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XYZ junk drop sinks the industry in Q3

Kevin Murphy, December 20, 2017, Domain Registries

The total number of domains registered in the world suffered a rare period of decline in the third quarter, according to Verisign’s latest numbers.

The Q3 Domain Name Industry Brief shows September ended with 330.7 million registered names across all TLDs, a 1.2 million dip on the second quarter.

Year-on-year, there was still growth: 3.7 million domains, or 1.1%.

The shrinkage follows a flat Q2 and a slowing Q1.

The finger of blame can be primarily pointed at .xyz and .top, which lost millions of domains in the quarter due, in .xyz’s case at least, to the expiration of millions of names that had been sold for a penny or two a year earlier.

Not that you’d know this from the DNIB (pdf). For some reason Verisign doesn’t like talking about new gTLD growth rates in its reports, even when they’re going the wrong way.

Verisign’s own .com and .net grew by 1.5 million names to 145.8 million, putting ground between themselves and ccTLDs, which collectively were up by 500,000 names or 0.3% sequentially to 144.7 million.

Numeric .xyz names plummet despite dollar deal

Kevin Murphy, December 7, 2017, Domain Registries

XYZ.com’s effort to sell over a billion numeric .xyz domains at just $0.65 each does not appear to be gaining traction.

The number of qualifying domains in the .xyz zone file has plummeted by almost 200,000 since the deal was introduced and dipped by over 4,000 since the blanket discount went live.

The $0.65 registry fee applies to what XYZ calls the “1.111B Class” of domains — all 1.111 billion possible six, seven, eight and nine-digit numeric .xyz domains.

These domains carry a recommended retail price of $0.99.

It’s not a promotional price. It’s permanent and also applies to renewals.

Some registrars opted to start offering the lower price from June 1, but it did not come into effect automatically for all .xyz registrars until November 11

The number of domains in this class seems to be on a downward trend, regardless.

There were 272,589 such domains May 31, according to my analysis of .xyz zone files, but that was down to 74,864 on December 5.

On November 10, the day before the pricing became uniform, there were 78,256 such domains. That shows a decline of over 4,000 domains over the last four weeks.

It’s possible that the 1.111B offer is attracting registrants, but that their positive impact on the numbers is being drowned out by unrelated negative factors.

The period of the 200,000-name decline coincides with the massive mid-July junk drop, in which .xyz lost over half of its total active domains due to the expiration of domains registered for just a penny or two in mid-2015.

Many of those penny domains were numeric, due to interest from speculators from China, where such names have currency.

The period also coincides with a time in which XYZ was prohibited from selling via Chinese registrars, due to a problem changing its Real Names Verification provider.

In recent marketing, XYZ has highlighted some interesting uses of 1.111B domains, including a partnership with blockchain cryptocurrency Ethereum.

Other registrants are using the domains to match important dates and autonomous system numbers.

China and cheapo TLDs drag down industry growth — CENTR

Kevin Murphy, November 27, 2017, Domain Registries

The growth of the worldwide domain industry continued to slow in the third quarter, according to data out today from CENTR.

There were 311.1 million registered domains across over 1,500 TLDs at the end of September, according to the report, 0.7% year-over-year growth.

CENTRThe new gTLD segment, which experienced a 7.2% decline to 20.6 million names, was the biggest drag.

But that decline is largely due to just two high-volume, low-price gTLDs — .xyz and .top — which lost millions of names that had been registered for pennies apiece.

Excluding these TLDs, year-over-year growth for the whole industry would have been 2.5%, CENTR said. The report states:

Over the past 2 years, quarterly growth rates have been decreasing since peaks in early 2016. The slowdown is the result of deletes after a period of increased investment from Chinese registrants. Other explanations to the slowdown are specific TLDs, such as .xyz and .top, which have contracted significantly.

The legacy gTLDs inched up by 0.2%, largely driven by almost two million net new names in .com. In fact, only five of the 17 legacy gTLDs experienced any growth at all, CENTR said.

In the world of European ccTLDs, the average (median) growth rate has been flat, but CENTR says it sees signs of a turnaround.

CENTR is the Council of European National Top-Level Domain Registries. Its Q3 report can be downloaded here (pdf).

.xyz back on sale in China

Kevin Murphy, September 25, 2017, Domain Registries

Chinese registrars have started to carry .xyz domains again, about five months after a Chinese government ban.

West.cn and Net.cn are two of the China-based companies that appear to be selling .xyz names at the yuan equivalent of a US dollar, based on a spot check this morning.

