Dec 6, 2017 - by Elisa Cooper
Given that it’s been a few years since my last domain name year in review, I’ve really enjoyed looking back at this year’s biggest domain name stories, and seeing how this industry has evolved. This year in particular has seen some notable changes which are likely to impact the domain name landscape for years to come. So without further ado, here is my list for 2017:
10. Mergers and acquisitions continue to shape the domain industry landscape
Earlier this year, Onex Corporation and Baring Private Equity Asia announced their acquisition of MarkMonitor, and Vespa Capital announced their investment in Com Laude and Valideus. In addition, Donuts announced their acquisition of Rightside Group. It appears that more than ever, investors see the value in the domain name industry’s recurring revenue models.
9. .Com domains still fetching low seven-figures on the secondary market
According to DNJournal, .com domain names such as fly.com, freedom.com and ETH.com are still commanding low seven-figures on the secondary market. While there may be some softening in the market, those who can afford to wait for the right buyer can still strike it rich.
8. Some .Brands begin actively marketing with their TLDs
While the floodgates haven’t exactly opened, there are now a number of well-known .Brands which are actively leveraging their TLDs including Fox, Barclays and AXA with thepredator.fox, home.barclays and fizzy.axa, respectively. Although most notable is Amazon with their highly visible campaign for buildon.aws.
7. New gTLD registrations stand at 23.5 million domain names
Down from a high of 29.4 million registrations in April of this year, new gTLD registrations total 23.5 million domains as of today. According tonTLDstats.com, there are 1223 new gTLDs of which the top 5 TLDs by registration are currently .xyz, .top, .loan, .club and .win. Approximately 61.4% of new gTLD registrations are parked.
6. .Com and .net new domain registration growth slows
The Q2 2017 Verisign Domain Name Industry Brief reported that, “.Com and .net TLDs had a combined total of approximately 144.3 million domain name registrations” representing a 0.8 percent increase year over year. The same report for the previous year stated, that “.com and .net TLDs experienced aggregate growth, reaching a combined total of approximately 143.2 million domain name registrations” representing a 7.3 percent increase year over year.
5. Greater representation of IP interests at ICANN
With the appointment of Sarah Deutsch to the ICANN Board and Heather Forrest to the Chair of the GNSO Council, representation of IP interests at ICANN has never been greater. Sarah is currently Senior Counsel at Winterfeldt IP Group, bringing more than 30 years of experience in intellectual property law. Heather Forrest is an Associate Professor in Law at the University of Tasmania.
4. Expired domain results in critical outage
Always shocking are stories of outages resulting from expired domain names. While not the only outage this year, Sorenson Communications in Utah failed to renew a critical domain which resulted in an outage to critical services such as 911 for those with hearing or speech disabilities. As a result of the outage, Sorenson was required to reimburse the FCC $2.7 million and pay fines of $252,000.
3. Federal officials raid the .Cat registry amidst political turmoil
In September of this year, the Spanish government ordered the .Cat Registry to remove all .cat domains being used to support the Catalan independence referendum. In a raid by federal officials, .Cat’s Director of Innovation and Information Systems, Pep Masoliver was arrested and subsequently released after more than 60 hours of detention, accused with charges of embezzlement, prevarication and disobedience.
2. ICANN delays KSK rollover
According to ICANN, “The changing or “rolling” of the KSK Key was originally scheduled to occur on 11 October, but (was) delayed because some recently obtained data (showed) that a significant number of resolvers used by Internet Service Providers (ISPs) and Network Operators (were) not yet ready for the Key Rollover.” Fortunately the issue was identified in time, as “an estimated one-in-four global Internet users, or 750 million people, could (have been) affected by the KSK rollover.”
1. WHOIS takes center stage, again
With GDPR, WHOIS has once again has taken center stage. The new privacy regulation will profoundly impact access to WHOIS. As it stands now, domain name registries and registrars are making preparations to comply with the new regulation, although no standards have been formalized. That said, ICANN has committed to providing feedback via their compliance team to help registries and registrars understand whether their respective approaches comply with ICANN requirements. ICANN has also stated that they will refrain from issuing breach notices related to WHOIS during this interim period.
So what will 2018 bring?
Certainly lots more discussion around the impact of GDPR, especially as it relates to the needs of brand owners and law enforcement to access the information to address issues of infringement and abuse. I believe that ICANN will also come under greater pressure to a least provide some general guidelines to registries and registrars. Whether they actually do remains to be seen.
I also suspect that we’ll continue to see continued M&A activity in the domain market.
And finally, I think we’ll see more .Brand registries starting to actively use their TLDs.
Of course, after 15 years, I should know better than to make ANY predictions. As we all know, this industry is really like no other, and I (like many others) will be watching and waiting to see what comes next.
Bringing with her 20 years of marketing experience, Elisa Cooper joined Brandsight in 2017 to lead the organization’s marketing strategy and execution. A domain name industry veteran, Elisa has worked closely with many Fortune 1000 companies in assisting with domain and brand protection policy development and has spoken and written extensively on these topics.