Roughly one out of every seven new gTLD domain names active today is numbers-only before the dot, according to DI research.
It might be surprising to some that the DNS, designed to turn immemorable numbers into memorable names, is actually being used to register millions of numeric domains.
Using the almost 1,000 new gTLD zone files we had access to on July 19*, DI counted 20,933,637 unique domain names of which 3,259,684 were purely numeric.
In other words, 15.57% of new gTLD domain names only contain numbers before the dot.
Fourteen gTLDs have a third or more of their zones fully numeric. One is two-thirds numeric.
The reason for this, of course, is China.
Numeric domains are said to be popular in China due to the fact that digits are the only 10 characters permissible in DNS that Chinese speakers natively understand.
Many popular web sites in China use short, numeric .com or .cn domain names. Some short numeric domains have sold for six or seven figures to end-user companies.
So there’s a thirst for numerics among Chinese domainers, as well as domainers elsewhere who want to exploit the Chinese market.
I talked to a successful domainer recently who acquired thousands of numeric domain names purely to flip to Chinese investors.
Personally, I think the market is overblown. Data suggests there’s a limited appetite for numerics among actual end users.
Fewer than 2,700 of top one million most-visited domains, as ranked by Amazon’s Alexa service, are numeric. A quarter of a percent. Even if Alexa is wrong by a factor of 10, that’s still only 2.7% of the internet’s biggest sites using numeric domain names.
So which gTLDs are most exposed to the numeric market?
Surprisingly, given the registry’s reluctance to deeply discount its domains, two Donuts gTLDs — .gold and .run, both relatively small TLDs — top the table with 66.32% and 54.65% respectively.
I think these are anomalies. The majority of Donuts’ portfolio have far smaller percentages of numerics.
Fellow portfolio players Afilias (.bet, .kim) and Uniregistry (.lol, .mom) also feature prominently on the list.
Here’s the top 30 new gTLDs, ranked by the percentage of their zones that are numeric. It includes every gTLD over 20%.
In absolute terms, the larger-volume registries naturally have the larger number of numeric domains in their zones.
XYZ.com’s .xyz alone has over 867,000 numeric domains in its zone. That’s a lot of names, but in percentage terms it’s below the industry mean.
.top, .wang, .win and club, all heavily marketed in China, fill out the top five in volume terms.
Here’s the top 30 gTLDs with the largest absolute number of numerics. They account for 3,099,981 numeric domains of the 3,259,684 industry total.
While short domains are more attractive to investors and end users, the vast majority of numeric domains in new gTLDs are of course longer than five digits.
.xyz, for example, has over 757,000 numeric domains of six or more characters. .top, .wang and .win are also measured in the hundreds of thousands in this regard.
Four gTLDs — .club, .wang, .top and .xyz — are over 99% full when it comes to five-digit numeric domains (that is, they have over 99,000 numeric domains in their zones).
.win is over 95% full on that basis, after which the numbers drop sharply to 65% and below.
In terms of four-number domains, there are 10 gTLDs that are over 99% full and 16 over 90% full.
There are 36 new gTLDs over 90% full in terms of three-digit numeric domains. More than a dozen appear to be completely full (giving myself some wriggle-room for reserved names and those that otherwise don’t appear in the zone files).
So what to make of all this?
I’m not a domainer, but I’ve sometimes heard domainers compare domains to baseball cards.
Going with that analogy, I’d say that if the typical numeric domain name collection contains the odd vintage Babe Ruth**, he’s far outnumbered by cards depicting some guy’s kid playing catch in the park.
That may be true of all domain portfolios, numeric or otherwise, but I feel numerics exist primarily right now to be traded between domainers.
As long as this continues, new gTLD registries — at least the ones actually charging for their names — will continue to benefit.
* A note on methodology. Due to the way access to zone files via ICANN works (ie, sporadically) we were missing some zone files on July 19. Including the missing gTLD may alter the league tables presented above, but I don’t believe the missing data was significant to the overall totals. Only one of the top 100 gTLDs, a zone of about 28,000 names, was missing.