West.cn flagged the “restoration” of service on its blog today, saying it was “overjoyed” to resume sales.

XYZ.com revealed back in May that its new gTLD domains were “temporarily” no longer available via Chinese registrars, after the government there suspended its license.

The reason for the suspension has always been a little vague, but the registry told DNW back in May that it related to Real Names Verification.

RNV is the government-mandated identity check that must take place before anyone in China can register and use a domain name.

XYZ had been outsourcing the function to ZDNS, but that relationship fell apart for some reason (rumor has it there was a money dispute) and XYZ decided to switch to Tele-info.

In the interim, Chinese registrars, apparently under order of their government, dutifully stopped carrying .xyz domains.

XYZ also went through ICANN’s Registry Services Evaluation Process to get its move to Tele-info approved at the Registry Agreement level.

The downtime prevented XYZ from masking the precipitous decline in its number of domains under management, which has fallen by over three million since May.

XYZ and the Chinese government have yet to issue statements about the newly reinstated license.

UPDATE 10/10/2017 — XYZ.com got in touch last week to say that .xyz was never “banned” in China.

A spokesperson said in an email: “We had RNV in place with ZDNS and opted to switch. To be compliant with ICANN, we suspended registrations in China.”

He declined to clarify whether the suspension was voluntary or ICANN-mandated.

He also declined to confirm or deny that Chinese registrars been told to suspend .xyz registrations by the government, as local sources have previously told DI and Domain Name Wire.

Other gTLDs owned by other registries have previously obtained Chinese licenses without ICANN first approving their RNV providers.

Okay, pedants, only 36% of new gTLDs are shrinking

Kevin Murphy, September 19, 2017, Domain Registries

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

According to numbers culled from zone files, 156 of the 435 commercial gTLDs we looked at had fewer domains yesterday than they did a year earlier.

On the bright side, that means the majority of them are still growing, but…

You: Wait, Kev, didn’t you write this exact same story yesterday, but said that 40% of new gTLDs were shrinking? Why are you now saying it’s 36%?

Me: People in the comments and on social media complained that I’d used domains under management (DUM) from May’s registry transaction reports — the most recent available — to collate the data yesterday, rather than more recent but less accurate zone files.

You: Why did they complain?

Me: I think because the May numbers show .xyz gaining on an annual basis, and yet everyone and his grandmother knows that .xyz’s numbers dropped off a cliff in July.

Your Grandmother: It’s true, they did. They lost millions…

You: Shut up, Gran. So, Kev, presumably if you do the same survey again, using the same TLDs, but use zone file data from this week instead, you’ll discover that the number of shrinking TLDs is far greater than 40%?

Me: Why would you presume that?

You: Because I also hate new gTLDs in general, not just .xyz specifically.

Me: Actually, the number of shrinking new gTLDs turns out to be smaller.

You: How come?

Me: Because only 36% of the gTLDs I surveyed had fewer numbers in their September 18, 2017 zone file than they did in their September 18, 2016 zone file.

You: So you actually over-reported the shrinkage in your first post? How come? I thought you were a shameless stooge of the new gTLD industry.

Me: I get that a lot.

You: Is .xyz at least on the list of biggest losers now?

Me: It is. Right at the top.

You: Good. I really fucking hate .xyz. What else changed? Stands to reason that some losers first time around are now gainers.

Me: Correct. Famous Four Media’s .party, for example, was a top 10 loser in the report comparing May 2016 DUM to May 2017 DUM, losing over 100,000 names, but it’s a top 10 gainer in the September-September zone file report, adding 85,000.

You: Explain.

Me: Well, .party’s reg numbers fell off a cliff in July 2016, and were still pretty depressed a year ago, but have since regained ground, presumably due to them costing less than a pack of gum.

You: Got it. Any others?

Me: It’s a similar story for .webcam, .work, .bar, .audio, .rest and a few others. They all shrunk May-May but gained September-September.

You: So, in summary, the new gTLD industry isn’t as unhealthy as you made out on Monday?

Me: Maybe. To be honest I don’t think the disparity between 36% and 40% makes a whole lot of difference. It’s still quite a lot of TLDs growing in the wrong direction. At one time, that kind of thing was virtually unheard of.

You: True dat.

Me: Anyway, can I get back to my blog post now?

You: Sure. Just don’t expect me to read to the end.

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.

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.

XYZ slashes $10 million a year from premium stash

Kevin Murphy, September 11, 2017, Domain Registries

XYZ.com has slashed the asking price of a few thousand “premium” .xyz domain names, in some cases by many thousands of dollars.

