It’s hard to believe that another year has come and gone and that I’m now publishing my 5th Annual Domain Name Year in Review. It’s sort of fun to look back 5 years ago to see how much things have changed, especially as focus has shifted to issues related to the launch and use of new gTLDs. Of course, much has stayed the same too. Concerns related to domain name security and domain portfolio management are still important.
With so much going on in this past year though, it was difficult to keep the list to just 10 items. But here are what I considered to be the top stories of 2014.
10 – Overall Domain Market Growth Slows
Regardless of the nearly 4 million new gTLDs now registered, according to Verisign’s latest report, overall domain market growth has actually slowed to 7.2% down from 8.5% for the same period in the previous year. The growth in domains may actually be further conflated due to the popularity of free registrations available from registries such as .TK which is now the second most popular TLD after .COM.
9 – New gTLD Rights Protection Mechanisms (RPMs)Take Effect
The URS (Uniform Rapid Suspension), the PDDRP (Post-Delegation Dispute Resolution Procedure), the RRDRP (Registry Restriction Dispute Resolution Procedure) and the PICDRP (Public Interest Commitment Dispute Resolution Procedure) took effect as more than 300 new gTLD registries began operation in 2014. While only the URS was utilized last year, many are sitting on the sidelines to see if and how the other procedures actually work.
8 – U.S. Relinquishes Contract for IANA Functions
Undoubtedly, one of the biggest stories in 2014 was the announcement by the U.S. Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) to transition key Internet domain name functions to a global multi-stakeholder community. NTIA has communicated that the transition proposal must have broad community support and address the following four principles:
- Support and enhance the multi-stakeholder model
- Maintain the security, stability, and resiliency of the Internet DNS
- Meet the needs and expectations of the global customers and partners of the IANA services
- Maintain the openness of the Internet
7 – Registry Security Improves
While 2013 was a tough year for domain security with close to two dozen registry breaches, 2014 saw significant improvement with just 6 registry breaches. Not perfect, but certainly a whole lot better.
6 – New gTLD Squatting Problematic for Some
With close to 4 million New gTLDs now registered, as expected, well-known brands are being registered in top TLDs by private individuals. In fact, one study showed cybersquatting rates of up to 50% for high-profile brands.
5 – Portfolio Management Strategies Shift
For years, I’ve been talking about the need to rationalize bloated corporate portfolios. And while corporations have long recognized this as well, it seems that in this last year companies are now actively reviewing and divesting domains that are no longer needed, in an effort to reduce cost and complexity.
4 – Secondary Domain Market Still Strong
As in past years, high-end sales of generic terms in legacy gTLDs have remained strong with many commanding 7-figures. While there had been concerns of how the new gTLD market might affect domain values, so far there does not seem to be much impact.
3 – First .Brand Registry Launches
Although the bulk of new gTLD registries in 2014 were either open or restricted TLDs, there were a handful of dotBrand registries which launched in 2014, including the .AXA registry.
2 – ICANN Model Called Into Question
In 2014, ICANN was forced to deal with accusations of top-down decision making. Coupling that with an increasingly complicated Internet Governance landscape, a call for enhancing accountability, and pressure from world governments, last year was a challenging one for ICANN, to say the least.
1 – Companies Face Difficult New gTLD Decisions
To submit to the TMCH or not? To register, or not? To block, or not? To police, or not? To take action, or not? Over and over again, corporate domain administrators were faced with difficult questions, where there were no easy answers. Approaches taken by corporations ran the gamut. Some companies blocked all of their marks, and then registered where blocking was not an option while others registered very little, and focused strictly on policing their core brands.
So what will the next year bring?
Clearly, ICANN will continue to focus energy and resources supporting the work to transition the IANA functions to a global multi-stakeholder community, and to identify and implement new accountability mechanisms.
Next year we could begin to see dotBrand registries actively making use of their new TLDs. This could have a major impact on the domain ecosystem as we currently know it. But of course, time will tell.
As for everything else – I think domain security will still be a concern, and that companies will continue to more actively manage their domain portfolios.
And as I said last year, with 13 years in this space, I know now that with the domain industry — you should always expect the unexpected.