People are staying at home more now in many countries including the Netherlands, and as a result Dutch people and businesses have registered just over 85,000 .nl domain names since the restrictions came into force. According to the .nl registry, SIDN, that’s ten thousand up on the same period in 2019.
The registry has found that a small proportion of these names – 2 or 3 per cent – are COVID-19-related but the vast majority have no connection to the crisis. The same period saw a small rise in the number of players, registrars and resellers, directly offering .nl registrations, from 1,186 to 1,206.
While registrations were up, cancellations also increased in March. However SIDN observes this should be interpreted cautiously. A cancellation spike is normal at the end of each quarter. Demand has continued to rise as April has gone on.
Demand is being driven mainly by business registrations, particularly start-ups. In a questionnaire-based survey conducted for SIDN by market research company GfK, all the start-ups who responded said that they had registered their domain names for use in online business activities. It’s the first time that no survey respondents have said they were planning offline business start-ups. That may well reflect the circumstances surrounding the current pandemic.
While the demand for domain names remains fairly steady, the demand for business mailboxes, websites and webshops is definitely up note SIDN. Website builder Wix.com recently reported significantly stronger demand as companies adjusted their priorities in favour of online activities. Dutch market players have experienced a similar shift: before March this year, 30% of all domain names were being used for mail or websites, but service providers are reporting active use levels of 40 to 50 per cent for new registrations. That seems to be mainly due to the creation of new webshops.
Many of the businesses now starting up online are targeting regional or local markets. That’s one of the reasons why the proportion preferring .nl to the more international .com rose from 69% to 76%. Firms with international ambitions still tend to opt for .com. Interest in other extensions (.eu, .net, .org) is down.
Another striking trend observed by SIDN is the increasing importance attached to cybersecurity. Nearly 30% of businesses rated the threat from cybercrime as significant. However, SIDN note it’s hard to assess the extent to which that reflects increased dependency on the internet since the imposition of social distancing measures. Survey respondents’ replies suggest that a high-profile ransomware incident involving the University of Maastricht has also played a role. Indeed, ransomware is now seen as the biggest single security threat to businesses.
SIDN believes the standout conclusion to date could be the Netherlands appears to be benefitting from the great strength of its internet infrastructure. The country’s high website and domain name densities, the comprehensive range of online services and the near-universal availability of broadband access are crucial enabling factors. The Netherlands has a landscape that offers opportunities, where local and regional market players are able to develop online activities for which there was previously little demand.