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Survey: more people know about new gTLDs but fewer trust them

People are becoming more aware that new gTLDs exist, but there’s less trust in them that there was a year ago, according to an ICANN-sponsored survey.

The second annual Global Consumer Survey, which was published late last week, shows that 16% of respondents had heard of specific new gTLDs, on average.

That’s up 2% on last year’s survey.

The number for TLDs added in the last year was 20%, with .news leading the pack with 33% awareness.

However, fewer people were actually visiting these sites: 12% on average, compared to 15% a year ago. For TLDs added in the last year, visitation averaged 15%.

And the amount of trust placed on new gTLDs added prior to the 2015 survey was down from 49% to 45% — half the level of .com, .org and .net.

For TLDs added since last year’s survey, trust was at 52% on average.

The 2015 survey looked only at .email, .photography, .link, .guru, .realtor, .club and .xyz. For this year’s survey, respondents were also asked about .news, .online, .website, .site, .space, .pics, .top, .bank, .pharmacy, and .builder.

The number of registered domains did not seem to have an impact on how aware respondents were on individual extensions.

.xyz, for example, had the lowest awareness of those used in the survey — 9% versus 5% in 2015 — despite being the runaway volume market leader and having scored PR coups such as Google’s adoption of abc.xyz for its new parent company, Alphabet.

Likewise, .top, second only to .xyz in the size league table, could only muster up 11% awareness.

.news, .email and .online topped the awareness list — with 33%, 32% and 30% respectively — despite having only about 500,000 names between them.

I’m not sure I buy much of this data to be honest. There’s some weirdness.

For example, the survey found that 28% of respondents claim to have visited a .email web site.

That’s a gTLD at least partially if not primarily designed for non-web use, with roughly 20,000 names that are not parked.

If over a quarter of the population were visiting .email sites, you might expect some of those sites to show up prominently in Alexa rankings, but they don’t.

But perhaps, if we take this survey as a measure of consumers perceptions, it doesn’t matter so much whether it reflects the reality of internet use.

The survey, conducted by Nielsen for ICANN, covered dozens of other aspects of internet use, including feelings on cybersecurity, navigation and such, and weighs in at 160 pages. Read it all over here.

One in seven new gTLD domain names are actually just numbers

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%.

TLDTotal DomainsNumerics%
gold9,2366,12566.32
run16,2268,86754.65
bet25,50312,40448.64
lol95,69745,15447.18
rip3,0781,35844.12
men15,5906,82243.76
mom49,41820,96442.42
kim117,98448,26240.91
wang1,065,295404,05937.93
pink40,02714,53136.3
black22,1327,65234.57
xin119,52240,55533.93
win951,275318,62233.49
vin5,8151,90832.81
ink23,5827,08230.03
fund7,0482,05729.19
ooo18,7605,46029.1
blue41,03011,72728.58
red308,88085,12127.56
vip276,56575,92527.45
pet7,9852,07926.04
rent6,9931,73824.85
top2,611,513599,27822.95
bid368,92283,34122.59
date188,20341,81522.22
ren306,37367,67822.09
gift26,7155,75221.53
wiki18,1083,76220.78
club769,527159,49320.73
sale10,6042,16220.39

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.

TLDTotal DomainsNumerics%
xyz6,051,039867,45514.34
top2,611,513599,27822.95
wang1,065,295404,05937.93
win951,275318,62233.49
club769,527159,49320.73
red308,88085,12127.56
bid368,92283,34122.59
vip276,56575,92527.45
ren306,37367,67822.09
site417,02358,22913.96
kim117,98448,26240.91
lol95,69745,15447.18
date188,20341,81522.22
xin119,52240,55533.93
loan242,01332,53713.44
mom49,41820,96442.42
tech134,00216,80412.54
pink40,02714,53136.3
pub63,85812,45319.5
bet25,50312,40448.64
blue41,03011,72728.58
news76,72511,06814.43
online301,06810,8263.6
website157,47810,5376.69
party206,43010,2364.96
run16,2268,86754.65
download71,0488,85312.46
help50,4528,14516.14
black22,1327,65234.57
one58,5427,39012.62

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.

Verisign loses .art contract to CentralNic

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.

.xyz tops 5 million domains as penny deals continue

XYZ.com became the first new gTLD operator to top five million domains in a single TLD last night, when .xyz added almost 1.5 million names.

According to our parse of today’s zone file, .xyz has 5,096,589 names, up 1,451,763 on yesterday’s 3,644,826.

On Monday, the number was just under 2.8 million.

The massive spike came after what was supposed to be the final day of a three-day discounting blitz, as registrars sold the names for $0.02, $0.01 or even nothing.

Uniregistry, which sold for a penny, seems to have claimed the lion’s share of the regs.

The company supplied DI with data showing it had processed over 1.16 million registrations on June 2, about 90% of which CEO Frank Schilling said were .xyz sales.

At its peak, Uniregistry created 95,793 new domains in an hour, this data shows.

Judging by the numbers published on its home page, the registrar has pretty much doubled its domains under management overnight.

The rapid growth of .xyz is very probably not over.

