Besides .io and .ai, there have been hardly any “new” country code Top Level Domains (ccTLDs) in recent times that have stood out alongside the already established extensions such as .co, .me, .de or .co.uk. The situation is different with .AE – the country code extension for the United Arab Emirates. High-priced sales of domains like binance.ae for $300.000 and invest.ae for $75.000 have put the .AE extension in the focus of businesses and investors alike. But what do we know about .AE and where did its rise come from?
We spoke to Munir Badr, founder & CEO of AEserver. While based in the United Arab Emirates, AEserver operates with customers from all over the world, has a strong presence and footprint in the MENA region, and is currently the largest privately owned accredited .AE domain name registrar by market share. In our interview, Munir not only gives us a lot of insights into the world of .AE, but also about the people in Dubai using these domains and under which conditions the domain landscape has developed there.
1. Hi Munir, please tell us more about who you are.
My name is Munir Badr; I am the founder & CEO of AEserver.com (AEserver) – a UAE-based company that I started in 2005. Today, AEserver is the household name for domains, web hosting, productivity applications, cloud services, and other web presence solutions and is a critical player in the Middle East.
I have been a UAE resident since 1996; this is my home where I live with my family.
2. Which TLDs are of particular interest to your customers and your business?
.ae is the ccTLD for the United Arab Emirates, the most popular and widely used local domain (or ccTLD) in the Arab region with over 250,000+ active registrations. In addition to .ae domains, AEserver offers other regional domains such .QA (Qatar) and .BH (Bahrain). The list of available domains is not limited to the local ccTLDs: we support hundreds of popular extensions, including the well-known .com, .net, and a wide variety of new gTLDs such as .email, .online, .photography, xyz, etc.
3. You have a deep passion for .ae domains, which are available since the early 90ties. Tell us about your first experiences and where this enthusiasm for domains and the .ae TLD came from.
The United Arab Emirates has been booming in the oil, construction, real estate, and hospitality industries. This created a sweet spot for the digital world. The overall growth of this region fueled my passion, and I wanted to mirror this growth onto the national domain name, the .ae. We experienced a tremendous expansion through international clients seeking to start in the UAE’s market and they would naturally look for the matching .AE domain name for their brands.
We offered an easy, all-digital process, including a local representative service to register .ae domains via our website. Seeing happy clients getting the name they want was the best part of my day!
Today, the .ae domain is an unrestricted zone. Any person or business from any country can register a domain name in real-time and host it with any provider. There are no documents or manual action required, just like the .com!
4. What can you tell us about the domain growth of .ae? Have there been any particular developments and milestones in the last two years?
Earlier this year, the local regulator, The Telecommunications and Digital Government Regulatory Authority (TDRA) which manages the .ae registry (aeDA), announced the registration of 15,000 new names under the national domain (.ae) in the year 2021, bringing the total number of registered names to 237,000 as of the beginning of 2022. This increase confirms the confidence of companies, entrepreneurs, and investors in the advantages provided by the national domain, drawing its strength from the reputation of the UAE as an active economic hub, with its global and regional standing.
5. A quick research on which companies are online with a .ae domain shows that everything from a small cafe with delivery service around the corner to various services and brands is represented. How would you describe your target audience? Who are the owners of .ae domains?
Our customers include a young, 100% digital nomads who intends to revolutionize the world, retailers of every nature – a trendy coffee shop, a car body shop, a furniture store selling antiques, and grocery stores – governmental organizations, individuals offering services such as yoga or tennis lessons, large corporations, and businesses operating in a wide range of industries such as constructions, health, hospitality, media, crypto, travel, and others. Thanks to the constant diffusion of digital solutions and services, we have been able to address the constantly evolving needs of a growing community of businesses and entrepreneurs operating in the UAE, the MENA region, and internationally.
To be 100% honest, I find elements of pride and personal satisfaction when customers from the US or Europe rely on AEserver’s solutions for their digital needs: it’s an indirect confirmation of the excellent work done so far.
6. E.g., in Germany or other European countries, users generally trust their ccTLDs a lot, so having an online presence in the respective ccTLD is essential. At the same time, in the US, not too many companies care about .us. How high is the relevance for companies and acceptance of .ae in the population?
