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Is Verisign’s .net in trouble?

Kevin Murphy, September 24, 2014, 10:18:06 (UTC), Domain Registries

The zone file for Verisign’s .net gTLD has shrunk by almost 100,000 domains in the last few months.
I’ve been tracking .com and .net’s zone numbers since mid-March, shortly after the current wave of new gTLDs started going live, and while .com seems to be still growing strong, .net is definitely trending down.
The bulk of .net’s decline seems to have happened of the last three months. Its zone file count has decreased by 95,590 domains in the last 90 days, according to my numbers.
Here’s a chart, which you can click to enlarge, to illustrate what I’m talking about:
I don’t have comparable figures from previous years, so I can’t be certain that the downturn is not related to summer seasonality.
But if there is seasonality, it doesn’t appear to have affected .com, which has added over a million names to its zone over the last 90 days.
The last formal registry transactions report we have from Verisign for .net shows a decline of a little over 7,000 names under management in May.
Are these the early signs of trouble ahead for .net?
The TLD has always been a bit of an oddity. Originally designed for network operators, it was opened up and pitched in the 1990s by Network Solutions as a catch-all that should be acquired alongside .com.
That “Oh, I may as well buy the .net while I’m here” mentality stuck in the primary market, and I’ve often encountered the “I’ll throw in the .net for free” mentality in the secondary market.
But in a world of hundreds of new gTLDs I wonder whether .net’s brand caché will shrink.
If a registrant decides they can clearly do without defensively registering the .guru, the .pics, the .horse and the .wtf, perhaps they’ll start wondering why they bother to register the .net too.
Is .net on the verge of an unprecedented drop-off in registrations?
I’ll have to reserve judgement — that last 90 days might be a blip, and it only represents 0.63% of the .net business — but it’s going to be worth keeping an eye on, I think.
With 15 million names, the .net business is worth about $93 million a year in registry fees to Verisign.

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Comments (7)

  1. Rubens Kuhl says:

    Verisign has been increasing fees on .net while USG DoC is not allowing price increases on .com. It’s possible it could be a reaction to those price increases, and if the drop is just that, revenues would still amount to more.

    • Kevin Murphy says:

      That’s possible too I suppose. A loss of 100,000 names wouldn’t make a huge dent in the extra $9m a year they got from price increases.

  2. There’s always a Summer slump but .NET’s growth has been slowing over the last few years.
    (It has graphs for the monthly net growth for the TLD since 2004.) The .ORG and .COM TLDS also have the same net growth dip in the Summer months but the non-core TLDs are being hit badly this year.
    The non-core TLDs are all getting a bit wobbly. It is part of a trend that is causing registrants to focus on their .com and .ccTLD domains often at the expense of registrations in other gTLDs. There is a massive amount of .COM/NET pairing where the same domain appears in .COM and .NET.

  3. Adrian Kinderis says:

    But they have been promoting it so well. I even have a .net basketball 😉

    • Rob Golding says:

      >But they have been promoting it so well. I even have a .net basketball
      I still use my .net laptop bag they gave me at an ICANN meeting a few years ago 🙂
      What I see from registrants, is that …
      Due to the ever growing number of gTLDs, ccTLDs, psuedo-tlds etc, combined with end-users becoming less aware of the domain (does anyone type a domain into an address box anymore ?) the number of ‘defensive’ registrations has dropped significantly.
      Whereas a newcomer to t’interwebbyfacetweetnet would previously register the com/net/org/biz/info/uk variants of their chosen name, they’re being a lot more selective now
      Perhaps the best thing Verisign could do is try to reposition .net as ‘for networks’ and have some qualifications on getting one – like having an ASN ?

      • So the TLD is losing registrations and Verisign should move to a managed TLD model requiring some kind of entitlement? The problem with such a move is that managed TLDs typically have far lower registration numbers than open TLDs. It might also have an impact on other .NET registrations and end up losing more .NET registrations.

  4. Raj Domains says:

    versign shrunk by 100,000 domains so it looks like that they are in big trouble… lets see if they can overcome from it

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