What is a domain name?
An Internet domain name is a unique identifier used to locate groups of associated computers and other network devices on the Internet. The domain name can be used to locate computer servers providing associated services for the domain, such as a website or email service.
There are two general categories of domain name – those falling under a generic top level domain such as .com, .org, .net etc, and those under a country code top-level domain (ccTLD), eg .zw (Zimbabwe), .za (South Africa), .au (Australia) etc. In the case of ccTLD’s, there is normally a second-level domain (SLD) to describe the type of organisation registering the domain. Common SLD’s are:
- ac Academic institutions
- co Commercial organisations
- gov Government organisations
- net Network-related organisations (not used in Zimbabwe)
- org Other organisations (typically non-profit)
At the third level is the specific part of the domain name. The above three levels are combined to form the fully qualified domain name (FQDN) as follows:
- name.SLD.ccTLD (eg zispa.org.zw)
ZISPA manages the registry responsible for the CO.ZW namespace, so we register domain names of the form: example.co.zw. By registering a domain name, we identify the servers that hold the information relating to that domain. These are called “domain name servers” or just “nameservers”. It is important to note that ZISPA does not host the detailed DNS (Domain Name System) records for the domain (eg the information regarding the names of your email and web servers). Those records are held by the domain registrar or other DNS hosting company that maintains the nameservers to which the domain is delegated by the ZISPA nameserver.
ZISPA registration policies
The CO.ZW registry is not an open registry such as .COM where it is simply a matter of first come, first served. We vet all applications in accordance with the following policies:
- Known company/organisation names will not be registered without authority from the body concerned. For example, we would not register yahoo.co.zw without authorisation from Yahoo. In case of doubt we may request proof of company registration.
- Names of schools, clubs, churches etc must be registered in the name of those organisations, not of individuals.
- Zimbabwean place names are reserved for the use of the corresponding local government authority.
- We strongly object to cyber-squatting and will do what we can to prevent attempts at registering domains for that purpose.
In addition to the above, all applications must comply with our standard ZISPA Terms and Conditions. Of particular importance are the following:
- The applicant must have a bona fide intention to use the domain name on a regular basis on the Internet.
- The use or registration of the domain name by Applicant does not or will not interfere with, nor infringe the right of any third party in any jurisdiction with respect to trademark, service mark, tradename, company name, close corporation name, copyright or any other intellectual property right.
- At the time of submission, the registrar and/or registrant must already have configured at least two operational nameservers to which the domain can be delegated.
- The nameservers must continue to be fully connected to the Internet and be able to respond authoritatively to queries on the domain.
Registration fees are a matter to be decided between the registrant (ie the applicant for the domain name) and their chosen registrar.
ZISPA will charge registrars separately for registrations and registration renewals. Non-ZISPA member registrars are charged USD35 per domain and USD35 per annum renewal fee. There is no charge for modifications.
Domain name registration procedure
Zimbabwe residents should contact a ZISPA member, ie most local Internet Service Providers as well as the major website developers. For a full list, see Members. Non-residents may choose to contact a ZISPA member or a foreign registrar of their choice.
The applicant (known as the registrant) must provide the following documents (normally as a scanned image) to their registrar:
- A letter on the registrant's letterhead (in the case of a company or organisation) or a letter with a certified copy of their identification details in the case of an individual. This should specify the name of the domain to be registered and the name of the registrar nominated to register the domain on their behalf, eg a letter saying "Please register the following domain for our company/myself" is all that is needed. Corporate applications must be signed by a suitably authorised person from the applicant company, and the name and position of the person must be spelt out.
- The letter must be accompanied by a copy of the ZISPA Terms and Conditions signed by the applicant, preferably the same person as above.
The registrar is required to keep the above copies securely, to be made available to POTRAZ
(the Postal and Telecommunications Authority of Zimbabwe) on demand.The registrar must then email a completed co.zw template
, containing the technical and contact details of the domain to be registered, as an ASCII attachment (saved in ANSI format) to admin(at)zispa.org.zw.
