Analysing the World Wide Web is always challenging, given its sheer size. There’s general agreement that over a billion websites are currently in existence, but beyond that, industry observers disagree on many trends and proportional market shares of these. This is particularly true when it comes to analysing top level domain statistics – the percentage of websites using suffixes like .org, .co.uk or .pizza.
Given the variety of different reporting methods and the propensity for extrapolating averages, it can be difficult to accurately gauge market trends. Nonetheless, it is possible to establish some facts about the greatest top level domains in 2016. Everyone seems to agree that the .com TLD continues to dominate the global market. Statista report 125 million .com sites currently in existence, while W3Techs claim 48.1 per cent of global websites have a .com address.
W3Techs did record a slight decline in .com’s popularity compared to early 2016, which is also true for the legacy TLDs. These were established before ICANN assumed responsibility for new domain releases in 1998; the .net, .info and .biz suffixes saw small declines in popularity during 2016. Conversely, the big winner among legacy TLDs was .org, which increased its market share from 4.4 per cent to 4.8 per cent. The Council of European National TLD Registries now lists .org as the second most popular TLD behind the all-conquering .com throughout Europe and North America. Yet globally, Statista and DomainState both report around 50 per cent more .net sites than .org, reflecting international variations in popularity.
Other top level domain trends in 2016 included the rising popularity of new gTLDs – the more unusual and niche suffixes that have been gradually dripfed into the market by ICANN. This represents an attempt to reduce the ongoing dependence on .com, with CENTR reporting a 33 per cent growth in new gTLDs across Europe. While most of these are generic, there has been strong demand for commerce and technology-specific TLDs, with other popular choices involving corporate brands and the food and drink sector. The biggest growth was recorded for .vip, while location-specific geo-TLDs like .london have also seen steady growth.
The introduction of these local geo-TLDs has rather eroded the supremacy of country code top level domain names, which still make up 45 per cent of the global market according to CENTR. China, Germany, Russia, Japan and the UK were the five most popular ccTLDs during 2016, though Brazil and India continue to grow in popularity. These developing nations are experiencing rapid growth in internet numbers on the back of fast-improving infrastructure, compared to more mature first world markets.
It’s important to note that although America has the .us TLD, it’s never achieved prominence. While ccTLDs perform well in domestic search engine results pages, they are downgraded in international or foreign ones, with .com one of few globally accepted domain suffixes. It will be interesting to see how the .eu domain fares this year given Europe’s current instability, and also whether regional TLDs like .cymru can begin to achieve widespread public recognition.
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