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2021 Domain Name Year In Review

Is it really 2022? Is it? Although many might view 2021 as another “lost” year due to the pandemic, filled with Zoom™ meetings, virtual conferences, working from home and restricted travel—there were a number of notable domain name stories which deserve to be highlighted.

So, without further ado, here are the top 10 biggest domain name stories of 2021—let’s go!

10. GCD Index Reveals Areas Where Global 2000 Are Missing the Mark

A review of the corporate websites of the Global 2000 revealed that only 17% had implemented Registry Locking, and only 3.5% had implemented DNSSEC. Moreover, analysis uncovered that just over 60% of root domains are properly secured with an SSL, and 84% of corporate websites leveraging www as a host are properly secured with an SSL.

9. Domain Name Market Reaches 364.6 Million Domain Names

According to Verisign’s Domain Name Industry Brief, “The third quarter of 2021 closed with 364.6 million domain name registrations across all top-level domains, a decrease of 2.7 million domain name registrations, or 0.7%, compared to the second quarter of 2021. Domain name registrations have decreased by 6.1 million, or 1.6%, year over year.” Interestingly, according to Verisign, New gTLDs, “decreased by 6.7 million domain name registrations, or 22.2%, year-over-year.”

8. Next Round of New gTLDs Pushed Back as Operational Design Phase Is Implemented

In February of 2021, the ICANN GNSO Council approved the New gTLD Subsequent Procedures Final Report. Then in September of 2021, the ICANN Board initiated a 10-month Operational Design Phase which began in December 2021 after three months of preparation. It is now estimated that the ICANN Board may be able to approve the next round in 2023, with implementation to begin sometime after that.

7. ICANN Issues Blockchain Domains Warning

As interest in blockchain domains has continued to grow, ICANN’s principle technologist Alain Durand posted an article on the ICANN website entitled, “Buyer Beware: Not All Names Are Created Equal.” In it, he warns of “a few ICANN-accredited registrars that are offering non-DNS domain names for purchase.” He goes on to state, “unless Internet users install specific software on their digital devices, they will not be able to use them (non-DNS domains). If they click on such a link, it will fail with an error message that the domain cannot be found.”

6. Survey of Domain Name Professionals Shows the Impact of COVID Minimal

The GCD Fifth Annual Corporate Domain Name Management Survey was sent to over 500 corporate domain name professionals across verticals, including retail, manufacturing, financial services, travel and media. Nearly 75% of respondents stated that the pandemic has had no impact on the day-to-day management of domains, and 80% reported that working from home has not presented a challenge. The survey also revealed that in some areas compared to last year, domain professionals were experiencing fewer challenges. For example, 66% percent stated that paring portfolios was a challenge, down from 75% in the 2020 survey. Twenty-five percent stated that managing their portfolio had become more difficult, compared to 51% in the 2020 survey.

5. Interest in Domain Blocking Renewed

With the expiration of .XXX blocks occurring at the end of 2021, many brand owners opted to take advantage of AdultBlock and AdultBlock+, which provide protection for .XXX, .SEX, .ADULT and .PORN. This also spurred a review of other available blocking opportunities, including those offered by Donuts, which provides protection for 240 TLDs.

4. We Knew It Was Coming – Verisign Officially Announces Price Hike

Although expected, on Feb 11, 2021, Verisign officially announced “that it will increase the annual registry-level wholesale fee for each new and renewal .COM domain name registration from $7.85 to $8.39, effective Sept. 1, 2021.” Under ICANN’s agreement with Verisign, .COM pricing may be increased by 7% this year and each of the next three years, which equates to $10.26 by 2025.

3. New gTLDs Launching (10 Years Later)

New gTLDs are launching. New gTLDs are launching. No, not the new, New gTLDs, but the ones from the 2012 round. In this last year, we saw the launch of .DAY, .ZUERICH, and the relaunch of .TRUST. Who could have ever imagined that 10 years later, we’d still be seeing the launch of new gTLDs? And we’re not done yet.

2. TLDs Move from One Registry to Another in Game of Musical Chairs

On the heels of Donut’s acquisition of Afilias in late 2020, a number of TLDs changed hands in 2021. Notably, in July, 19 TLDs previously run by MMX moved to GoDaddy Registry—as well as .CLUB. in December, it was announced that .TV would also move from Verisign to GoDaddy Registry. In addition, Uniregistry’s 23 TLDs were also auctioned off, although not yet officially approved by ICANN.

1. ICANN’s ePDP Concludes with an Uncertain Future Amid $107 Million Price Tag

After three years of “expedited” policy development work, the final outcome remains unclear. Policy from Phase 1 of the team’s work remains stuck in implementation. And development of a system providing access to non-public registration data has not been approved. ICANN is estimating it could take four years to build and could cost as much as $107 million annually. To add insult to injury, users of the proposed system have been vocal about their opposition to the outcome of the policy development process.


So, what can we expect from 2022? I know many are hoping for a return to in-person meetings and conferences, and with that, an uptick in ICANN’s ability to work more effectively through the ever-mounting pile of issues that seem to be stalled. I also suspect in 2022, we’ll see a growing demand for the launch of new gTLDs and continued interest in blockchain domains. That said, one thing is certain—we should expect change in the year to come. The domain name industry always does.

By Elisa Cooper, Head of Marketing, GoDaddy Corporate Domains

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