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Four in 10 new gTLDs are shrinking

Kevin Murphy, September 18, 2017, Domain Registries

Forty percent of non-brand new gTLDs are shrinking, DI analysis shows.

According to numbers culled from registry reports, 172 of the 435 commercial gTLDs we looked at had fewer domains under management at the start of June than they did a year earlier.

On the bright side, that means the majority of them are still growing, but it’s still a pretty poor showing.

As you might expect, registries with the greatest exposure to the budget and/or Chinese markets were hardest hit over the period.

.wang, .red, .ren, .science and .party all saw DUM decline by six figures. Another 27 gTLDs saw declines of over 10,000 names.

Of the portfolio registries, Famous Four Media, Uniregistry and Afilias saw the steepest falls, each churning through hundreds of thousands of domains.

FFM strings including .science, .party and .date, which are regularly offered for under $0.50 and have terrible renewal rates, were among the biggest losers.

For Afilias, its .red, .blue and .pink combined saw volumes plummet by over 300,000. Its Korean-surname-themed .kim lost 90,000 names over the year.

Much of Uniregistry’s decline, I believe, is due to the expiration of thousands of domains that were essentially registry-owned.

Here’s a list of the top 40 biggest losers.

TLDMay 2016 DUMMay 2017 DUMChange
wang1,063,080647,837-415,243
red309,31951,473-257,846
ren305,80181,840-223,961
science332,455183,626-148,829
party243,918140,063-103,855
click242,125149,179-92,946
kim128,05237,182-90,870
date190,506103,435-87,071
xn--ses554g192,076142,906-49,170
pink40,4677,838-32,629
property42,31413,187-29,127
blue41,54413,386-28,158
webcam86,92958,928-28,001
work100,76376,099-24,664
flowers26,0352,429-23,606
link396,611375,021-21,590
ninja54,65835,671-18,987
pics32,87014,907-17,963
xn--rhqv96g22,0245,271-16,753
cricket42,73626,192-16,544
black22,1515,888-16,263
audio24,5929,396-15,196
diet19,3214,164-15,157
lol95,11580,157-14,958
xn--3ds443g65,21750,628-14,589
bar20,1836,611-13,572
ooo18,9317,047-11,884
christmas15,5673,696-11,871
help53,17642,485-10,691
rest12,9222,768-10,154
blackfriday12,3932,288-10,105
hosting16,2306,461-9,769
news76,11966,754-9,365
love27,38418,125-9,259
fans17,9658,810-9,155
ink26,07017,896-8,174
xn--fiq228c5hs47,39340,289-7,104
faith60,04554,142-5,903
hiphop7,6221,934-5,688

At the opposite end of the table, the biggest gainers over the 12-month period were .xyz, .loan, .top, .online, .men, .tech, .kiwi, .club, .site and .bid.

Those 10 TLDs all saw volumes increase by over 100,000 names.

But that’s not necessarily hugely encouraging news, for various reasons.

We already know that .xyz is set to lose millions of names over its next couple of monthly registry reports.

One could guess that the peaks in Famous Four strings .bid, .loan and .men are likely to be matched by troughs before long.

.kiwi appears to be on the list due to its waiving the fees on about 200,000 domains, under a deal with a registrar last year.

.club recently said that it only expects to get 10% to 15% renewals on about 700,000 of its million total names.

Finally, .top is widely thought of as the TLD of choice for throwaway spam domains and has already lost a couple million names since June.

