Strong contrasts and disparate regional dynamics

Download the full study: The global domain name market in 2021 (84 pages)

Afnic, the association responsible for several Internet top-level domains, including the national TLD .fr, shares its annual analysis of the global domain name market. In this new report, the association deciphers global trends and highlights the specificities of the different segments and regional particularities.

Key figures

With approximately 352 million domain names at the end of December 2021, the domain name market grew by 0.9%, compared to 1.3% in 2020 and 4.7% in 2019. This performance is however misleading because it is due to a very small number of TLDs showing very significant changes.

Although the growth trend shows a constant slowdown (+4.7% in 2019, +1.3% in 2020, +0.9% in 2021), the analysis of monthly variations reveals that in reality, 2021 has was the “low” year and that the market was again on an upward trend at the end of the year.

Breakdown:
  • 164 million .com and 32 million “other Legacy TLDs” (.net, .org, .biz, etc.);
  • 125 million ccTLDs (so-called “country” TLDs, corresponding to a territory or a country such as the .fr domain);
  • 29 million “new TLDs” created from 2014 (nTLDs include different segments including geoTLDs (.bzh, .paris, .alsace, .corsica…), TLDs corresponding to brands (.sncf, .mma), community TLDs and generic TLDs).
Performance indicators for major segments (2019-2021) / Source: Afnic, The global domain name market in 2021
m DN: year-end data expressed in millions of domain names.
* Other Legacy TLDs: Generic TLDs created before 2012, such as .AERO, .ASIA, .BIZ, .NET, .ORG, .INFO, .MOBI, etc.
** Total gTLD: measures all domain names managed under contract with ICANN. This includes new TLDs, some of which are not strictly speaking “generic”.
*** ccTLD or “country code Top-Level Domains”, that is to say domains corresponding to territories, such as .FR for France. The data presented does not include “Penny TLDs”, ie ccTLDs marketed at very low prices, or even free. These ccTLDs
are subject to very large upward and downward movements which do not reflect real market developments and distort aggregate data.
**** Penny ccTLDs: estimated volume of names registered in these “low-cost” or free domains.

.COM and other Legacy TLDs: still contrasting situations

The .COM domain benefited more from the situation in 2021 than in 2020, but its net balance fell by 40% in the second half of the year compared to the first half. It is thus on a trend similar to that of the ccTLDs, perhaps reinforced by the price increase on September 1, 2021.

The other Legacy TLDs continue their downward trend (-0.7%) but seem to be stabilizing, with relatively contrasting situations. .BIZ (+3%) and .ORG (+2%) saw slight growth while .INFO (-8%) while .MOBI (-15%) declined.

Country code TLDs: sustained activity and leadership in their region

Overall, if we exclude two TLDs which are still experiencing a sharp decline (.CN and .TW), the general trend is relatively positive for ccTLDs, despite a gradual return to the dynamics of before the health crisis. Creation operations in 2021 exceeded 2020 levels but remained below 2019 levels.

Regional ccTLD dynamics continue to be clearly defined. Latin America and the Caribbean recorded the highest growth rate (+18%) and thus continued to “catch up” with Africa (+15%). North America posted growth of 6% and Europe of 3%. Finally, Asia-Pacific, constrained by the .CN and .TW domains, lost stocks by 14%. In two years (2020 – 2021), Asia-Pacific has lost 8 points of market share in the ccTLD segment to the benefit of Europe (+4.5%), Latin America and the Caribbean ( +2.5), North America (+0.5) and Africa (+0.5).

ccTLD Performance by ICANN Region (2020-2021)
Source: Afnic, The global domain name market in 2021

ccTLDs continue to thrive best in Europe: out of 31 ccTLDs with over one million names, 18 are in Europe, 7 in Asia-Pacific, 3 in Latin America and the Caribbean, 2 in North America and 1 in Africa.

New TLDs: Considerable market variations caused by a small number of TLDs

The nTLDs taken as a whole lost 9% of their stock against a drop of 1% in 2020 and a growth of 19% in 2019. Their market share fell to 8% and remains marginal compared to .COM domains (47 %, up 3pp) and ccTLDs (36%, down 1pp). The Other Legacy segment stands at 9% (-1 pp).

Among nTLD segments, generic nTLDs fell by 12% in inventory and 8% in creation operations (end of the .ICU purge and other “Penny” nTLDs) and community TLDs by 21% (-24% creation operations). Geographic TLDs are up 12% in stock and 41% in creation operations, .BRANDs by 7% (-23% in creation operations) and “open” .BRANDs by 5% (+67% creation operations). The regular process of removing .BRAND TLDs and/or converting them to generic domains continued: 4 in 2019, 6 in 2020, 2 in 2021.

Penny nTLDs represent 25 TLDs and 16 million domain names (compared to 21 TLDs and 15 million names in 2020), i.e. 2% of nTLDs and 55% of the overall stock of nTLDs. However, the composition of this very specific category is far from constant, with only three domains considered “Penny TLDs” since 2019 (.ONLINE, .PRESS and .STORE).

Concentration of market players

The market for back-end registry operators acting on their own account or on behalf of third parties is dominated by a few players, the three largest of which are Ethos Capital (Afilias+Donuts), CentralNic and GoDaddy with 35%, 17% and 8 % of nTLDs managed respectively for volumes of names representing 19%, 44% and 9% of all names registered in nTLDs.

The concentration process continued in 2021, both horizontally and vertically. The major players are also seeking to position themselves in the markets linked to domain names, while players who have developed outside this market are succeeding in establishing themselves (Google and Wix, for example, are among the top 10 global registrars).

For these combined reasons, and as already commented on in previous years, the registry-registrar system will undoubtedly have to evolve in the future by increasingly favoring the emergence of specialized or local resellers who will market nTLDs on the niche concerned.

For more information, read our full study: The global domain name market in 2021 (84 pages)

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