The registrant should contact the original registrar to arrange any modifications. It is the responsibility of that registrar to ensure that the request genuinely comes from the registrant. The registrar should then submit a co.zw template
to ZISPA, again as an ASCII email attachment, with the updated details.
Transfer to new registrar
The registrant should contact the new registrar to arrange for a transfer from their original registrar. They should also ask the original registrar to contact the new registrar authorising the release of the domain. It is the responsibility of the new registrar to ensure that the request genuinely comes from the registrant and that the domain has been released by the original registrar.
The new registrar should then submit a co.zw template
to ZISPA together with (a) an email from the registrant confirming the transfer, and (b) an email from the original registrar confirming the release of the domain to the new registrar. The three attachments should be sent with the one email.
For registrar transfers, the action specified in Item 1b of the template should be T for Transfer.
Transfer to new owner
The new registrant should contact the current registrar to arrange for a transfer from the original registrant. They must provide a scanned, signed application letter and signed ZISPA Terms and Conditions
as in the case of a new registration. They should also provide proof of release from the original registrant.
It is the responsibility of the registrar to ensure that the request genuinely comes from the new registrant and that the domain has been released by the original registrant.
The registrar should then submit a co.zw template
to ZISPA, again as an ASCII email attachment, together with an email from the original registrant confirming the transfer. The two attachments should be sent with the one email.
For owner transfers using the same registrar, the action specified in Item 1b of the template should be M for Modify.
If the new owner is using a different registrar, then an email release from the original registrar should also be attached.
Domain name deletions
To delete a single domain, the existing registrar should email a template to ZISPA with the action in Item 1b of the template being "D" for "Delete".
Bulk deletions can be arranged by the registrar contacting ZISPA with a list of the domains that they manage and wish to have deleted.
Bulk updates of nameservers
Registrars who wish to make a bulk update of one set of nameservers to another for all their domains should contact ZISPA. We can arrange this without requiring the registrar to provide templates for every such domain.
Nameserver glue records
If the hostnames of the nameservers for a particular domain use that same domain they will be impossible to find without additional information. For example, if the domain example.co.zw uses the nameservers ns1.example.co.zw and ns2.example.co.zw then the domain example.co.zw cannot be found without knowing the IP addresses of these nameservers. These nameserver IP addresses, known as glue records, must be registered separately with ZISPA. This requirement should be specified in the email accompanying the application.
Please note that if these IP addresses change at any stage it is the responsibility of the registrar to notify ZISPA so the glue records can be updated accordingly.
Processing of applications
ZISPA aims to process all applications within one working day. During working hours, applications are normally processed within an hour or so. Applications received outside normal working hours, including weekends and public holidays, are normally processed at least once per day, but often within a matter of hours up until late evening.
ZISPA carries out a range of verification checks on the templates before processing them. These include:
- Checking that the action requested is appropriate and consistent with the registrar and current domain owner if applicable, and that the application conforms to ZISPA registration policies.
- Checking that all required fields have been completed.
- Checking that the domain name is a fully qualified, third level co.zw domain name, eg example.co.zw and not a subdomain such as mail.example.co.zw or a non-co.zw domain name.
- Checking that the nameservers actually exist.
- Checking that the nameserver host names match the IP addresses supplied.
Where there is a change of owner or registrar, we check for the required release letters from the original owner/registrar. Once passed, the domain and its nameservers are then registered on the ZISPA nameserver (ns1.zispa.org.zw) and its associated secondary nameservers located in various parts of the world.The registrar will then receive a manual reply to their email. This will then be followed by an automated confirmation message sent to all parties concerned, reporting the nameservers that have been registered for the domain, as well as the results of a test of those nameservers to check that they are authoritative and consistent. Obvious errors such as mismatching sets of nameservers, non-responsive nameservers, mismatching serial numbers etc will be reported in the confirmation email, for any necessary action by the registrar.Registrants are advised to contact their registrar, and not ZISPA, in case of any errors noted in the confirmation emails. ZISPA reserves the right to cancel the registration if any of the confirmation emails to the addresses listed in the template bounce back due to an invalid address or misconfigured mail server.