** I know nothing about baseball.
Vox Populi, the .sucks registry, terminated Com Laude’s accreditation last week due to its belief that the brand protection registrar had leaked a “confidential” document to Domain Incite.
Vox Pop CEO John Berard tonight denied that the company he works for was carrying out a “grudge” against Com Laude, which in January led a charge against a Vox “gag order” on registrars.
As we reported on Friday, Vox terminated Com Laude‘s ability to sell .sucks domains directly, due to a then-unspecified alleged breach of the Registry-Registrar Agreement that binds all .sucks domain registrars.
It now turns out the “breach” was of the part of the .sucks RRA that states that Vox registrars “shall make no disclosures whatsoever” of “confidential informational”, where such confidential information is marked as such.
Berard told DI of the termination: “It was a specific act, violating a specific clause of the contract that had to do with breaching confidentiality, and that’s why the action was taken.”
The specific act was Com Laude allegedly sending DI — me, for avoidance of doubt — a confidential document.
“They have not said they didn’t do it,” Berard said.
He said that, given the amount of scrutiny Vox is under (due to the controversy it has created with its pricing and policies), “it would be crazy of us to ignore a contract breach”.
He declined to identify the document in question.
He said that Vox Pop deployed “forensic research” to discover the identity of the alleged leak.
“It was clear that something that was confidential was distributed, we wanted to know who distributed it,” he said. “We wanted to know who breached confidentiality.”
DI has only published one third-party document related to .sucks this year.
DI has received other documents related to Vox Pop and .sucks from various parties that I have not published, but I’ve been unable to find any that contained the word “confidential” or that were marked as “confidential”.
According to the .sucks RRA (pdf), “confidential information” is documentation marked or identified “confidential”.
Everything I’ve ever written about .sucks can be found with this search.
Vox Populi, the .sucks gTLD registry, has terminated the accreditation of brand protection registrar Com Laude as part of an ongoing dispute between the two companies.
Com Laude won’t be able to sell defensive .sucks registrations to its clients any more, at least not on its own accreditation, in other words.
The London-based registrar is transferring all of its .sucks domains to EnCirca as a result of the termination and says it is considering its options in how to proceed.
The shock move, which I believe to be unprecedented, is being linked to Com Laude’s long-time criticisms of Vox Populi’s pricing and policies.
The registrar today had some rather stern words for Vox Pop. Managing director Nick Wood said in a statement:
We have always been critical of this registry and particularly its sunrise pricing model which we regard as predatory. We have advised clients where possible to consider not registering such names. We hope that all brand owners will think twice before buying or renewing a .sucks domain. After all, it is not possible to block out every variation of a trademark under .sucks. In our view, fair criticism is preferable to dealing with Vox Populi.
The termination is believed to be linked to controversial changes to the .sucks Registry-Registrar Agreement, which Vox Pop managed to sneak past ICANN over Christmas.
One of the changes, some registrars believed, would prevent brand protection registrars from openly criticizing .sucks pricing and policies. They called it a “gag order”.
Com Laude SVP Jeff Neuman was one of the strongest critics. I believe he was a key influence on a Registrar Stakeholder Group letter (pdf) in January which essentially said registrars would boycott the new RRA.
That letter said:
It’s ironic for a Registry whose slogan is “Foster debate, Share opinions” has now essentially proposed implementing a gag order on the registrars that sell the .sucks TLD by preventing them from doing just that
While the RRA dispute was resolved more or less amicably following ICANN mediation, with Vox Pop backpedaling somewhat on its proposed changes, Com Laude now believes the registry has held a grudge.
Its statement does not say what part of the .sucks RRA it is alleged to have breached.
Vox Pop has not yet returned a request for comment. I’ll provide an update should I receive further information.
Com Laude said in a statement today:
Jeff Neuman, our SVP of our North American business, Com Laude USA, led the effort in the Registrar Stakeholder Group to quash proposed changes to Vox Populi’s registry-registrar agreement, in order to protect the interests of brand owners and the registrars who work with them. Since then, Vox Populi has accused Com Laude of breaching the terms of the registry-registrar agreement, a claim we take seriously and refute in its entirety. We are now considering our further options.