Overall, it looks like the company has dropped prices by a total of $10.8 million.

At the top end of its reserved list, several single and double-character domains previously priced a $55,000 per year have been reduced to $13,000 per year.

At the lower end, domains previously priced at around $1,300 are now around $300.

Those are the recommended retail prices. Some registrars are offering them with a substantial mark-up.

The reductions affect 2,700 of the domains on XYZ’s premium list, which runs to about 3,075 names in total.

Whereas the previous hypothetical value of the full list was $15.3 million a year, it’s now at $4.4 million a year.

Of course, they’re not worth anything unless somebody is willing to pay the price, and the domains still seem to have end-user price tags on them.

Premium renewal fees have so far proved unpopular in the domain investing community due to the large carrying cost.

XYZ’s full list can be obtained here.

CentralNic extends XYZ deal until 2032

Kevin Murphy, September 7, 2017, Domain Registries

CentralNic and XYZ.com have extended their registry services pact for the next fifteen years, according to CentralNic.

Announcing its first-half 2017 financial results today, CentralNic said the back-end contract has been extended until 2032.

It’s an unusually long duration for a registry services contract, which are usually much more likely to run about five years.

It even lasts 10 years beyond the expiration of XYZ.com’s own ICANN contracts (though renewal of these is a near-certainty).

The deal covers all .xyz domains, as well as all of the other TLDs in XYZ.com’s portfolio. That currently includes the likes of .rent, .storage and .college.

CentralNic said it “will receive a fixed fee based on the volume of .xyz registrations and subscriptions managed” under the new deal.

In a statement to the markets, CEO Ben Crawford said the relationship “has been updated to normalise the Company’s revenues and profits going forward.”

I believe the previous contract contained a per-domain component, which exposed CentralNic’s revenue to .xyz’s erratic pricing-influenced growth trajectory.

.xyz’s zone file has shrunk by a whopping four million domains since this time last year, causing it to lose the crown of highest-volume new gTLD, due to it offering free or almost free domains that expired without renewing after a year.

However, CentralNic disclosed that the proportion of its own wholesale transaction volumes that were renewals (rather than adds and transfers, I assume) was 18% in the first half, up from 2% in the same 2016 period.

For the six months ended June 30, the company had overall revenue of £10.6 million ($13.9 million), up 18.5% year over year.

Its net loss after tax was £619,000 ($810,000), down from £1.3 million. At the EBITDA level, profit was £1.4 million ($1.8 million) compared to $900,000 in H1 2016.

While I still stubbornly think of CentralNic as primarily a registry play, in fact the company now gets about three quarters of its revenue today from its retail registrar division, which contributed just shy of £8 million to the total in H1.

Instra, the Australian registrar it acquired at the end of 2015, contributed £5.83 million.

The wholesale division, registry back-end services — contributed £1.82 million to revenue and £450,000 to EBITDA in the half.

That’s despite CentralNic being the back-end for six of the top 20 new gTLDs by volume — .website, .space, .tech, .site, .online, and .xyz

If we tally up the number of domains in only those six TLDs, we get to about 4.2 million, per their zone files.

The company’s third reporting unit, Enterprise, contributed £800,000 ($1 million) in the half, of which £360,000 ($471,000) came from premium domain sales.

Google shifts 400,000 .site domains

Kevin Murphy, August 22, 2017, Domain Registries

Google has given away what is believed to be roughly 400,000 subdomains in Radix’s .site gTLD as part of a small business web site service.

Since its launch a couple of months ago, the Google My Business web site builder offering has been offering small businesses a free one-page site with a free third-level domain under business.site.

Google My Business also offers users the ability to upgrade to a paid-for second-level domain via its Google Domains in-house registrar.

Google the search engine indexes 403,000 business.site pages currently. Because each subdomain is limited to a single page, it is possible that the number of subdomains is not too far behind that number, Radix believes.

This means that business.site is likely almost as large as the .site gTLD itself, which currently has about 450,000 names in its zone file.

Given the rapid growth rate, it seems likely the subdomain will overtake the TLD in a matter of weeks.

According to Radix, business.site was purchased off of its registry reserved premium list. The sale price has not been disclosed.

It’s good publicity for the TLD, and merely the latest endorsement by Google of the new gTLD concept.

As well as being the registry for many new gTLDs, Google parent Alphabet uses a .xyz domain and its registrar uses a .google domain.