New Domain Registrations Up 20% In COVID-19 Lockdowns: CENTR

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The COVID-19 pandemic has led to increased new domain registrations as well as median growth rates, the latter something which has been seldom seen over the last decade, a CENTR report out this week has found. As businesses of all sizes get online for the first time, develop new ideas and even cybercriminals, new domain names have been registered, particularly in ccTLDs.

Looking at a sample of 25 member country code top-level domains (ccTLDs), CENTR found new domains registered in April 2020 up 20% on the same time a year earlier. The increase has even pushed up median domain growth rates of the CENTR30 (30 largest CENTR member ccTLDs) – something seldom seen over the past decade.

The research backs up my own look at a few ccTLDs (here) that found there has been a surge in registrations, including some by cybercriminals. In the CENTR research, they looked at newly registered domains in 12 ccTLDs between January and March 2020. “The ccTLDs reported a total of combined 6,154 domains which contained the term covid, corona and/or virus. To put this figure into perspective, the same set of ccTLDs recorded a total over 751K newly registered domains in the same 3-month period.” Newly registered covid-related domains therefore represented just 0.8% of all new registrations.

CENTR, the Council of European National Top-Level Domain Registries, then used a web crawler to scan the impacted domains and found around a quarter (26%) had some sort of active website. “The study shows a couple of things – firstly that the appetite for covid-themed domains appears small in ccTLDs and secondly that it does not likely explain the overall boost in new domains.”

CENTR says “a more plausible theory to the boost in new domains links to the changing business and employment landscape. As lockdown has considerably reduced in-person customers to high street shops and cast millions of workers into precarious employment status, businesses and individuals have had to adapt. In order to cushion the impacts from falling revenues, traditional high street “bricks and mortar” businesses have had to explore new and alternative ways of doing business. If a business did not have an online presence before, the pandemic has given a compelling reason to do so now. From fitness studios conducting classes online, theatres live-streaming shows and countless others rapidly upgrading their sites to include payment gateways for orders, an online presence is more important than ever.”

CENTR gives the example of “‘The filling station Eco store’ – a small locally operated business in Galway, Ireland. The business offers ‘minimal waste dried groceries and eco-friendly household alternatives’ and has been in operation since mid-2019. Although the owner did not previously consider a website to be a priority, it has now become a necessity for survival. A domain has since been registered in March, a website built, and the business is now taking online orders.”

As for the future, CeNTR surmises “that the new business environment may become the new normal” with “a deglobalisation of society.”

“Deglobalisation will move society and business to become more oriented to local community and limitations on physical distance will push them online more than ever. While domain names are just a small part of the online ecosystem, their role may become increasingly important. To illustrate the potential, consider that in many countries SMEs account for well over 95% of the overall business population. Furthermore, the increase in local flavour may be an opportunity for ccTLD registries to reinforce their role as a locally focused and operated domain.”

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