We have informed our clients of the action being taken and all have expressed their support for the manner in which we have handled it. We are pleased to have received messages of support from across the ICANN community including other registry operators. Clearly there is strong distaste at the practices of Vox Populi.
CentralNic has been awarded the back-end contract for the forthcoming .art gTLD, usurping Verisign from the role.
UK Creative Ideas, which bought .art at a private auction for an undisclosed sum a year ago, appointed the company its “exclusive registry service provider”, CentralNic said.
UKCI’s original .art application named Verisign as its back-end, and this is not the first time CentralNic has sneaked away a Verisign client.
When XYZ.com acquired .theatre, and .security and .protection from Symantec, it moved them from Verisign to its .xyz provider CentralNic.
That earned XYZ and CentralNic a contract interference lawsuit, which XYZ settled in May.
Clearly litigation has not managed to chill competition in this instance.
.art is set to launch in stages over the next 12 months, CentralNic said.
UKCI estimated in its ICANN application that it would get between 25,000 and 80,000 registrations in its first year.
That may prove to be optimistic, at least at the high end.
UKCI’s vision for .art is for a restricted gTLD, which don’t tend to do huge volumes. I believe the largest restricted new gTLD is .nyc, with about 75,000 names in its zone.
All .art registrants will have to show some kind of connection to the art world, according to UKCI’s application.
This includes artists, owners and keepers of works of art, commercial art organisations (such as galleries and auction and trading houses), not-for-profit organisations (such as museums, foundations, and professional associations), supporting businesses (such as insurance, appraisal, transport) and customers and members of the general public interested in art.
Goodness knows how this will be implemented in practice, given that basically everyone is an artist to some extent.
UKCI is based in the Isle of Man, the UK dependency presumably selected for tax reasons rather than any connection to the art world, and is backed by Russian venture capitalists.
The break between TLD Registry and former back-end provider Afilias may be even less amicable than first thought.
I’m hearing that TLDR served Afilias with a “Notice of Material Breach” of contract earlier this year, threatening to move its two gTLDs to a rival owned by the Chinese government.
There may even be pending litigation.
Today TLDR confirmed in a statement that it’s switching the roughly 30,000 names in .在线 (.xn--3ds443g, “Chinese online”) and .中文网 (.xn--fiq228c5hs, “Chinese website”) from Afilias to Beijing Teleinfo Network Technology Co.
Tele-info is a little-known back-end provider currently servicing four pre-launch Latin-script Chinese gTLDs.
According to TLDR, the company is owned by the Chinese Academy of Telecommunication Research, which appears to be part of the Chinese government’s Ministry of Industry and Information Technology.
According to a source, back in February TLDR told Afilias that it would switch to Tele-info if Afilias was “unable or unwilling to remedy” unspecified contractual breaches by mid-May.
I don’t know what the alleged breaches were and neither company wants to talk about it.
“Afilias does not comment on pending litigation,” a spokesperson said.
“We are not commenting on contractual or litigation matters,” a TLDR spokesperson said.
TLDR said in a statement that the switch to Tele-info will help it get a Chinese government license, so Chinese registrants will be able to start using their domains. CEO Arto Isokoski said:
The completion of this milestone will hopefully pave the way for our accreditation with Chinese regulators, which ultimately allows our China-based customer’s names to resolve legally to a website hosted from within China.
It’s hard to argue with that logic — if it’s using a government back-end for its SRS, one can see how that would oil the gears of bureaucracy.
UPDATE 1753 UTC: Afilias has just provided DI with the following statement:
With respect to TLD Registry’s charges of breach of contract, Afilias categorically denies any breach of any kind whatsoever. Afilias has complied completely with our contractual obligations and responded to all requests for assistance with their various business priorities. Since we began supporting these 2 TLDs, Afilias has met every SLA and enabled the 2 TLDS to be 100% compliant with their technical and contractual obligations to ICANN. Afilias has provided 100% compliance on every SRS requirement, and maintained their DNS with 100% availability throughout the entire period of our stewardship. TLD Registry’s charges are completely without merit.