The domain name industry

The domain name system plays a critical role in how nearly three billion users interact with the Internet. Worth over $4 billion globally, the domain name industry continues to grow. There are more than 280 million domain names registered globally.

There are two types of top-level domains. Country code top-level domains (ccTLDs), are those representing a country or state, such as .CA, .us, and .uk. Generic top-level domains (gTLDs) are those such as .com, .net, and .org.

Between 1984 and 2013, only 22 gTLDs had ever been approved by international domain governance body, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), with .com representing nearly half of all domain names registered. In 2011, ICANN ended restrictions on gTLDs, and began accepting applications for new domain names the following year. In October 2013 ICANN approved four new gTLDs. The list of new gTLDs has since grown to nearly 500 and is expected to reach 1,000 within two years.

The most recent gTLD ranking data available, presented below, doesn’t yet account for the impact of new gTLDs on the global domain industry.

Global top-level domain registration trends

Steady quarter-over-quarter growth in the domain name industry continues. Registrations of country code domain registrations outpaces that of the total TLD market and the growth in gTLDs. The gTLD market grew by 0.26 per cent in the second quarter of 2014, compared to 1.69 per cent for ccTLDs (excluding China) and 0.87 per cent for the TLD market overall. It is important to note that the growth rate for the domain industry overall has slowed as the market has matured.

Source: ZookNIC 2014

Global top-level domain growth rates (without .cn)

Note: We have removed .cn from this analysis due to a change in registration rules within China's .cn domain in 2010 that resulted in sudden and dramatic growth, then a drastic decline in registrations. This anomalous activity would result in confusing data for presentation.

Source: ZookNIC 2014

Total TLDs globally - 56% gTLDs, 44% ccTLDs

The top six gTLDs, (.com, .net, .org, .mobi, .info, .biz), represent just over 54 per cent of all registered domains. There has, however, been a significant drop-off in some parts of the TLD market. Domain .mobi, for example, has seen a decrease, likely due to the proliferation of mobile-responsive sites. The gTLDs outside the top six declined by more than five per cent from Q1 to Q2 of 2014 and 28 per cent over the previous year.

Top 18 generic top-level domains, (excluding new gTLDs)

gTLD Last Period Domain Count PoP Trend
1 .COM 117,021,899 0.47%
2 .net 15,668,196 -0.11%
3 .org 10,416,160 -0.24%
4 .info 5,656,103 0.27%
5 .biz 2,735,062 -0.76%
6 .mobi 1,067,301 -8.80%
7 .asia 315,126 -11.05%
8 .name 198,790 -2.59%
9 .tel 138,218 -5.06%
10 .pro 129,249 -1.55%
11 .xxx 104,087 -5.12%
12 .cat 75,687 2.53%
13 .jobs 45,133 0.50%
14 .travel 19,559 -0.49%
15 .aero 9,256 1.18%
16 .coop 7,936 1.16%
17 .museum 445 1.60%
18 .post 30 20.00%

Source: ZookNIC 2014

With 117,021,899 domain names registered, .com continues to be the most popular TLD in the world accounting for approximately 45 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 continues to lead the industry with 26,755,480 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 German ccTLD, .de follows second with 15,775,003 domains under management.

Top 20 country code top-level domains

TLD Country Last Period Domain Count PoP Trend
1 .tk Tokelau 26,755,480 9.12%
2 .de Germany 15,775,003 0.32%
3 .cn China 10,906,655 2.36%
4 .uk United Kingdom 10,510,549 -0.24%
5 .nl Netherlands 5,503,326 0.42%
6 .ru Russian Federation 4,889,732 -0.50%
7 .eu European Union 3,860,813 -0.90%
8 .br Brazil 3,488,277 1.37%
9 .au Australia 2,881,387 1.41%
10 .fr France 2,819,217 1.09%
11 .it Italy 2,708,965 1.07%
12 .ar Argentina 2,604,601 0.00%
13 .pl Poland 2,519,081 1.14%
14 .ca Canada 2,274,671 1.27%
15 .ch Switzerland 1,906,046 1.08%
16 .us United States 1,806,172 -1.36%
17 .es Spain 1,747,002 0.95%
18 .co Colombia 1,697,229 0.00%
19 .in India 1,520,000 0.00%
20 .be Belgium 1,478,324 0.84%