Some registrars said they will carry on with the penny giveaways for an extra day.

At least one popular registrar, NameCheap, told irritated customers that the popularity of its $0.02 offer meant it had a backlog of registration requests that would take 12 to 24 hours to process. Those may not have showed up in the zone file yet.

In addition, .xyz prices are expected to be dirt cheap — just $0.18 at Uniregistry, for example — for the rest of the month, at least at the 50-odd registrars XYZ says are participating in its promotion.

.xyz adds 788,000 domains in a day

Blimey.

XYZ.com managed to “sell” at least 788,167 .xyz domain names yesterday, as registrars gave them away for peanuts.

According to this morning’s zone file count, the gTLD has 3,644,826 domains, compared to 2,856,659 yesterday.

And its sale is not even over until midnight tonight.

The company has pumped millions into marketing .xyz for the second anniversary of its general availability launch, and many registrars dropped their prices accordingly.

Registrars are currently selling the names for $0.02, $0.01 or, apparently in the case of at least one Chinese registrar, nothing.

It goes without saying that this is the biggest one-day spike for a 2012 new gTLD, blowing the previous record of 238,616 out of the water.

While XYZ.com no doubt gets bragging rights, one has to wonder how much value has actually been created here.

The vast majority of these names will have been acquired by investors and will sit idle before eventually dropping. It’s possible that some have also been registered for nefarious purposes.

Some number will no doubt renew, otherwise the promotion will have been a wasted enterprise.

If you look at XYZ’s first big giveaway — the controversial free push into Network Solutions customer accounts — you’ll see very low retention.

NetSol had 360,683 .xyz names under management after the promotion finished in July 2014, but that was down to 18,919 by October 2015, when most had deleted.

That’s a drop of 95%.

The difference here is of course that registrants this week have had to pick their domains and hand over nominal payment.

Investors have been known to form emotional attachments to their portfolios, which could increase renewals this time around.

XYZ.com will have to pay around $200,000 in ICANN fees for yesterday’s added domains.

These might be the top 10 biggest new gTLD daily growth spikes

With news seeping out this evening that XYZ.com’s latest marketing blitz has very possibly added half a million domains to its .xyz gTLD today, I thought I’d knock out some data on the previous largest one-day growth spikes in new gTLDs.

With some caveats, which I’ll get to, I think these might be the top 10 growth days for new gTLDs.

TLDDateGrowth (domains)
top2016-02-16238,616
wang2016-03-02175,900
bid2016-02-18145,330
wang2016-03-03137,313
xyz2016-02-07131,375
site2016-02-24120,275
xyz2015-11-01111,160
xn--ses554g (.网址)2015-01-07109,763
wang2016-03-01107,599
xn--ses554g (.网址)2015-01-06104,548

They’re the only 10 spikes of over 100,000 domains I could confirm in the DI PRO database, at least in 2012-round gTLDs.

With .xyz reportedly adding at least 400,000 domains today, due to several registrars basically giving them away, it’s certainly going to be at the top of this table tomorrow.

XYZ is celebrating its second anniversary of general availability tomorrow, and has invested several million bucks in promotions on registrars which are in turn selling .xyz names for as little as a penny apiece.

As mentioned, there are some caveats to the data in the table above.

It’s based on the zone files published daily by ICANN’s Centralized Zone Data Service, which can be patchy.

CZDS is set up in such a way that each user has missing days here and there, and it has in the not too distant past had a tendency to balk when it receives an unexpectedly large zone file.

In other words, there’s a pretty good chance I’ve missed some spikes, but I’m confident there’s nothing else approaching 400,000 in a day.

UPDATE: .vip should be on the table, with a one-day spike of 115,245 on May 18 2016.

Registrars selling .xyz names for pennies

XYZ.com’s campaign to keep its volumes high as .xyz approaches its second anniversary seem to have resulted in basically free registrations.

Uniregistry said yesterday that it has started selling .xyz domains for just $0.01, and NameCheap is offering them for $0.02.

The prices, which apply to first-year registrations, kicked in yesterday and expire at midnight June 3.

Over in China, Xin Net and West.cn are both pricing the domains at a relatively huge CNY 2 ($0.30).

I expect there are similar offers at other registrars too.

West.cn. the largest .xyz registrar, said last week that it is also subsidizing renewals for the month of June, bringing the cost down to $2.73.

The aforementioned registrars have big splashes announcing the offers on their home pages.

XYZ said Friday that it has put aside “several million dollars” to advertise its birthday on registrar storefronts and elsewhere.

Uniregistry said that from June 3 to June 30 the price will be just $0.18.

Uniregistry’s current .xyz volume is measured in the tens of thousands. It’s ranked just behind Go Daddy, which does not appear to be participating in this promotion, by .xyz domains under management.

.xyz went into general availability June 2, 2014.

Since August 2015, not long after its anniversary deletes have been substantially outstripping renewals, but adds have been going nuts.

It has about 2.8 million domains in its zone file right now, two million of which have been added in the last 12 months.

Despite the anniversary hoopla this time around, there was not a big spike in .xyz registrations around its first birthday last year, when it added a fairly normal 50,000 or so domains.