Here’s the top 30 gainers from my list:

TLDMay 2016 DUMMay 2017 DUMChange
xyz2,896,9835,995,2923,098,309
loan240,6422,132,8951,892,253
top2,494,4073,876,1081,381,701
online305,700749,097443,397
men14,904299,996285,092
tech132,507339,503206,996
kiwi10,997202,234191,237
club790,903980,327189,424
site405,596535,321129,725
bid363,751470,107106,356
win935,6091,030,09994,490
website178,863268,70989,846
space178,852265,07486,222
trade82,215161,11078,895
racing61,553135,02073,467
life38,813105,90667,093
accountant48,135111,04862,913
live47,42599,98852,563
host26,91865,55438,636
world29,99961,07931,080
download72,39899,90127,503
xin326,320353,63927,319
design43,53368,60025,067
city22,79344,83722,044
today53,72275,15821,436
press35,07955,92820,849
studio11,44029,73518,295
solutions52,15669,62817,472
email58,23670,53612,300
sale11,17422,77711,603

For the survey, I selected only new gTLDs from the 2012 round that had general availability dates in 2015 or earlier. I excluded any gTLD with Specifications 9 or 13, which act as a dot-brand flag, in their ICANN contract.

The 436 resulting TLDs include both wide-open, commercially available namespaces such as .link and .xyz, and the more restricted zones such as .bank and .law.

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Domain growth flat in Q2

Kevin Murphy, September 18, 2017, Domain Registries

Growth in the volume of registered domain names was exactly the same in the second quarter as it was in the first.

That’s according to the latest Domain Name Industry Brief, published by Verisign late last week.

Q2 closed with 331.9 million registered names, up 1.3 million or 0.4% sequentially. The Q1 DNIB published three months ago also showed net growth of 1.3 million names.

That’s an increase of 6.7 million names, 2.1%, over the second quarter 2016, which compares unfavorably to the first quarter’s annual growth of 11.8 million names.

A slight majority of the 1.3 million bump seems to have come from .com and .net, which together grew from 143.6 million to 144.3 million names, roughly a 700,000 name or 0.4% sequential increase.

ccTLDs fared a little better, going to to 144.2 million names from 143.1 million in Q1. That’s a 1.1 million increase.

New gTLDs took the edge off the overall industry growth, shrinking from 25.4 million names in Q1 to 24.3 million in Q2.

That’s largely due to the expiration of millions of speculative .xyz registrations that were given away for free or nearly free in 2016.

As anticipated, .xyz fell off the top 10 list of all TLDs to be replaced by 17-year-old .info, which added an impressive 300,000 names to wind up in the #9 spot ahead of flat Netherlands ccTLD .nl.

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Another ccTLD plays down the “com”

Kevin Murphy, September 15, 2017, Domain Registries

Another ccTLD operator has decided to allow registrants to register domains at the second level.

Following a trend that has swept the country-code world over the last few years, Malta’s NIC (Malta) said direct .mt registrations will become available December 1.

Previously, only third-level regs under .com.mt, .org.mt, .net.mt, .edu.mt and .gov.mt were possible.

NIC (Malta) said that existing .mt registrants will be able to claim their matching second-level names for free until the end of November 2020.

That’s a similar policy to the one adopted by Nominet in the UK, one of several ccTLDs to allow “direct” registrations in recent years. Others include New Zealand (.nz), Kenya (.ke) and, possibly but controversially, Australia (.au).

There are no residency requirements to register .mt names. Prices are usually around €20 to €30 per year, but NIC (Malta) said prices will be “halved” come December.

If you’re curious about the second-level policy change opening up new domain hacks, forget about it.

Apart from variations on “dreamt” (which doesn’t even pass a US English spell-check), there are bugger-all words ending in “mt”, according to the various Scrabble-cheating web sites I never use.

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Will ICANN punt on .amazon again?

Kevin Murphy, September 15, 2017, Domain Policy

Amazon is piling pressure onto ICANN to finally approve its five-year-old gTLD applications for .amazon, but it seems to me the e-commerce giant will have a while to wait yet.

The company sent a letter to ICANN leadership this week calling on it to act quickly on the July ruling of an Independent Review Process panel that found ICANN had breached its own bylaws when it rejected the .amazon and and Chinese and Japanese transliterations.

