While the universe of new gTLDs is growing at a rapid clip, DI research shows that at least one in 10 individual new gTLDs are shrinking.
Using zone file data, I’ve also established that almost a third of new gTLDs were smaller June 1 than they were 90 days earlier, and that more than one in five shrunk over a 12-month period.
There’s been a lot written recently, here and elsewhere, about the volume boom at the top-end of the new gTLD league tables, driven by the inexplicable hunger in China for worthless domain names, so I thought I’d try to balance it out by looking at those not benefiting from the budget land-grab madness.
It’s been about two and a half years since the first new gTLDs of the 2012 round were delegated. A few hundred were in general availability by the end of 2014.
These are the ones I chose to look at for this article.
Taking the full list of delegated 2012-round gTLDs, I first disregarded any dot-brands. For me, that’s any gTLD that has Specifications 9 or 13 in its ICANN Registry Agreement.
Volume is not a measure of success for dot-brands in general, where only the registry can own names, so we’re not interested in their growth rates.
Then I disregarded any gTLD that had a general availability date after March 14, 2015.
That date was selected because it’s 445 days before June 1, 2016 — enough time for a gTLD to go through its first renewal/deletion cycle.
There’s no point looking at TLDs less than a year old as they can only be growing.
This whittling process left me with 334 gTLDs.
Counting the domains in those gTLDs’ zone files, I found that:
- 96 (28.7%) were smaller June 1 than they were 30 days earlier.
- 104 (31.1%) were smaller June 1 than they were 90 days earlier.
- 76 (22.7%) were smaller June 1 than they were 366 days earlier.
- 35 (10.4%) were smaller on a monthly, quarterly and annual basis.
Zone files don’t include all registered domains, of course, but the proportion of those excluded tends to be broadly similar between gTLDs. Apples-to-apples comparisons are, I believe, fair.
And I think it’s fair to say that if a gTLD has gotten smaller over the previous month, quarter and year, that gTLD is “shrinking”.
There are the TLDs.
|TLD||Registry||Domains||Annual Change||Quarterly Change||Monthly Change|
|..在线 (xn--3ds443g)||TLD Registry||34800||-1161||-1183||-1124|
|.شبكة (xn--ngbc5azd)||International Domain Registry||1103||-379||-150||-84|
|.ОНЛАЙН (xn--80asehdb)||CORE Association||2350||-128||-157||-215|
|.САЙТ (xn--80aswg)||CORE Association||1072||-8||-46||-65|
Concerning those 35 shrinking gTLDs:
- The average size of the zones, as of June 1, was 17,299 domains.
- Combined, they accounted for 605,472 domains, down 34,412 on the year. That’s a small portion of the gTLD universe, which is currently over 20 million.
- The smallest was .wed, with 144 domains and annual shrinkage of 12. The largest was .网址 (Chinese for “.website”) which had 330,554 domains and annual shrinkage of 7,487.
- The mean shrinkage over the year was 983 domains per gTLD. Over the quarter it was 1,025. Over the month it was 400.
Sixteen of the 35 domains belong to Donuts, which is perhaps to be expected given that it has the largest stable and was the most aggressive early mover.
Of its first batch of seven domains to go to GA, way back in February 2014, only three — .guru, .singles, and .plumbing — are on our list of shrinkers.
A Donuts spokesperson told DI today that its overall number of registrations is on the increase and that “too much focus on individual TLDs doesn’t accurately indicate the overall health of the TLD program in general and of our portfolio specifically.”
He pointed out that Donuts has not pursued the domainer market with aggressive promotions, targeting instead small and medium businesses that are more likely to actually use their domains.
“As initial domainer investors shake out, you’re likely to see some degradation in the size of the zone,” he said.
He added that Donuts has seen second-year renewal rates of 72%, which were higher than the first year.
“That indicates that there’s more steadiness in the registration base today than there was when first-year renewals were due,” he said.
ICM Registry president Stuart Lawley may be just weeks away from launching his second and third gTLD registries, but that doesn’t mean he has a positive outlook on new gTLDs in general.