Top 25 top-level domains

TLD Country Last Period Domain Count PoP Trend
1 .com Generic 117,021,899 0.47%
2 .tk Tokelau 26,755,480 9.12%
3 .de Germany 15,775,003 0.32%
4 .net Generic 15,668,196 -0.11%
5 .cn China 10,906,655 2.36%
6 .uk United Kingdom 10,510,549 -0.24%
7 .org Generic 10,416,160 -0.24%
8 .info Generic 5,656,103 -0.27%
9 .nl Netherlands 5,503,326 0.42%
10 .ru Russian Federation 4,889,732 -0.50%
11 .eu European Union 3,860,813 0.90%
12 .br Brazil 3,488,277 1.37%
13 .au Australia 2,881,387 1.41%
14 .fr France 2,819,217 1.09%
15 .biz Generic 2,735,062 -0.76%
16 .it Italy 2,708,965 1.07%
17 .ar Argentina 2,604,601 0.00%
18 .pl Poland 2,519,081 1.14%
19 .ca Canada 2,274,671 1.27%
20 .ch Switzerland 1,906,046 1.08%
21 .us United States 1,806,172 -1.36%
22 .es Spain 1,747,002 0.95%
23 .co Colombia 1,697,229 0.00%
24 .in India 1,520,000 0.00%
25 .be Belgium 1,478,324 0.84%

Top-level domain registrations per capita (1,000s), updated to June 2014

As the 19th most popular TLD in the world and the 14th most popular ccTLD, .CA continues to perform well relative to its counterparts. There are 75.5 .CA domains for every 1,000 Canadian Internet users, compared to a gTLD penetration rate 167.2 per 1,000 Canadian Internet users. .CA’s growth rate is the sixth highest of all ccTLDs.

Source: ZookNIC 2014

In much of the world, ccTLDs enjoy greater penetration rates than gTLDs in their respective regions. Canada, the United States and France are notable exceptions. In Australia, penetration rates are nearly equal. In North America the ccTLDs are overshadowed by the success of gTLDs, (.com in particular), among Internet users. In Canada, gTLD registrations are more than double those of .CA domain registrations. The gap has been closing in the past few years, however, due to .CA’s rapid growth rate.

Worth over $4 billion globally, the domain name industry continues to grow Worth over $4 billion globally, the domain name industry continues to grow

People prefer country code top-level domains (cCTLDs). Registrations of cCTLDs outpace those of gTLDs and TLDs overall People prefer country code top-level domains (cCTLDs). Registrations of cCTLDs outpace those of gTLDs and TLDs overall

The top six gTLDs represent just over 54 per cent of all registered domains The top six gTLDs represent just over 54 per cent of all registered domains

There are 75.5 .CA domains for every 1,000 Canadian Internet users There are 75.5 .CA domains for every 1,000 Canadian Internet users

New gTLDs

1000+ new gTLDs


1000+ new gTLDs: London, Berlin, New York

Hundreds of new gTLDs were approved by ICANN and entered the market in 2014, representing one of the most significant changes in the domain industry since its inception in 1985. ICANN anticipates up to 1,000 new domains will become available within two years.

Initial results are somewhat mixed. New gTLDs have not achieved the market momentum many expected. The rate of adoption of new gTLDs has been much slower than planned. ICANN’s original forecast of 33 million registrations was adjusted downward to 15 million in October 2014. Despite nearly 500 new gTLDs available, actual registrations at the end of 2014 were closer to three million.

