With more than 3.3 million .fr domain names registered at the end of 2018, i.e. a growth rate of 4.4% in 1 year, the French namespace has once again confirmed its popularity and is gaining market share in France. Afnic, the registry appointed by the French government to manage domain names under the .fr, reviews 2018 in figures and provides its outlooks for the future.
The .fr, a net growth rate over the average for European countries in 2018
The .fr had 3,305,296 names in stock as at December 31, 2018, compared with 3,166,105 on December 31, 2017. It grew by 4.4% in 2018, putting it at the top of the list of European Union domain names in terms of net performance with an additional 139,000 names.
Afnic estimates that 8.9 million domain names were registered in France by the end of 2018, all namespaces combined (.com, .fr, but also .paris or .sncf for example), i.e. growth of +2.1% in one year.
With a growth rate of 4.4%, the .fr TLD increased its market share by 0.8 points in 2018, reaching 37.2% – its highest level ever. “We can see the increasing popularity of the .fr in recent years, and one of our recent studies showed that VSE / SME management prefer the .fr (52%) to .com (40%),” says Pierre Bonis, CEO of Afnic.
This success of the .fr is in particular due to a low rate of delete operations, allowing the maintenance rate to reach 83.9%, against 83% in 2017. It reflects the constant improvement in registrant loyalty. According to Pierre Bonis, “The .fr gains and retains loyalty; its reliability and the support of our domain name holders have undoubtedly been a factor in these good results“.
A significant margin of progress in the years to come
Afnic expects growth of the .fr to remain sustained in 2019. At the current rate, the 3.5 million mark for the .fr could be passed in the second half of 2020 or at the very beginning of 2021.
“It is estimated that still a quarter of the VSEs / SMEs in France do not have a website; so there is a plenty of room for improvement for the .fr in the coming years,” says Pierre Bonis.
France is one of the most connected countries in the world: 84% of French people are onlineagainst 54% of the world’s population. However, there is still a great deal of progress to be made to help businesses and private individuals take advantage of the opportunities provided by the Internet. Afnic is a stakeholder in that long-term process, which is a major source of wealth for our country. The association, a partner of the French government’s Francenum initiative, helps VSE / SME management to improve their visibility online, including via its Réussir-en.fr platform and the Foliweb training workshops which attracted 14,000 participants in 2018.
 The study conducted by Afnic on the online presence of French VSEs / SMEs in December 2018 revealed that 94% of VSE / SME management consider their presence on the Internet essential or useful for their business, but 24% of them have no website.
Afnic is the acronym for Association Française pour le Nommage Internet en Coopération, the French Network Information Centre. The registry has been appointed by the French government to manage domain names under the .fr Top Level Domain. Afnic also manages the .re (Reunion Island), .pm (Saint-Pierre and Miquelon), .tf (French Southern and Antarctic Territories), .wf (Wallis and Futuna) and .yt (Mayotte) French Overseas TLDs.
In addition to managing French TLDs, Afnic’s role is part of a wider public interest mission, which is to contribute on a daily basis, thanks to the efforts of its teams and its members, to a secure and stable internet, open to innovation and in which the French internet community plays a leading role. As part of that mission, Afnic, a non-profit organization, has committed to devoting 11% of its Revenues from managing .fr Top Level Domain to actions of general interest, in particular by transferring €1.3 million each year to the Afnic Foundation for Digital Solidarity.
Afnic is also the back-end registry for the companies as well as local and regional authorities that have chosen to have their own TLD, such as .paris, .bzh, .alsace, .corsica, .mma, .ovh, .leclerc and .sncf.
Established in 1997 and based in Saint-Quentin-en-Yvelines, Afnic currently has nearly 90 employees.