Verisign has dramatically slashed its estimates for the number of domains in existence in its quarterly Domain Name Industry Brief reports, two of which were published this week.
The headline number for the end of the fourth quarter is 329.3 million, a 0.7% increase sequentially and a 6.8% increase annually.
But it’s actually a lower number than Verisign reported in its second-quarter report just five months ago, which was 334.6 million.
The big swinger, as you may have guessed if you track this kind of thing, was .tk, the Freenom ccTLD where names are given away for free and then reclaimed and parked by the registry when they
are deleted for abuse expire.
It seems a change in the way .tk is counted (or estimated) is the cause of the dip.
Verisign gets its gTLD data for the report from ICANN-published zone files and its ccTLD data from independent researcher Zooknic.
Problem is, Zook hasn’t had up-to-date data on .tk for a couple of years, so every DNIB published since then has been based on its December 2014 numbers.
But with the Q3 report (pdf), Zook revised its .tk estimates down by about six million names.
In earlier reports, the ccTLD was being reported at about 25 million names (exact numbers were not given), but now that’s been slashed to 18.7 million, relegating it to the second-largest ccTLD after China’s .cn, which has 21.1 million.
I’ve asked Freenom to confirm the latest numbers are correct and will update this post if I get a response.
Verisign does not say what caused the decision to scale down .tk’s numbers, but explains what happened like this:
In Q3 2016, Zooknic reported a significant decline in the .tk zone and restated the estimated zone size of .tk for each quarter from Q4 2014 through Q3 2016 using a proprietary methodology. As a result, for comparative purposes of this DNIB to the Q3 2016 DNIB and the Q4 2015 DNIB, Verisign has applied an updated estimate of the total zone size across all TLDs for Q3 2016 of 327.0 million and Q4 2015 of 307.7 million and an updated estimate of the total ccTLD zone size for Q3 2016 of 140.1 million and Q4 2015 of 138.1 million.
Apples-to-apples comparisons in the Q4 report show the ccTLD universe was up to 142.7 million names, a 1.8% sequential increase and up 3.1% on 2015. Excluding .tk, annual growth was 6.9%.
Verisign’s own .com and .net combined grew 1.7% to 142.2 million names at the end of the year, one percentage point smaller than their 2015 growth.
The full Q4 report can be read here (pdf).
New gTLDs were responsible for the large majority of domain name industry volume growth in the second quarter, but you’d never know it reading Verisign’s latest Domain Name Industry Brief.
The domain universe increased to 334.6 million names at the end of June, according to the latest DNIB, which was published (pdf) last week.
That’s a 8.2 million increase on the 326.4 million it reported in its Q1 DNIB report (pdf).
Verisign reports the increase as 7.9 million, possibly due to new data that emerged after the Q1 report was published.
Whether it was 7.9 million or 8.2 million, most of the growth was due to new gTLDs.
In the DNIB, data on new gTLDs is always presented on page three of the three-page report in such a way to make apples-to-apples comparisons with .com and ccTLDs not straightforward.
While the reports highlight the growth of ccTLDs and Verisign’s own .com and .net registries in absolute and percentage terms, they do not do so for new gTLDs.
(They’ve also been calling ccTLDs “geographic gTLDs” for years and nobody seems to have noticed.)
But comparing Q1 and Q2 DNIB reports shows that new gTLDs contributed 5.9 million of the 8.2/7.9 million quarterly increase, in other words just shy of 72% of the industry’s total volume growth.
That’s the biggest contribution new gTLDs have made to growth in any quarter to date.
The growth can be attributed to .xyz’s penny deals in June, which saw domainers acquire millions of names for essentially nothing.
Meanwhile, .com and .net combined contributed just 700,000 domains to growth and .net actually shrunk by 100,000 names, its first dip since Q1 2015.
The ccTLD market data presented in the DNIBs is probably not entirely reliable. Verisign is still using the December 2014 number for free ccTLD .tk, which I think is about six million names lower than its current level.
New gTLDs grew faster than .com in the last 12 months.
That seems to be one of the conclusions that can be drawn from Verisign’s Q2 Domain Name Industry Brief, which was published (pdf) yesterday, if you dig into the numbers a little.
