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New Report of Afnic on the Global Domain Name Market: 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 .fr country-code TLD, shares its annual global domain name market analysis. In this new report, the association deciphers global trends and highlights the specific characteristics of the different segments and the 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 with 1.3% in 2020 and 4.7% in 2019. This performance is misleading, however, as it was due to a very small number of TLDs posting very significant changes.

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

  • 164 million .com and 32 million “other Legacy TLD”(.net, .org, .biz, etc.);
  • 125 million ccTLDs (so-called “country” TLDs, corresponding to a territory or country like the .fr domain);
  • 29 million “new TLDs” created from 2014 onwards (nTLDs encompass different segments including the geoTLD (.bzh, .paris, .alsace, .corsica, etc.), TLDs corresponding to brands (.sncf, .mma), community TLDs and generic TLDs).
Performance indicators for the major segments (2019–2021) / Source: Afnic, The global domain name market in 2021
m DNs: 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 gTLDs: measures all the domain names managed under a contract with ICANN. This includes the new TLDs, some of which are not, strictly speaking, “generic”.
*** ccTLDs or “country code Top-Level Domains”, i.e. domains corresponding to territories, such as .FR for France. The data presented do not include “Penny TLDs” i.e. ccTLDs retailed at very low prices, if not free of charge. These ccTLDs
are subject to very large upward and downward movements that do not reflect actual market developments and distort aggregate data.
**** Penny ccTLDs: estimated volume of names filed in these “low-cost” or free domains.

The .COM and other Legacy TLDs: persistently contrasting situations

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

Other Legacy TLDs continued on a downward trend (-0.7%) but seem to be stabilising, with relatively contrasting situations. .BIZ (+3%) and .ORG (+2%) experienced slight growth while .INFO (-8%) while .MOBI (-15%) declined.

Country-code TLDs: a sustained activity and leadership in their region

Overall, if we exclude two TLDs still experiencing a sharp decline (.CN and .TW), the general trend was relatively positive for ccTLDs, despite a gradual return to pre-health crisis momentum. Create operations in 2021 exceeded 2020 levels but remained below 2019 levels.

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

ccTLD performances 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 a 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

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

Among the nTLD segments, Generic nTLDs fell 12% in stock and 8% in create operations (end of the .ICU purge and other “Penny nTLDs) and Community TLDs 21% (-24% create operations). Geographic TLDs were up 12% in stock and 41% in create operations, .BRANDs 7% (-23% create operations) and “open” .BRANDs 5% (+67% create operations). The regular deletion process of .BRAND TLDs and/or their conversion to generic domains has continued: 4 in 2019, 6 in 2020, 2 in 2021.

“Penny nTLDs” represent 25 TLDs and 16 million domain names (compared with 21 TLDs and 15 million names in 2020), i.e., 2% of nTLDs and 55% of the overall nTLD stock. 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 of back-end registry operators acting on their own account or on behalf of third parties is dominated by a few players, the three biggest of which are Ethos Capital (Afilias+Donuts), CentralNic and GoDaddy with 35%, 17% and 8% of nTLDs managed respectively for name volumes representing 19%, 44% and 9% of all the names registered as nTLDs.

The concentration process continued in 2021, both horizontally and vertically. The major players are also looking to position themselves in markets related to domain names, while players that have developed outside of this market are successfully making their mark (Google and Wix are among the top 10 global registrars, for example).

For these reasons combined, and as already commented in previous years, the registry-registrar system will no doubt have to change in the future by increasingly favoring the emergence of specialized or proximity resellers who will market nTLDs to the relevant niche.

For more information, read our full study: The Global Domain Name Market in 2021 (84 pages)

By Loic Damilaville, Market Research Manager at Afnic

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