When you’re choosing a new domain name you want something easy for people to remember, and which expresses your brand strongly. For New Zealand businesses and sites, the option of a .kiwi domain has existed for a few years now. This is an alternative to .nz domains, which have been around much longer.
But what's the catch? Why do .kiwi domains cost more than .nz and other popular domain extensions?
A bit of .nz history
InternetNZ oversees our .nz ccTLD. They’re a non-commercial organisation
In ancient times (by which we mean the mid-1980s) the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA), a standards organisation that manages worldwide IP address assignment, established two-letter country code extensions for each country and independent territory. In New Zealand our country code top-level domain (ccTLD) is .nz.
Every ccTLD is administered by an organisation or local authority called a registry. Registries decide what secondary domains there should be (like .co.nz and .org.nz) and whether any domains should have restrictions on who can register them (like .govt.nz, for example, which is reserved for Government entities).
InternetNZ oversees our ccTLD in New Zealand. They’re a non-commercial organisation, with a subsidiary called the Domain Name Commission, or DNC. They control and administer the distribution of the .nz domain to consumers through a network of registrars and resellers. Ultimately, InternetNZ’s purpose is to “work for an Internet that benefits all of Aotearoa”, not to make money.
Where .kiwi came from
As the Internet grew, so did worldwide demand for different, specialised TLDs. In response the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) made more generic top-level domains (gTLDs) available to commercial enterprises in 2012.
Dot Kiwi Limited, a new private registry operator, acquired the rights to .kiwi in 2014. They were reported to have paid "seven figures" for the opportunity.
Unlike ccTLDs, most new gTLDs were launched as commercial products. Alongside .kiwi, hundreds of other gTLDs like .travel, .tokyo, and .shoes were also created. There’s a long history of what they still call the New gTLD Program on ICANNWiki.
Dot Kiwi Limited, a new private registry operator, acquired the rights to the new generic top-level domain .kiwi which they launched in 2014. They were reported to have paid "seven figures" for the opportunity. 1491 new domain names were registered in the first 10 minutes.
The gap that Dot Kiwi Limited saw in the market was for a TLD that demonstrates the true “Kiwiness” of a website wherever it is. In contrast, .nz signals (to people and search engines) that a website or firm is located in New Zealand.
Why the .kiwi price is so much more than .nz
The main reason that .kiwi and .nz have different price tags comes down to the difference between Dot Kiwi Limited and InternetNZ. In some ways, a domain’s TLD might tell you something about its future price.
Today, .kiwi domains are typically twice to three times more costly than .nz domains, and that’s before you consider what the difference might be in the future.
All .nz domains are controlled and administered by InternetNZ, the non-profit organisation that works to maintain an open and secure internet in New Zealand. When you acquire a New Zealand domain, the supplier (who might be us) pays a fee that InternetNZ determines (currently $18/yr).
.kiwi, on the other hand, is privately owned and operated by Dot Kiwi Limited, which is definitely not a non-profit organisation. They set the .kiwi wholesale price at whatever level they think the market will bear. (Unlike .nz, some .kiwi domains are classed as “Premium” and are given higher price tags by the registry - some in the thousands of dollars.)
There are also economies of scale in .nz’s favour. There are over 750,000 .nz domains registered, compared to around 13,000 .kiwi domains (sources: DNC and nTLDStats).
Especially if you are looking for a domain name for the long term, it’s worth thinking about the likely renewal costs in the future. Changing domains is harder than it sounds, and often more expensive than you might expect.
Public annual reports let us see that InternetNZ is stable and in a good financial position. Dot Kiwi Limited is less forthcoming. One thing we do know is that the current number of registrations, 13,000 or so, is well down from a high of 200,000 five years ago. You might wonder about how that has impacted the underlying business plan.
Today, .kiwi domains are typically twice to three times more costly than .nz domains, which already raises the issue of whether it's a worthwhile purchase. And that’s before you consider “Premium” domain pricing or what the difference might be in the future.
Is a .kiwi domain worth the investment?
The answer depends on the value you're after. It can help to think about whether your domain should connect more closely with New Zealand as a place or to a Kiwi identity.
Even back in 2018, .kiwi was very strongly seen as a fad.
As a ccTLD, .nz indicates that a site is local - it’s a site that you want to be more discoverable to a local audience looking for local services. On the other hand, the .kiwi domain name will show your Kiwi pride and roots while sending a more international signal to web users and search engines. If you are building a website for a worldwide audience but you want to show your loyalty or origins, a .kiwi site can make more sense.
InternetNZ commissions research into domain names and public opinion. In 2022 they reported that "consumers and businesses of Aotearoa trust .nz more than other domain names", and that three-quarters of local consumers look for .nz domains in their online searches. Even back in 2018 (PDF, see p27) .nz was perceived at more reliable and secure, while .kiwi was very strongly seen as a fad.
The perception of a TLD as a fad can be a big problem. If your business or brand outlasts the hype, you can be left with the surprisingly big and expensive job of changing domains.
So there could be times when the extra cost of .kiwi is justified, but you’ll often find that .co.nz,.kiwi.nz or even .nz can do the right job for less.
Main image: Kiwi Road Sign on Stewart Island by AlistairW is licensed under Creative Commons CC BY-SA 3.0.