The headline number is that the number of all domains across all TLDs was 296 million, up sequentially by 2.2 million domains. That’s annual growth of 16.4 million domains, Verisign said.
I thought it might be interesting to see where that growth came from, so I plugged the numbers from Verisign’s last five DNIB reports into a spreadsheet, reproduced in this table.
From these numbers, we can calculate the quarterly sequential growth, measured in domains, for the whole DNS, for .com, for new gTLDs and for ccTLDs.
That table looks like this:
It appears from this table that .com grew by more domains than new gTLDs over the last year — 4.8 million versus 4.36 million — but the numbers are a bit misleading due to the way Verisign sources its data.
For most ccTLDs, Verisign has always used the third-party research outfit ZookNic, which has its own way of estimating registration volumes.
For new gTLDs, Verisign uses the zone files as published daily by ICANN — the same source DI and others use to measure volume.
However, for .com Verisign uses its own in-house data source. It is, after all, the .com registry.
The numbers for .com you find in the DNIB reports are exactly the same as the numbers Verisign gives financial analysts and investors when it reports its quarterly earnings.
And the company changed the way it reports those numbers in Q1 this year.
See that unusually high addition of 2.2 million names in .com in Q1 in the above table? That reflects the addition of very nearly 750,000 hidden .com names in March this year.
At that time, Verisign started counting domains that are on “hold” statuses, largely due to new ICANN policies on unverified Whois information.
The last two DNIB reports have sourced .com numbers with this disclosure:
The domain name base is the active zone plus the number of domain names that are registered but not configured for use in the respective Top-Level Domain zone file plus the number of domain names that are in a client or server hold status.
The actual Q1 growth number for .com should in the 1.4 million to 1.5 million range, which would bring .com’s total growth over the last four quarters down to roughly 4.1 million names.
An apples-to-apples comparison of extant zone-file domain growth would show new gTLDs beating .com, in other words.
But is this a fair measure of demand?
No. It’s fairer to say that .com still outsells its competition by a long way.
New gTLDs had yet to experience any significant churn by Q2 this year, as most had been on the market for under a year, so the growth numbers are more or less untempered by the renewal cycle.
While Verisign’s .com growth is net, for new gTLDs it’s almost all gross.
Verisign says in the latest DNIB has it had 8.7 million new registrations across .com and .net in the second quarter, which would be roughly eight times as many as new gTLDs — all several hundred of them combined — managed to move.
There are now more than 240 million registered domain names on the internet, according to Verisign.
Its latest Domain Name Industry Brief reports that a net of 7.3 million names were added across all TLDs in the second quarter, a 3.1% sequential increase, up 11.9% on Q2 2011.
Verisign’s own .com and .net hit 118.5 million domains by the end of June, up 1.6% sequentially and 7.8% year-over-year. Renewals were at 72.9%, down from 73.9% in Q1.
The company reported that new .com and .net registrations in the period totaled 8.4 million.
VeriSign is reporting that the number of registered domain names worldwide broke through the 200 million mark in the third quarter.
There were 202 million domains at the end of September, according to the company’s Domain Name Industry Brief, which was published today.
Over half of those domains, 103 million names in total, can be found in the .com and .net namespaces that VeriSign manages.
In a not-so-subtle plug for VeriSign’s 2011 growth strategy, the company also declared that the next ten years will be “The Decade of the International Internet”.
In the coming decade, the Internet will continue to become a ubiquitous, multi-cultural tool, fueled in part by the adoption of IDNs. By enabling online content and businesses to be represented in local scripts and languages, IDNs help the Internet to expand the power of technology to regions and cultures, and connect the world in new ways. Over the past year, several new IDNs for ccTLDs have been approved. The next step will be approval of IDNs for generic Top Level Domains (gTLDs).
The company, of course, plans to apply to ICANN to operate IDN versions of .com and .net, although it has not to date discussed openly which languages or strings it wants.
The VeriSign report also says that ccTLD registrations grew 2.4%, compared to the same quarter last year, to 79.2 million domains.
I expect this growth would have been tempered had it not been for the relaunch of .co, which occurred during the quarter, but it does not merit a mention in the report.
The report also reveals that .info has overtaken .cn in the biggest-TLD charts, although this is due primarily to the plummeting number of registrations in the Chinese ccTLD.