Domain name disputes
Under no circumstances whatsoever shall ZISPA be obliged to act as an arbiter of disputes arising out of the registration and use of a domain name. Should ZISPA be presented with evidence that indicates that a domain name violates the rights of a third party, ZISPA shall be entitled to provide the complainant with the applicant's name and address and all further communication should exclude ZISPA. ZISPA will have no further obligations to the Applicant or complainant.
From our Terms and Conditions:
ZISPA WILL UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES WHATSOEVER AND HOWSOEVER ARISING BE LIABLE FOR ANY INDIRECT, SPECIAL, INCIDENTAL, PUNITIVE OR CONSEQUENTIAL DAMAGES OF ANY KIND (INCLUDING, WITHOUT LIMITATION, LOSS OF USE, BUSINESS INTERRUPTION OR LOST PROFITS), REGARDLESS OF THE FORM OF ACTION, WHETHER IN CONTRACT, DELICT, OR OTHERWISE, EVEN IF ZISPA HAS BEEN ADVISED OF THE POSSIBILITY OF SUCH DAMAGES. WITHOUT DEROGATING FROM THE AFOREGOING, ZISPA's LIABILITY FOR DIRECT DAMAGES ARISING OUT OF THIS AGREEMENT SHALL UNDER NO CIRCUMSTANCES EXCEED THE REGISTRATION OR AMENDMENT FEE, AS THE CASE MAY BE, PAYABLE BY APPLICANT.
Whois service (who is the owner of a domain?)
ZISPA does not provide an online whois service at present. However requests for this information on individual domains can be sent to admin(at)zispa.org.zw.
Before applying to ZISPA:
- For new registrations, make sure that the domain name is available to be registered. You may use the Search facility behind this popup.
- For new registrations, check that the domain name does not conflict with ZISPA's registration policies.
- Create the required DNS records on the primary nameserver for the domain. At a minimum these should include the SOA and NS records, with the nameservers in the NS records matching those in the template to be submitted to ZISPA. Normally MX and A records would be added at this time.
- Configure the secondary nameserver(s). Between one and three secondaries are required. They should mirror the primary nameserver.
- Check to make sure that the nameservers are working correctly and do respond authoritatively to queries on the domain.
The key input required by ZISPA is the email request from the registrar with the completed co.zw template. This should be sent to admin(at)zispa.org.zw. The email should:
- Be sent from the standard email address registered by the registrar with ZISPA.
- Have a subject line that indicates the action required and the fully qualified domain name, eg “Subject: Add example.co.zw” or “Subject: Transfer example.co.zw”.
- Have only one template attached, which should be in ASCII format saved with ANSI encoding (not UTF encoding, which cannot be processed).
- Include any required associated emails (eg owner or registrar releases). Do not forward these separately.
- Must not be modified in format in any way apart from the addition of the required data.
- Data should always be entered to the right of the corresponding colon on a single line without any word wrap.
- All fields marked with an asterisk on the template must be completed accurately.
- The registrar should use the handle that they have been previously allocated by ZISPA in Items 3a and 5a. Otherwise leave the fields blank.
The key technical data required is in Section 6: The hostnames of the nameservers at Items 6a and 6c, and optionally at Items 6e and 6g. For verification purposes, we require their IP addresses to be specified in Items 6b, 6d, 6f and 6h. The registrar should ensure that there are at least two nameservers and that they are independent, authoritative and operational for the domain at the time of submission and at all times thereafter.
The following are some of the most common problems with applications:
- Correspondence without the domain name in the subject line (making followups very difficult when trying to trace previous correspondence on the subject).
- Correspondence where the domain name in the subject line does not match the domain in the template.
- Use of outdated domain registration templates
- Templates sent as inline text rather than as attachments.