The .ae domain name leads the way here. Plenty of incredible and short names are available for registration at regular prices; hence, this is the first choice for new and existing businesses looking to target the local audience. The name is very trusted as a government regulator backs it. Domain registrants are confident that by booking a .ae domain name, their rights are secured by strict and transparent policies. The UAE is well known for having well-written policies based on best international practices. The registry coined a creative term for this purpose: “If it’s in the UAE, it’s gotta be . AE”.
As in many other countries, brand protection is highly regarded in the UAE. Therefore, it is common for our customers to secure several regional ccTLDs and the most popular international gTLDs (typically .com & .net), ensuring their nascent ideas or existing businesses can successfully scale in the digital space.
7. What role do domains play in the marketing mix of companies? How vital are domains in the age of social media?
Let me reiterate that while domains still represent a significant portion of the AEserver business, our portfolio of services and solutions is much broader than just domains. That’s key to addressing the variety of customers’ needs who have embarked on their digital journeys. Let me share two examples: a nascent and an established and growing business.
Choosing the right domain is critical when incorporating a new idea. As mentioned before, brand protection might translate into identifying several permutations of the domain name with necessary extensions. Over the years, new domains may be added to the original portfolio: more realistically, though, as the business matures and evolves, other digital services become more central and relevant to running the operations successfully. Back-up solutions, productivity tools, CRM services, and security products are a few of the logical additions a growing business should consider over time.
At AEserver, we address all these needs according to the evolution of an existing business, providing the right tools and – even more relevant –super professional customer care, often the killer feature.
8. Now we’re building the bridge to the secondary markets: Are there still good .ae domains to register?
The short answer is yes. The number of .com domains is close to 175M, meaning 175 million different names (and URLs) with a .com extension. Therefore, the sky is the limit for .ae! While all the two letters and most of the three-letter names are taken, there is an ocean of great dictionary words. There is also an increased demand for .ae domains in the aftermarket. This can be witnessed by plenty of sales that have been reported to the public, and some names have fetched as much as mid-six figures USD$, which by the way, have been completed over Sedo’s platform.
9. How do you rate the performance of .ae domains on the international secondary market?
The performance on the aftermarket has gone through the roof during the last 12 months. There have been two 6-figures publicly reported for sales: binance.ae for $300,000 and auto.ae for $101,000. However, most of the other sales remain private as we sometimes notice our clients doing internal transfers of domain names to another party, and they mention the reason as “sold” when new ask.
Overall, there have been over 100+ public reported sales in the .ae aftermarket; the average sale price was around $13,000.
10. When we meet people at trade shows and conferences worldwide and explain our business model – domain trading – we always meet people who don’t know that you can buy and sell domains on the secondary market. What are your experiences with the public knowledge of a primary domain market and a secondary domain market in the Middle East?
I guess that the situation doesn’t differ from any other advanced market. Awareness is high among industry experts, probably average in large organizations, and low among end-users. Educating our customers is one of our goals at AEserver. We regularly produce original content on various subjects to inform our customers and provide inspiration. We will soon make broadly available a series of articles to introduce, educate and explain the benefits and opportunities offered by the secondary market offering concrete examples and a detailed How-To guide to remove upfront any fear and doubt on how to operate in this space. It is also important for clients to correctly interpret the rule & regulations of owning a domain name to be sure that the rights & the investment are protected.
There is an increasing demand for valuables & digital assets such as unique mobile numbers, short number plates, NFTs, etc. It’s just a matter of time for the domain names to become a popular asset to own and showcase!
11. What advice do you have for businesses that need a .ae domain, and what advice do you have for investors looking to add .ae domains to their sales portfolio?
Let me share with you one of the many unique traits of the UAE & the region: Fancy Plate Numbers. Local drivers are willing to pay premium prices for car plates with distinctive combinations of letters and digits. In 2021, a bidder paid over $10M for a single-digit Dubai plate. So, my first advice would be to be creative and descriptive at the same time, knowing that an efficient SEO strategy starts from a well-conceived domain name.
If what you have in mind has been previously registered by someone else, don’t be afraid and carefully evaluate your options in the secondary market. Investing in the right domain name is a wise marketing move with positive repercussions and ROI over time.
Brand protection is another suggestion, focusing on current and potential future interest and expansion geographies.
The last utterly unbiased advice is … doing business with AEserver!!!
As mentioned above, there are still names available to register at AEserver and already registered names avalaible for sale: See the full list here.
Thanks Munir for taking the time and sharing your knowledge with us!
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