The Internet has become a ubiquitous part of the lives of nearly 2.5 billion people worldwide. In the 28 years since the first domain name was registered in 1985, more than 265 million domain names have been registered, a growth rate unparalleled in any other industry at any time.
Generally speaking, there are two types of top-level domains: generic top-level domains (gTLDs) (.COM, .NET, .ORG, etc.) and country code top-level domains (ccTLDs) (.CA, .US, .UK, and so on). It should be noted that many ccTLDs (.CA included) have presence requirements for registering a domain name, limiting their potential market. Others, such as .CO and .TK, have no such requirements and can be registered by anyone, regardless of place of residence.
By the end of June 2013, the top six gTLDs accounted for 56 per cent of all registered domain names (147,570,438 in total). At the end of the same period, ccTLDs accounted for 44 per cent of total registrations (115,032,554 in total). However, the growth rate for gTLDs has been steadily decreasing, whereas the growth rate for ccTLDs has increased slightly over the same time period.
With 111,719,747 .COM domain names registered, it continues to be the most popular TLD in the world accounting for approximately 40 per cent of all domain names registered. .COM’s registrations outnumber those of .NET, the second most popular TLD in the world, by more than seven times.
Among ccTLDs, .TK is the most popular in the world with 19,754,054 domains under management. .TK is the ccTLD for Tokelau, a territory of New Zealand that has a population of approximately 1,400. The tremendous popularity of .TK is due to the fact that there are no residency requirements to register a .TK domain name, and .TK domain names are offered for free (for the first year) with minimal restrictions.
The domain name industry is facing one of the most significant changes in its history. In 2013, ICANN began the process of potentially adding 1,000 new gTLDs to the Internet’s root. These domain names will start to be added in 2014.
A change of this size is akin to deregulation, and the impact on the industry is unknown. One thing is clear, however. It will affect all stakeholders in the domain industry including Registries, Registrars and domain name holders, as well as Internet users in general.
The introduction of new gTLDs will significantly increase the domain name choice for consumers. Registrars will have an enhanced product line to offer. This will result in a more complex market, as the incumbent TLDs, like .CA and .COM, will begin to compete for ‘shelf space’ with Registrars. New and incumbent TLDs will likely enhance their marketing activities – if they haven’t already done so – in 2014, as the market becomes much more competitive.
New gTLDs also brought increased mainstream media attention to the TLD industry. Although an integral part of the Internet’s operations, TLDs are generally not ‘top-of-mind’ among most Internet users. This enhanced visibility of all TLDs will have a positive effect on the industry as a whole.
In March 2013, CIRA surveyed Canadian Internet users to gauge their interest in new gTLDs. While slightly more than half of respondents have no interest in new gTLDs, there is virtually no difference between those who are interested (20 per cent) and those who ‘Don’t know’. A small percentage (six per cent) responded that they are ‘very interested’.
With 40 per cent of .CA Registrars indicating that they will add and new gTLDs to their product offering and 40 per cent considering doing the same, new gTLDs will surely have an impact on the domestic TLD market. Fifteen per cent of Registrars surveyed are not sure if they will be adding new gTLDs, and five per cent have indicated that they will definitely not be adding them.
As new gTLDs are offered by Canadian Registrars, interest in them will increase. The real winner with their introduction will be the Registrant, with access to more product choice and a competitive marketplace. This will ameliorate the current saturation of the primary gTLD market, particularly as the Internet is about to add two billion more people online.
There are currently more than two billion people connected to the Internet. It has become a critical part of the global social and economic fabric, bringing enhanced communications, access to information and economic opportunity to much of the world. According to the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), in 2013 nearly 78 per cent of households in the developed world had Internet access.
In 2013 nearly 78 per cent of households in the developed world had Internet access.
The Internet has been slow to bring that prosperity to the developing world. Only 29 per cent of households in the developing world had Internet access in 2013. That said, since late 2010, the growth rate for household Internet access in the developing world has been steadily increasing, outpacing the growth rate in the developed world.
Within the next five years, approximately two billion more people will be brought online, doubling the current population on the Internet. Like the introduction of new gTLDs, this expansion will have a profound effect on the Internet ecosystem for a couple of reasons: