A ccTLD Paradigm Shift (Part I): Expansion and Registry Rebranding

The growth rate of country-code Top Level Domains (ccTLDs) indicates that they are here to stay.

In 2017, ccTLD expansion totaled 3.9 percent, with uses continuing to evolve since the launch of new gTLDs in 2013. You might wonder how this can be, since a ccTLD is a two-character TLD used by a country or independent territory; whereas new gTLDs are generally country-neutral and can be considered generic and descriptive of communities, brands, etc.

Following the ICANN 2012 application round of new generic TLDs, 1,230 TLDs were added to the internet and have had an equivocal impact on the domain name market. Around 54 percent of these TLDs are open to the public (i.e. TLDs that don’t have Code of Conduct or specification 13 amendments associated with Registry Agreements).

While the existence of new gTLDs have not had a great impact on .com TLD registration volumes, some ccTLD Registry Operators (ROs) have made adjustments such as: allowing second-level domain registrations that were not previously possible, easing registration requirements and updating marketing material to expand on the ccTLD’s meaning.

In October 2017, Google adjusted its ccTLD domains for search (google.de, for example) to show local relevant results regardless of the Google ccTLD page used for the search. The change doesn’t affect search engine optimization (SEO) but is meant to ensure that relevant search results are returned based on an end user’s location.

There is still time to adapt to the changing ccTLD landscape before more new TLDs are released by ICANN. The current estimate for the next new gTLD application opportunity is 2022 (up from the previous forecast of 2020). While another round of new gTLDs is not imminent, global corporations should continue to monitor the ccTLD landscape and adjust domain portfolio management strategies where necessary. MarkMonitor experts can help optimize your global domain portfolio by providing expert insights into ccTLD nuances like registration requirements, security risks and overall strategy.

Selected ccTLD Market Highlights

The Council of European National Top-Level Registries (CENTR), a European ccTLD association for registries, reports that the global domain market has an estimated 331 million domain names as of year-end 2017; around 44 percent of these were registered in ccTLDs. Verisign reports a similar global domain count of 332.4 million.

CENTR reports a growth rate of 1.2 percent year-over-year (excluding .Brand TLDs and TLDs with most registered TLD in most developed countries.

TLD Market Share

Some ccTLD registry operators are correlating decreased registration rates with the increased presence of new gTLDs. NASK, the registry operator of the .PL (Poland) ccTLD explained in its Q3 2017 report that new gTLDs have contributed to the slowdown in .PL’s registration growth. According to Wojciech Kamieniecki, NASK Director:

Temporary slowdown of the dynamics of the .pl domain market observed from the beginning of the year – decrease in the number of new registrations – should be perceived in the light of extending the selection of attractive names as well as a growing number of new generic domains and increase in competition in the global domain market.”

.PT ccTLD Domain Registrations

.PL notwithstanding other ccTLDs continue to experience uninterrupted growth. The 2017 global ccTLD growth rate was 3.9 percent and the 28 European Union ccTLDs experienced an average growth rate of 5 percent. The domain registration graph of .PT (Portugal) domains below shows continued growth from 2004 into 2018. The registry broke the one million registration mark on March 13 2018 and as of the time of this writing manages 1 9 480 domains. The registry continues to experience strong growth with 23 000 domain registrations in January 2018 surpassing those of January 2017 by 30 percent.

More ahead:

We’ll continue our discussion on the evolution of ccTLDs with another blog next week. In the meantime  contact MarkMonitor for expert advice on ccTLDs of interest and domain portfolio optimization.