“I think people need to wake up,” he told DI in a recent interview. “If you do the math on some of these numbers and prospective numbers, it just doesn’t stack up for a profitable business.”
“The new ‘Well Done!’ number seems to be a lot less than it was six months ago or 12 months ago,” he said.
Lawley said he’s among the most “bearish” in the industry when it comes to new gTLD prospects. And that goes for ICM’s own .porn, .sex and .adult, which are due to launch between March and September this year.
While he’s sure they’ll be profitable, and very bullish on the search engine optimization benefits that he says registrants could be able to achieve, he’s cautious about what kind of registration volumes can be expected. He said:
If you add up everybody that has ever bought a .xxx name, including the Sunrise B defensives, we have got a target market of about 250,000 names. People to go back to and say, “Look, you still have a .xxx or you had a .xxx at some stage. Therefore, we think you may be interested in buying .porn, .sex or .adult for exactly the same reasons.”
So, our expectations to sell to a whole new market outside of those quarter of a million names is probably quite limited.
Lawley said that he believes that the relatively poor volume performance of most new gTLDs over the last year will cause many registrars to question whether it’s worth their time and money to offer them.
I can see why registrars can’t be bothered. How many of these am I going to sell? Am I going to sell two hundred of them? Am I going to make five dollars per name? That’s one thousand dollars. It’s not worth it to me to put in ten thousand dollars worth of labor and effort to make one thousand dollars in revenue. So, I think that’s a challenge that many of the small lone player TLDs may face.
Lawley said he’s skeptical about the ability of major portfolio players, such as Donuts, to effectively market their hundreds of gTLDs, many of which are targeted at niche vertical markets.
He said in an ideal world a gTLD would need to spend $20 million to $30 million a year for a few years in order to do a proper PR job on a single TLD — ICM spent about $8 million to $9 million, $5.5 million of which was on US TV spots — and that’s just not economically viable given how many names are being sold.
But he added that he thinks it’s a good thing that some new gTLDs are seeing a steady and fairly linear number of daily additions, saying it might point to better long-term stability.
A lot of the TLDs that seem to be doing okay — .club for argument’s sake and several others in that ilk — seem to be doing their three hundred domains per day ADD, or 32 or 12 or whatever the number is, in a relatively linear fashion six or seven months after launch, which I think is potentially positive if one extrapolates that out.
Want to get a full daily list of which new gTLD domains have Alexa rank?
From today DI PRO subscribers can, with our new Popular New gTLD Domains feature.
Updated once a day, the report comprises a list of new gTLD domains that are used by the top one million web sites on the internet, according to data provided by Alexa.
The report currently has 635 domains, but it’s growing.
The report can be used to discover how early adopters are using new gTLDs and which TLDs are generating the most popular web sites.
Here’s a screen shot:
DI PRO subscribers can check it out here.
The number of domain names in new gTLDs passed 200,000 last night, according to zone files.
The exact number, according to the DI PRO database, is 201,184.
It’s based on incremental organic growth over the last week since the last batch of new gTLDs went into general availability, rather than any big launch events or surges.
Here are the top 10 zones, all of which belong to Donuts.
What the 200,000 count does not reflect is the first day of general availability for Google’s first-to-launch gTLD, .みんな (Japanese for “everyone”), which I’m expecting to start showing numbers tomorrow.
In related news, the DI PRO new gTLD zone file league table service (here) was upgraded today to make it a bit more useful during periods of patchy data availability.
The service will now show all delegated new gTLDs that have started publishing zone files, along with the most-recent domain counts, on days when the file was for whatever reason not available.
DI PRO subscribers from today can track daily changes in new gTLD registration volumes.
The New gTLD Zone File Report is a simple, sortable table showing how each new gTLD has performed over the last 24 hours.
It’s the database I’ve been using for DI’s analysis of Donuts’ landrush numbers over the last week, but I’ve received a few requests to make the data available in a more structured way.
The data is also being incorporated into the next TLD Health Check update too, enabling longer-term views and interactive charts. More on that in due course.