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Zone file size of the average new open gTLD in 2016.

Many new gTLD applicants and others have their fingers crossed that ICANN’s new gTLD program will lurch forward over the coming months, resulting in a controlled explosion of new gTLDs that will offer registrants new options to connect with Internet users and lead them to the content that they expect. I’m sure some applicants are dying to see some revenue start flowing in the door, not to mention related vendors.

Hopefully, for many of the applicants that need to turn a profit at some point, before plunking down $185K+++ just to be in the game, have carefully thought out what the market for new gTLDs might be in the future, what volume of competition and negative sentiment they might face, and what numbers they will need to be successful by a date certain.

So what kind of market share can we expect by the end of—say 2016—from the new gTLDs? What kind of monthly ‘net new create’ numbers are needed for a single new gTLD to achieve a particular number by the end of 2016, assuming they can get 36 months of selling time by launching by January 2014? No one really knows, but I’ll take an educated stab at it. 

Having the experience of being involved with the launch and ongoing management of .mobi—I’ll call it a ‘legacy’ new gTLD, or to be technically correct, a legacy sTLD (sponsored top-level domain), I’ve been thinking about how hard it really has been for a non .com TLD to get consistent volume through the channel on a global basis.

A lot was learned through the .mobi experience and I can tell you it is no small achievement to get your registrar channel onboard and with you the whole way—not just during sunrise and the heady land rush, early premium auctions and general registration phases, but for months and years down the road.  Imagine how hard that might be when you are competing against multiple new entrants in the game who are also vying for attention from the registrar channel and potential registrants. Let us not forget that existing incumbent TLDs will likely fight like hell to maintain their market share—and they already have the channel in their pocket for the most part. I believe this will be especially the case for top tier ccTLDs.

For all that was accomplished and spent in the early years of .mobi, and despite some criticism, it is today ranked in the top 30 off the roughly 268 existing TLDs worldwide with nearly 1.1 million active domains in the zone.  The .net, .org, .info and .biz TLDs have greater volume and it’s taken them years to get where they are today.  Repurposed ccTLDs such as .me and .co have carved their niches and enjoyed attention, but even with their well-executed marketing and registrar programs I’m sure they are well aware of the challenges of making a market entry splash and maintaining momentum.

If you take the 15 sponsored TLDs that have been added since 2001 (legacy ‘new TLDs’ if you will) and count their total number of registrations, they amount to less than 5% of the current total estimated number of 252 million names registered across 268 TLDs. The vast majority of that 5% is with .info, .biz and .mobi. I won’t dive in here as to their relevance or other issues for not grabbing a larger market share, just stating numerical facts.

Take away the withdrawn applications and contention sets and there is potential for an estimated 1,112 new gTLDs. Take away the IDNs, the dotBrands and ‘closed’ generics and you are left with about 256 potential ‘open generic’ new gTLDs in the marketplace, assuming contentions, objections and other delay and/or death mechanisms are resolved—but don’t count on that.

So here’s where I think we might be at the end of 2016. This is high-level. If you would like detail on my assumptions and forecast for any set of new gTLDs please contact me. Disclosure: I provide consulting services to new gTLD applicants and others.

I believe .com and legacy gTLD zone files will experience moderate but continually slowing annual growth, ending with 129.5M and 41.5M registrations respectively. ccTLDs will continue their fast annual growth, ending with 163.8M registrations.

But wait, what about the new gTLDs? Well, if applicants, the channel, and the industry as a whole do a bang-up job educating, marketing and selling their value props through existing and new channels—essentially hit the ball out of the park—we could see the global market share for new gTLDs in aggregate reach 18% by the end of 2016.  I mean they/we/you would have to *kill* it to get to that point.  That would be an achievement that means at least three times better performance in 3 years than what the legacy sponsored TLDs have achieved in the past 12 years. That would mean an additional 73.6M new registrations in the marketplace—bringing us to a total of 408.5M names in all TLDs at the end of 2016.

I believe the vast majority of the growth in global registration will come from open generics, as in 94% of that 18% market share.  I will admit there are some unknown factors that could change all this—especially as it relates to what brands could do with their TLD assets—but that’s a post for another day. So if you are an *average* new open gTLD, my estimate points to about 270K registrations in your zone at the end of 2016.  Of course some will do better than average. If you do at least 5 times better than the average you’d be the next .co or .mobi.  If you do at least THIRTY-SEVEN times better than the average you could be the next .org, .de or .co.uk.

No one in this business wants to be average, but to even get to my estimated average you’d have to sell 7,500 net new registrations every month for 36 months to get to 270K in my forecast model.  So do the math and get cracking with your marketing and sales plan if you want to be at least average or better with your channel and end user targets.


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INTA and domain names. 1997 vs. 2013.

As the INTA 2013 Annual Meeting comes to a close I can’t help but note the focus on domain names within the INTA community and on the home page of their website.

Compare that to 1997 when my then business partner and I had to write a letter and call INTA to explain what domain names were in order to have their *potential* consideration to exhibit at the annual meeting as Internet Domain Names Inc. and introduce domain names to the IP community.

Our first customer was an IP lawyer that paid us $100 cash *per* .com name at our INTA booth to register names for them as a result. At that point we felt like we definitely had a business. Now we have the TMCH. How times have changed…