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).
OpenTLD, the registrar owned by .tk registry Freenon, has received an odd contract-breach notice from ICANN.
The company apparently forgot to send ICANN a Compliance Certificate for 2014, despite repeated pestering by ICANN staff.
It’s the first time I’ve seen ICANN issue a breach notice (pdf) for this reason.
A Compliance Certificate, judging by the 2013 Registrar Accreditation Agreement, seems to be a simple form letter that the CEO must fill in, sign and submit once a year.
Coming back into compliance would be, one imagines, five minutes’ work.
As well as being an ICANN-accredited registrar, OpenTLD is part of Freenom. That’s the registry that repurposes under-used ccTLDs with a “freemium” model that allows free registrations.
Its flagship, .tk, is the biggest ccTLD in world, with over 30 million active names.
The .tk registry has become only the second TLD to pass 25 million domain names.
Netherlands-based Dot TK passed the milestone at the weekend, according to statistics posted on its web site, and today has 25,068,128 domains under management.
It’s grown by a whopping 837,703 names in the last 30 days alone.
That means Tokelau, the tiny island nation the ccTLD represents, has a nominal 17,900 domains per citizen.
The reason for the huge numbers is that .tk names are usually free to register anywhere in the world, with Dot TK using a freemium model through which it only makes money from add-on services.
.tk became the largest ccTLD last year, hitting 16.7 million names in April 2013 and passing Germany’s .de, which today has about 15.7 million domains under management.
Being free, you’d expect there to be a disproportionate amount of nefarious activity in .tk, but that does not appear to be the case any more.
The TLD doesn’t show up in the top 10 most abused TLDs in the most recent report of the Anti-Phishing Working Group (pdf).
Architelos says (pdf) it’s the 47th-safest out of 72 TLDs, scoring it better than .com, .net, .co and many other popular TLDs.
The .tk domain is now the biggest ccTLD in the world, according to the latest stats from Centr.
In its just-published biannual Domainwire Stat Report, Centr says that .tk had 16.7 million registered domains in April, taking the #1 spot in the league table for the first time.
It now out-ranks Germany’s .de (15.4 million), the United Kingdom’s .uk (10.5 million), China’s .cn (7.5 million) and the Netherland’s .nl (5.2 million), despite Tokelau having a population of less than 1,500.
The reason for its success, of course, is that .tk domains are free to register. The ccTLD frequently pops up towards the top of abuse lists for that very reason.
At 54.7%, .tk wasn’t the fastest-growing ccTLD over the six months covered by Centr’s report, however. That honor belongs to .cn, which bounced back from previous declines with an 82.7% growth rate.
Freedom Registry, the company behind the oft-criticized .tk domain registry, seems to have been accredited as an ICANN registrar.
The new registrar business goes by the name OpenTLD. Its domain name currently bounces visitors to Freedom’s home page.
Freedom manages .tk, the ccTLD for tiny Tokelau. It’s the fastest-growing TLD — currently the second-largest ccTLD after Germany’s .de — because it’s free to register .tk domains.
As a result, it’s also regularly recognized by the Anti-Phishing Working Group as one of the most-abused TLDs out there, though the company says its business model allows it turn off abusive domains at will.