By Ryan Baker
28 July 2015
I think it’s fair to say that quite a few people – both within the domain name industry and beyond – have an opinion on whether the new TLD program is succeeding or struggling.
But are things really all that bad? Are we forecasting doom before it has really had a chance to run?
Crunching the numbers
Let’s consider the (relatively short) history to this point and take a look at some statistics. In 2012, 1,930 applications were received by ICANN for new TLDs – however accounting for multiple contending string applications, withdrawals and so on, the eventual number of new TLDs to enter the digital ecosystem is likely to be closer to 1,300.
Opponents of the new TLD program are quick to point out the “slow” registration numbers seen across the program; however I’m not so sure this is true when we take a more ‘birds-eye’ view of the wider industry in two important areas – comparative registration volumes and target market awareness.
It’s been just 18 months since the introduction of the very first new TLDs to the root zone, over which time we have seen more than 700 TLDs delegated.
In that short time, businesses and individuals in all shapes and sizes across the world have registered over 6.5 million domains.
To put it another way, new TLDs have total registrations equalling nearly 5.5 percent of the incumbent powerhouse TLD, .com in just 18 months.
This alone is an impressive effort, but it may be even more positive if we dig just a little deeper:
• The average new TLD has been delegated for just 11 months.
• 50% of new TLDs have been delegated for 6 months or less.
• 25% of new TLDs have been delegated for 3 months or less.
To summarise, of the 1,300 or so expected new TLDs, only 25% have reached a point where they can realistically sell domain names to their intended target markets (taking into account mandatory name collisions). Yet just this fraction of the expected total of new TLDs have reached 5.5% of the registrations that .com has been able to achieve in more than 30 years.
Furthermore, these figures have occurred without some of the TLDs that are likely to be the most popular (for example .music and .shop), which are still to launch due to the sheer number of people vying for ownership.
In addition to the industry-wide registration growth numbers, awareness in the target market continues to grow in a similarly impressive manner.
ARI Registry Services conducted a study in 2011 which highlighted that only 15% of respondents were aware of the increasing options for domain names. When that is compared to the recently conducted ICANN/Neilsen survey which showed 46% of people were aware of the same metric, it’s clear that awareness is growing significantly.
As momentum grows and more TLDs are delegated the awareness level should increase exponentially. This will also be helped in large part by .brand TLDs, many of whom are up and running, with the remainder expected to sign Registry Agreements by the ICANN imposed 29 July deadline.
Vital to end user awareness of new TLDs, we are seeing major global brands transition to usage scenarios with their .brand TLDs (Barclays Bank to www.home.barclays, BNP Paribas to www.mabanque.bnpparibas) and each high-profile launch helps people to become aware of the significant opportunity these TLDs present.
Practicality vs positivity: a balancing act
The highly-competitive, ever-changing environment of the technology sector and the domain name industry in particular mean that new products and developments such as new TLDs are under constant scrutiny.
This isn’t about putting our fingers in our ears and yelling to avoid hearing the criticism. No one is denying that new TLD operators face some challenges and that this is a marathon, not a sprint.
However it’s also important to recognise the achievements and successes that have been reached by the wider industry so far and the positive signs for continued growth that are already emerging.
The new TLD world is dynamic, diverse and full of innovators. Let’s not forget to acknowledge that – and maintain a justifiably optimistic outlook on the changes to come.