The first-ever .com domain name registrar and its first-ever competitor are to merge as part of Web.com’s strategy to scale up and better compete with Go Daddy.
Web.com, which bought Register.com a little over a year ago, has now turned its attention to bigger fish. It’s agreed to buy Network Solutions for $561 million in cash and stock.
The combined company will have three million customers, revenue of over $450 million, and over nine million domains under management.
By my reckoning, this means Web.com becomes the fourth-largest registrar by domain count, a position already held by NetSol, a couple of million domains behind Tucows.
NetSol was of course the original .com registrar/registry and Register.com was the first competitor to start selling domains after ICANN introduced competition to the market.
Both registrars were briefly public companies in their own right, before being re-privatized around the same time it became apparent Go Daddy and the other discount registrars were eating their lunch.
This shared history is still evident today – both companies still sell domain names for 1999 prices, and they’re both still losing customers as a result.
CEO David Brown said on a conference call announcing the deal that Register.com is currently losing 13,000 subscribers, net, per quarter.
This is not as bad as the 20,000 per quarter at the time of the acquisition, but it’s still over 140 customers jumping ship, on average, every day.
Brown said that NetSol’s churn is similar; its customer base is “declining very slowly”, albeit from a stronger starting position.
When VeriSign sold NetSol in 2003, it said the unit had about four million customers. Today, according to Web.com’s announcement, it’s closer to two million.
The NetSol deal will enable Web.com to expand its focus from small businesses, Register.com’s core market, to medium-sized businesses too, Brown said.
“This is a unique chance for Web.com to quickly gain major scale in our sweet spot – the small and mid-size business market,” he told analysts.
The larger scale will also enable the company to ramp up its marketing efforts, he said, helping it to gain mindshare from “another company” (cough–Go Daddy–cough).
Both the NetSol and Register.com brands will stay, but the primary brand in its advertising campaigns will be Web.com
Both NetSol and Register.com still operate at very much the high-end of the pricing spectrum, having stubbornly resisted pricing pressures for the last decade.
Register.com currently sells .com domain names for $38 a year, NetSol sells them for $35.
However, on the analysts’ call, Brown discussed the success of a recent marketing campaign at Register.com, which offered domains at cheaper prices than usual.
“We discovered marketing a lower-price domain name was driving a total order value that was more than ten times higher due to additional offerings,” he said.
I wonder where they got that idea from.