Amazon’s letter said:

Such action is necessary because there is no sovereign right under international or national law to the name “Amazon,” because there are no well-founded and substantiated public policy reasons to block our Applications, because we are committed to using the TLDs in a respectful manner, and because the Board should respect the IRP accountability mechanism.

ICANN had denied the three applications based on nothing more than the consensus advice of its Governmental Advisory Committee, which had been swayed by the arguments of primarily Brazil and Peru that there were public policy reasons to keep the gTLD available for possible future use by its own peoples.

The string “Amazon”, among its many uses, is of course the name of a river and a rain forest that covers much of the South American continent.

But the IRP panel decided that the ICANN board should have at least required the GAC to explain its public policy arguments, rather than just accepting its advice as a mandate from on-high.

Global Domains Division chief Akram Atallah had testified before the panel that consensus GAC advice sets a bar “too high for the Board to say no.”

But the governmental objections “do not appear to be based on well-founded public policy concerns that justify the denial of the applications” the IRP panelists wrote.

The panel, in a 2-to-1 ruling, instructed ICANN to reopen Amazon’s applications.

Since the July ruling, ICANN’s board has not discussed how to proceed, but it seems likely that the matter will come up at its Montevideo, Uruguay retreat later this month.

No agenda for this meeting has yet been published, but there will be an unprecedented public webcast of the full formal board meeting, September 23.

The Amazon letter specifically asks the ICANN board of directors to not refer the .amazon matter back to the GAC for further advice, but I think that’s probably the most likely outcome.

I say this largely because while ICANN’s bylaws specifically allow it to reject GAC advice, it has cravenly avoided such a confrontation for most of its history.

It has on occasion even willfully misinterpreted GAC advice in order to appear that it has accepted it when it has not.

The GAC, compliantly, regularly provides pieces of advice that its leaders have acknowledged are deliberately vague and open to interpretation (for a reason best known to the politicians themselves).

It seems to me the most likely next step in the .amazon case is for the board to ask the GAC to reaffirm or reconsider its objection, giving the committee the chance to save face — and avoid a lengthy mediation process — by providing the board with something less than a consensus objection.

If ICANN were to do this, my feeling is that the GAC at large would probably be minded to stick to its guns.

But it only takes one government to voice opposition to advice for it to lose its “consensus” status, making it politically much easier for ICANN to ignore.

Hypothetically, the US government could return to its somewhat protectionist pre-2014 position of blocking consensus on .amazon, but that might risk fanning the flames of anti-US sentiment.

While the US no longer has its unique role in overseeing ICANN’s IANA function, it still acts as the jurisdictional overlord for the legal organization, which some other governments still hate.

A less confrontational approach might be to abstain and to allow friendly third-party governments to roadblock consensus, perhaps by emphasizing the importance of ICANN being seen to accountable in the post-transition world.

Anyway, this is just my gut premonition on how this could play out, based on the track records of ICANN and the GAC.

If ICANN can be relied on for anything, it’s to never make a decision on something today if it can be put off until tomorrow.

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MMX sells 7,000 domains for $3.4 million

Kevin Murphy, September 12, 2017, Domain Registries

New gTLD registry MMX said it has sold $3.4 million in “premium” .vip domains names to Chinese domainers in the last few months.

In what is believed to be a small number of deals to a limited number of investors, “over 7,000” domains changed hands since they became available in late June.

MMX said that $2.8 million of the deals closed in the last 10 days.

While we don’t have the exact number of domains, it looks to work out in the ball-park of $485 per domain.

As $3.4 million is a materially significant number — the company’s entire revenue for 2016 was $15.6 million — it was disclosed to the financial markets this morning.

.vip has been MMX’s cash cow, so far amassing a zone file with more than 600,000 domains names in it.

For some reason it has been hugely popular in China — the vast majority of its registrations have been through Chinese registrars and 59% of its overall revenue was from China in 2016.

In April, the company sold 200,000 .vip names to a single Chinese investor for $1.3 million.

MMX has also said that renewal rates for .vip, which only launched last year, have been over 75%.

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