousands of shillings or even millions. A good domain name sets up a business for success. Google algorithms determine which websites to show their customers during search using a myriad of factors. The algorithms are supposed to show search clients the most relevant results in a process called ranking.
A website that ranks well into the top 10 of related keywords is therefore capable of receiving tonnes of traffic and subsequently, clients. It is quite shocking how most Kenyans don't mention that one of the easiest ways to become rich in this time and age is to have your website rank highly for related money-minting keywords. As a rule of thumb, a website that ranks higher is bound to be successful while a website that ranks lowly will receive little to no traffic and therefore little revenue from online clients.
If domain names and websites are that important in business, why are thousands of websites exiting the Kenyan online space as their domain names expire?
A spot check with registrars indicates that 1621 domain names ending with .co.ke expired between January 1st 2020 and May 12th 2020 and placed back to the market for anyone to buy. These domain names were once websites in the Kenyan cyberspace.
They cost money to make and most importantly, they were manifestations of dreams and aspirations of entrepreneurs, investment groups, institutions and other entities. Save for about 10% of the domains whose owners decided to change their websites into say .com domain names, the vast majority are casualties of a failed economy. An economy where starting and maintaining a business has become harder and harder by the moment.
Despite Kenya ranking highly in Africa in the Ease of doing business, the environment clearly is not in favor of many aspiring and upcoming entrepreneurs. The vast number of websites that go offline in Kenya every day is a reality check for those entrusted with the responsibility to oversee a growing entrepreneurial culture in Kenya.
I well understand that owning a website is not really the ultimate indicator of an entrepreneur and there are many successful businessmen who have built empires without a domain name or website. I however believe that a person who goes as far as buying a domain name and creating a website has dreams, the kind of which entrepreneurs are known for.
A difficult business environment, corruption, a defective education system and lack of capital are great obstacles to success in our Kenyan society. It is no proving hard for many a young people who start businesses to see them through to profitability.
Within a few months of starting a business, young Kenyans invest their money and time in creating websites in the hope of reaching millions of consumers of their products online. The shock of their lives comes when they realize they need more capital to make any impact on their strtups. Several factors lead to their downfall a few months or years after launching.
Their hopes of leveraging social media to reach clients are dashed after they realize Facebook now requires one to pay for ads in order to reach more than a few dozen people through their business pages. The mobs on twitter seems not to give a second look to such entrepreneurs. Instagram users are more obsessed with curves, vanity and gossip than products or services on sale.
A few likes here and there do not help much the upcoming entrepreneur who need to make sales in order to put food on the table. The startups also need cash to stay afloat. Their friends who likes their pages on Facebook, Instagram and follow them on Twitter are jobless and have virtually no purchasing power.
Disappointed and feeling weak by the day, the entrepreneurs realize they can not even get loans to boost their businesses. They are listed in CRB due to some silly unconstitutional mobile loans they have defaulted on and HELB listing does not help matters either.
Soon enough, the entrepreneurs realize business is easier said than done in Kenya. They go back to the drawing board and at this point, they go back to the job market. End of the road to being a self made millionaire through entrepreneurship.
This journey of trying and failing is familiar to many of the owners of the expired domain names and offline websites in Kenya.
Unless Kenya's leadership start to take note of expired domains and the dreamers behind them, our economy will continue to suffer deficiency of revolutionary solutions, job creation capacity and eventually opportunities for progress.
I know this wont help your spirits but, during the time you took to read this article, some 5 websites in Kenya have gone offline and dreams dashed, forever.