The marketing approaches of new gTLDs have made an impact on registration numbers. Among new gTLD offerings, .xyz leads with 22.5 per cent market share. The registrar for .xyz initially offered these domains for free, possibly creating an unsustainable bump in registrations.

Representing the real estate community, .realtor has generated significant interest, and has been packaged with other services offered by industry associations that represent the real estate community. Other domains are also creating unique business models for their operations, focusing on certain parts of the market or on value-added services. The company Donuts, for example, has created a “domain protected marks list”, allowing companies to block the purchase of their brands across all Donuts-owned TLDs.

Municipal domains experienced some success, with .berlin, .london and .nyc ranking among the top 10 new gTLDs. The .quebec domain launched in Canada also generated significant attention. By early 2015, more than 7,000 .quebec domains had been registered.

New gTLDs, top ranking by registration

TLD Domains % Share
1 .xyz 684,256 22.51%
2 .berlin 152,355 5.01%
3 .club 127,725 4.20%
4 .realtor 79,571 2.62%
5 .wang 79,387 2.61%
6 .guru 74,941 2.47%
7 .ovh 53,674 1.77%
8 .london 48,203 1.59%
9 .nyc 47,497 1.56%
10 .photography 47,296 1.56%

Source: ntlstats.com/tld

Canadians' interest in new gTLDs

In March 2014, we surveyed Internet users and current .CA domain holders to determine their interest in new gTLD offerings. Interest among current registrants has grown slightly over the past year, possibly due to high-profile media coverage and the launch of significant marketing campaigns for new gTLDs. Despite this, those reporting they are “very interested” sits at a modest 11 per cent, while nearly half of respondents reported no interest in gTLDs.

Source: CIRA Tracking Research, March 2014

80% of RARs intend or are considering adding new gTLDs

The market for new gTLDs has started to take shape in Canada. Interest in new gTLD offerings has grown among Canadian domain Registrars and now roughly two thirds of registrars report an intention to add new gTLDs to their offerings. Registrar opinions on gTLDs are firming, with 22 per cent of Canadian Registrars confirming that they do not plan to add new gTLD services (compared with only 5 per cent in 2013).

22% of Canadian RARs do not intend to launch a new gTLD offering 22% of Canadian RARs do not intend to launch a new gTLD offering

Global Internet access and use

The developing world is at the cusp of reaping the economic and social benefits of a truly global Internet. With unprecedented build-outs of Internet and mobile infrastructure taking place in Asia and Africa, the opportunity for growth and prosperity is real. Although the march towards a more connected population in the developing world is now at pace with the developed world, the majority of people in the developing world remain without Internet access.

The International Telecommunications Union (ITU) estimates more than 78 per cent of households in the developed world have Internet access, compared with approximately 31 per cent of households in the developing world.

Households with Internet access by level of development

Note: data for 2014 are estimates

Source: ITU, 2005-2014 ICT data

Individuals using the Internet by level of development, 2008 and 2014

Individuals using the Internet by level of development, 2008 and 2013

Source: International Telecommunication Union

Given current trends, the population of the Internet is set to double between 2013-2018, changing the dynamics of online content and data flows. With Internet penetration rates already high in the developed world, many of these users will come from the developing world.

Active mobile-broadband subscriptions per 100 inhabitants, 2007-2013

Source: ITU, 2005-2014 ICT data

The developing world continues on an upward trend toward mobile-broadband connectivity. It is likely many developing markets will leapfrog over fixed broadband technologies due to substandard infrastructure, instead opting for mobile technologies. In 2014, the ITU estimated there were more than 21 active mobile-broadband subscriptions per 100 inhabitants in the developing world, compared to approximately 16 the previous year.

Given current trends, the population of the Internet is set to double between 2013-2018 Given current trends, the population of the Internet is set to double between 2013-2018

Many developing markets will “leapfrog” over fixed broadband technologies due to substandard infrastructure, choosing mobile instead Many developing markets will “leapfrog” over fixed broadband technologies due to substandard infrastructure, choosing mobile instead