There were 326.4 million domain names registered across all top level domains (TLDs) around the world at the end of the first quarter 2016, an increase of approximately 12 million domain names, or 3.8 percent over the fourth quarter of 2015, according to the latest Domain Name Industry Brief published by Verisign. Registrations have grown by 32.4 million, or 11 percent, year over year.As of 31 March, new gTLD registrations totalled 16.1 million, which represented 4.9 percent of total domain name registrations. The top 10 new gTLDs represented over half (54.8%) of all new gTLD domain name registrations. The largest of the new gTLDs were .xyz and .top, which accounted for 16.5 and 11.1 percent of all new gTLD registrations respectively.Total country code TLD (ccTLD) registrations were 148.2 million domain names, a 2.6 percent increase quarter over quarter, and an 8.2 percent increase year over year. The top 10 ccTLDs as of 31 March were .tk (Tokelau), .cn (China), .de (Germany), .uk (United Kingdom), .ru (Russian Federation), .nl (Netherlands), .eu (European Union), .br (Brazil), .au (Australia) and .fr (France).The .com and .net TLDs experienced aggregate growth, reaching a combined total of approximately 142.5 million domain names in the domain name base in the first quarter of 2016. This represents a 7.1 percent increase year over year. The base of registered names in .com equalled 126.6 million names, while .net equalled 15.9 million names, the latter figure having being static for around three years.New .com and .net registrations totalled 10 million during the first quarter of 2016. In the first quarter of 2015, new .com and .net registrations totalled 8.7 million.There has also been a large jump in the growth of .com and .net domain names redirecting to popular global social media and e-commerce sites compared to Q1 2015. Weibo had the largest growth of 49 percent followed by LinkedIn (35%), Etsy (30%), Facebook (27%), Amazon.com (25%) and Twitter (23%). Verisign don’t give total numbers and for most at least it is likely to be growth from a comparatively small base.Combining gTLDs and ccTLDs, the largest by zone size were .com, .tk, .cn, .de, .net, .org, .uk, .ru, .nl and .info. There were 291 global ccTLD extensions delegated in the root, including Internationalised Domain Names (IDN), with the top 10 ccTLDs composing 67.4 percent of all ccTLD registrations.Regarding .tk, Verisign quotes from a Freenom news release that the Tokelauan ccTLD is a free ccTLD that provides free domain names to individuals and businesses. Revenue is generated by monetising expired domain names. Domain names no longer in use by the registrant or expired are taken back by the registry and the residual traffic is sold to advertising networks. As such, there are no deleted .tk domain names.It also means that while .tk is the largest ccTLD, it’s numbers are very misleading when it comes to actual usage and demand.
Following in the footsteps of .tk (Tokelau), .ml (Mali), .ga (Gabon) and .cf (Central African Republic), Freenom has taken on the role of registry for .gq (Equatorial Guinea) and the ccTLD is now its fifth ccTLD where domains are given away free.
The move to give away domains in ccTLDs from smaller countries has had some success, particularly with .tk, which is now the worldâs second largest TLD behind .com and largest ccTLD with over 26.5 million registrations.
But the move to give away domains is not without problems. In the latest Anti-Phishing Working Group report, Global Phishing Survey 1H2014: Trends and Domain Name Use, it was noted that phishing occurred in 227 TLDs, but 90 percent of the malicious domain registrations (20,565) were in just five TLDs: .com, .tk, .pw, .cf. and .net.
And on a score of the number of phishing domains per 10,000 registered domains, .cf comes out way on top with a score of 320.8 followed by .ml with 118.9. The .ga TLD comes in fourth with 42.9.
In this latest venture Freenom has partnered with GETESA, the largest telecommunication operator in Equatorial Guinea and a joint venture with Orange, to relaunch .gq in various stages. Before .gq domains are available for free to the general public on 1 December, trademark holders and trademark agencies have their first pick in the .gq Sunrise Period that started on 1 October.
From 1 December onwards free GQ domains will be offered to all internet users in Equatorial Guinea and internationally. There will be no restrictions to registrations of free domains and anyone can claim their own .gq domain. Free .gq domains will work exactly like any other extension and can be renewed an unlimited number of times at no charge.
“The need for free domains continues to grow exponentially,” says Joost Zuurbier, CEO at Freenom. “Especially in countries like Brazil, Russia, Vietnam and China, we see the demand for new domains is growing and growing. We are happy to announce that we have opened up more domain space to fulfil these needs.”
Freenom has already partnered with four nations and has become the largest country code domain registry operator worldwide with more than 28 million active domains under management.
Following the success of .TK, Freenom has opened its model to other nations eager to develop their top level domain and looking for an alternative to the unprofitable pay-per-year model. By leapfrogging the traditional approach and offering free domains, they are able to create an immediate impact on their digital landscape and empower their internet users to build an online identity at no cost.
“Free domains make a lot of sense in countries where the banking penetration is in the single digit range,” continues Joost Zuurbier. “The demand for free domains is enormous because people in those nations may not have a credit card to buy domains, but they do have a profound need to communicate and build their presence online. Free domains are an important catalyst that directly enable local content creation and internet entrepreneurship.”
To support its African partners, Freenom opened an office in Dakar in 2013 and will continue to grow its operations in Senegal. Most African countries have been traditionally very weak in the domain name space, but its increasing technology-savvy population and modernizing digital landscape make it the perfect place for the free domain model. Just as free SIM cards and prepaid phones have revolutionized communications, free domains can dramatically change how African internet users are represented online.
In Equatorial Guinea, GETESA sees free .GQ domains as an opportunity to empower young internet users and help them embrace their digital flag. Through GQ free domains they will be able to create websites and learn about technology.
Freenom’s experience and technology will directly benefit the local internet community of Equatorial Guinea, who will be able to enjoy a modern platform and unlimited domains at no cost. Together with GETESA and in line with ICANN’s bottom-up multi-stakeholder model, the partnership will ensure that the .GQ extension is accessible to all internet users.
Freenom, registry operator for .tk (Tokelau), .ga (Gabon), .cf (Central African Republic) and .ml (Mali), most of whose domains are provided for free with some having reputations of being some of the spammiest TLDs, has announced it has been successful in raising $3 million to expand its AnyCast cloud network and to develop commercial initiatives combining ccTLDs with local communities.
“Our current partners are very committed to the free domain name idea and industry,” said Joost Zuurbier, CEO & Founder of Freenom. “We are pleased to work with KIMA and the other members of this investment group to accelerate our growth and to expand our technology and presence online.”
Combined the ccTLDs have over 20 million registrations, with .tk leading the way to be the worldâs largest ccTLD. Free domain names are, according to Freenom, not required to run advertisements on their websites, and can be renewed at no cost.
China and Brazil are amongst the largest user groups of free domains. But also in the local partner countries, like Gabon and Mali, free domains have become very popular.
“The free domain name model radically changes the w ay a top level domain registry operates. We help partner countries to transform paid domain systems and processes into a new platform where domains are free and can be registered by everyone, locally and abroad.” Zuurbier continues. “We try to build truly win – win relationships with our partner countries. As a result we’ve seen a huge increase of local website building and technology usage locally, while providing the countries an additional income stream and promotional exposure. KIMA’s investment allows us to rapidly expand this platform, to reach out to additional countries and to invest in new partner relationships.”
Revenue is generated by monetising the expired domain names. Domains that are no longer used by the registrant or are expired are taken back by Freenom and the residual traffic is sold to advertisement networks. Next to this primary source of income, additional revenue will be generated by offering digital white labelled services, such as hosting packages, SSL certificates and others, to free domain name users. These new services will be available from January 2014 onwards.