West.cn to prop up .xyz renewals with $1.5 million subsidy

Leading Chinese registrar West.cn has said it will subsidize .xyz renewals to the tune of $1.5 million.

According to a West.cn press release, CEO He Xiaojiang made the announcement alongside XYZ.com counterpart Daniel Negari at meeting in Beijing on Friday.

The registrar’s .xyz customers “are going to get high rebate back from West.cn so that they can get very low renewal fees”, according to a translation of the original Chinese.

The subsidized renewal price, which starts in June, will be RMB 18 ($2.73), according to the company.

That’s about a $7 discount on West.cn’s usual renewal price of RMB 64.

First-year .xyz prices at the registrar are currently RMB 8 ($1.22).

West.cn is believed to have well over a million .xyz domains on its books. With over a third market share, it’s XYZ.com’s biggest registrar.

The press release points out that West.cn is not getting a special rate from XYZ (which would be against ICANN rules).

Negari declined to elaborate on the specifics of the subsidy.

But in what is no doubt a related move, he told DomainInvesting.com yesterday that XYZ has “reserved several million dollars to be spent with registrars and on advertising platforms for our 2 year anniversary”.

This ad spend will be made over the month of June, he said, to coincide with the June 2, 2014 general availability launch of .xyz.

Fifty registrars are participating, he said, calling it the “biggest sale” the industry has seen.

Whether through heavily discounted renewals or bargain first-year regs, it seems the company is set on making sure its DUM volume does not dip as its anniversary approaches.

It’s not unusual for registries to do special offers to coincide with launch birthdays.

.xyz currently has about 2.8 million registered domains, but about 1.8 million of those were registered after June 2015 and are not in need of renewal before the promotion period expires (though registrants can of course renew whenever they like).

CentralNic doing okay out of new gTLDs

Local former rival Minds + Machines may be struggling to turn a profit, but CentralNic seems to be doing quite well out of this new gTLD malarkey.

But not as well as you might expect. Large growth at its clients does not appear to have translated to a whole lot more revenue for CentralNic itself.

The company yesterday reported 2015 profit before tax of £1.45 million ($2.13 million), compared to £520,000 in 2014, on revenue up 71% at £10.39 million ($15.28 million).

While it may be best known nowadays as a back-end registry provider, its revenue is now fairly evenly split over its three reporting segments.

CentralNic runs the back-end registry for volume gTLDs including .xyz and Radix’s .site, .online, .website, and .space.

The company calls this “wholesale domain sales”, and it brought in £3.12 million last year, compared to £2.82 million in 2014.

You might think that the volume success of .xyz, which added about a million names in 2015, might have translated into a bigger boost, but it didn’t.

Its registrar business, which it got into through the acquisitions of Internet.bs and Instra, brought in £3.4 million, compared to £1.55 million in 2014.

Its third segment, “Enterprise including Premium Domain Name Sales” saw revenue of £3.85 million, compared to $1.69 million.

The enterprise business, which also included two software licenses and revenue from dot-brand clients, is easily the most profitable segment, with a 67% EBITDA margin. For wholesale, it’s 44%.

The £3.8 million of enterprise revenue included £3.22 million premium name sales, of which over £3 million came from a single buyer.

It’s not clear whether this was a single domain deal or a package of premiums, but it represents the most volatile element of CentralNic’s revenue.

Update (May 30) — This article originally misidentified “Company A” and “Company B” in CentralNic’s accounts as registry clients. In fact, according to CEO Ben Crawford, they’re registrar channel partners.

XYZ settles Verisign’s back-end switcheroo lawsuit

XYZ.com has settled a lawsuit filed against it against Verisign stemming from XYZ’s acquisition of .theatre, .security and .protection.

Verisign sued the new gTLD registry operator for “interfering” with its back-end contracts with the previous owners last August, as part of its campaign to compete against new gTLDs in the courtroom.

XYZ had acquired the .security and .protection ICANN contracts from security Symantec, and .theatre from a company called KBE Holdings.

As part of the transitions, all three applications were modified with ICANN to name CentralNic as the back-end registry services provider, replacing Verisign.

Verisign sued on the basis of tortious interference and business conspiracy. It was thrown out of court in November then amended and re-filed.

But the case appears to have now been settled.

Negari issued a grovelling not-quite-apology statement on his blog:

I am pleased to report that the recent case filed by Verisign against CentralNic, Ltd., XYZ and myself has been settled. After looking at the claims in dispute, we regret that as a result of our acquisition of the .theatre, .security and .protection extensions and our arrangement for CentralNic to serve as the backend service provider for these extensions, that Verisign was prevented from the opportunity to pursue monetization of those relationships. As ICANN’s new gTLD program continues to evolve, we would caution others who find themselves in similar situations to be mindful of the existing contracts extension owners may have with third parties.

Registries changing their minds about their back-end provider is not unheard of.

In this case, large portions of Verisign’s final amended complaint were redacted, suggesting some peculiarities to this particular switch.

If there was a monetary component to the settlement, it was not disclosed. The original Verisign complaint had demanded damages of over $2 million.