- Templates saved in non-ASCII + ANSI format.
- Applications for new domain registrations when the domain is already registered. (You can check to see if a domain name is already registered by using the search box behind this popup.)
- Attempts to register fourth-level subdomains, including www type subdomains, such as mail.example.co.zw or www.example.co.zw. (ZISPA does not register subdomains beyond the third level. Fourth-level subdomains are the responsibility of the domain registrar.)
- Missing fields (eg lack of addresses, phone numbers and email addresses in the templates, and especially item 4 - Description of organisation/domain).
- Missing physical address for Item 7 - Domicilium Citandi et Executandi. (This may seem an irritation, but from ZISPA's perspective, this is an essential requirement in case of any legal issue arising in the future.)
- Invalid fields, especially email addresses. (Note that registrations with invalid email addresses are liable to be cancelled without further notice.)
- Invalid or redundant nameserver hostnames and IP addresses. (A minimum of two distinct nameservers are required.)
- Specifying nameservers that are not already authoritative for the domain.
Benefits of registering a domain name
For a company or organisation that wishes to brand itself to the public, a domain name is an essential identifier along with their company/organisation name, trademark and logo. It can be used for an associated website that can be easily located on the Internet, and also for email addresses that are immediately associated with that body rather than with a generic email service provider such as Gmail or Yahoo.
The use of a domain for a company or organisation’s email addresses means that they can then take control over their emails by routing them through a mail server that can be customised to their specific requirements.
On a technical level, having a domain name means that you can list DNS (Domain Name System) records for the domain which can be readily located on the Internet. These records can provide information such as:
- The hostnames of the servers to which mail for the domain should be delivered (MX records).
- The IP address of the server hosting the domain's website (A record).
- Text information of any kind (TXT records).
- DNS records for any subdomains.
- The hostnames of the nameservers for the domain (NS records).
- The contact address of the person responsible for managing the domain (part of the SOA record).
Choosing a domain name
For a domain name to be useful, it should be as simple and memorable as possible. Very long domain names will cause problems for people wanting to send emails or access the associated website. Try to use memorable initials rather than full names in the case of companies or organisations having long names. For example, if there was a company called “Cheap Zimbabwean Domain Names” they would probably be better off registering the name czdn.co.zw rather than say cheapzimbabweandomainnames.co.zw. However something like zimdom.co.zw would be easier to remember.Note that long domain names also carry the risk of misinterpretation. Wikipedia gives examples of the registrants of “Who Represents” and “Therapist Finder” choosing the unfortunate domain names whorepresents.com and therapistfinder.com respectively. In such cases a hyphen could have been used to break up the words, eg who-represents.com.
Domain names may use only the following characters: a-z, A-Z, 0-9 and “-“ (as long as it is not the first character). Underscores in particular are not allowed. Note that capitalised letters in a domain name are functionally the same as lower-case letters, the only difference being in the way they are displayed.You may check to see if a domain name is available by using the search box behind this popup.
From the beginning of July 2016 ZISPA will implement more rigorous checks on templates before processing applications. This is intended to improve the standard of the Internet environment in Zimbabwe. Registrars will be required to ensure that:
- There are between two and four unique nameservers for the domain.
- All nameservers have unique A records (not CNAME records).
- The nameserver hostnames match the nameserver IP addresses in the template.
- All nameservers are authoritative at the time of submission, ie:
- They respond to queries on the domain.
- Their response has an aa (authoritative) header flag.
- They list at least NS and SOA records for the domain.
- The NS records on the registrar's nameservers match the list of nameservers registered with ZISPA for the domain.
- All nameservers list same serial number in the domain's SOA record.
- All email addresses listed in the template are valid and operational.
Any applications that fail to meet all the requirements above will not be processed immediately, but will be reviewed every hour for 24 hours. If at the end of that time the requirements have not been satisfied the application will be rejected.
Any applications that are found to have non-working email addresses after processing will be reversed.