You probably haven’t heard of the International Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (or ICANN), but this non-profit organisation plays a crucial role in regulating the internet. Specifically, ICANN is tasked with managing and releasing top level domains. Every website has a TLD suffix – we chose .net for our UK2 website. We also sell dozens of other TLDs including .me, .blog and .email.
Every year, ICANN unleashes a swathe of new TLDs onto the market. Each one is supervised by a dedicated domain registrar, which manages ownership databases for every domain ending in that TLD. Last year’s high-profile success stories included the debuts of .gmbh, .homes and .ltd. However, other domains failed to take off. Some became associated with spam, like .click and .xyz. Others suffered by comparison with rival TLDs: .accountants has less than two per cent of the market share enjoyed by the shorter and cheaper .accountant. And many – including .dds, .tube and .idn – were never likely to achieve mainstream popularity.
Domain registrars aren’t obliged to release revenue data or sales figures, so the success or failure of new TLDs is often unclear. Nevertheless, we can already draw some conclusions about how 2017’s new TLDs have fared…
2017 TLDs Success Stories
It might seem surprising that .africa wasn’t available as a TLD until July, but levels of internet access across this impoverished continent stand at half the global average. Despite an ongoing dispute with a Kenyan registry, .africa was chosen by over 8,000 companies within 60 days of going live. Its success is particularly interesting considering the failure of .asia domains, which made their debut in 2008 to general indifference.
The .eco domain went live in May, immediately proving popular with businesses on both sides of the Atlantic. Of the 2,000 .eco domains registered in the first hundred days of public sale, most were acquired by companies rather than charities or private individuals. Applicants weren’t even deterred by having to state how they perform in relation to fifteen Sustainable Development Goals set by the UN.
Slow TLD Burners
Domain registrars apply to launch top-level domains as a long-term venture, rather than a short-term exercise. It can take a decade for a new domain to enter the mainstream, and Noughties’ TLDs like .jobs and .tel are still struggling to achieve widespread recognition. It’s important to recognise some of this year’s debutants might eventually establish themselves during the 2020s, even though they haven’t set the heather alight thus far.
As chatbots become increasingly influential, Amazon’s decision to register .bot could pay handsome dividends. You’ll be able to buy .bot domains from November 14th, while .radio will go live the next day. Given the huge success of internet radio stations, demand for this domain could surprise people who assumed streaming signalled the end for radio as a concept.
Failed TLD Launches
It may seem harsh to mark new TLDs as failures, but it’s highly doubtful .hospital will ever become successful. That’s particularly true in the UK, where the dominant NHS is already synonymous with the .uk TLD. Similarly, .realty will never take off in a country that appoints estate agents and solicitors rather than realtors to sell homes. And although fun is a universal concept, .fun hasn’t caused any ripples since its launch in April.
Longer domain names are detrimental to both SEO and consumer recall, so .creditunion and .stockholm probably won’t feature prominently in future domain usage charts. And while KPMG proudly launched their own TLD in September, rival accountancy firms are unlikely to adopt .kpmg for their own sites…