Almost 40% of .fr domain names are held by private individuals

April 2013

 

At the end of February 2013, 39% of .fr domain names were held by individuals. The figure has almost doubled in six years: they only represented 20.7% in January 2007. Until June 2006, individuals could only register an .fr domain name in the nom.fr sub-domain and not directly under the French TLD. The opening of the .fr namespace to individuals in June 2006 resulted in catching-up, at first rapid and then more gradual. The ratio of individuals now seems to be stabilizing a little below 40%: the peak of 39.7% was reached in the first quarter of 2012 and the figure has slightly decreased ever since.

 

With regard to the number of new creations of domain names with the .fr TLD, the percentage of individuals has varied very regularly over the last six years around 50%, which means one in every two domain names is created by an individual. The trend has been slightly declining, however, for several years: the annual average has steadily decreased from its peak of 53.7% in 2008 to 47.6% in 2012.

 


 

 

 

In addition, an analysis of the deletions of domain names indicates that the market for individuals is more volatile than for corporations. For instance, in 2012, individuals were responsible for 58% of the deletions of domain names from the base, when they hold only about 40%. It seems that individuals have a lower turnover in their portfolio of domain names at the end of the registration period, while firms are more likely to keep the domain names that serve as supports for their business and represent a strategic intangible asset in the same way as a trademark.


The observation in the growth rates of the portfolios of domain names also shows that the catching-up period on registration by individuals is coming to an end. For many years up until the middle of 2012, the growth rate in the stock of domain names owned by individuals was higher than that of the stock of corporations. The ratio reversed, however, in July 2012, the downturn in growth in the individual segment being faster than for the corporate segment, which has globally resisted the trend better. For example, in 2012, the portfolio of domain names held by individuals increased by 13% while those held by corporations rose 16% (i.e. total growth of 15% for the entire .fr namespace). Annual growth also remained virtually unchanged between 2010 and 2012 on the corporate market, while it declined by 9 points on the individual segment.


Possible explanations include the fact that the individual segment may have suffered more from the current economic conditions than the corporate market. Domain names registered by individuals are frequently used for professional activities of the micro-enterprise or self-contractor type, who may have been more adversely affected by the economic downturn. On the other hand, large firms may have registered new domain names more than individuals after the recent amendments to the .fr naming policy operated by Afnic (opening to Europe in December 2011, and to IDNs between May and July 2012).

 

The average number of domain names per holder for 2012 stood at 1.67 for individuals and 1.80 for corporations. These figures are relatively stable over time, especially for individuals (with growth of only 0.01 percentage points in four years). Corporations, in contrast, have seen a gradual increase in their average number of domain names, and at a slightly higher level (0.08 points over four years). It would seem that individuals tend to register a domain name with the .fr TLD and not create new ones thereafter, while companies may be led to enrich their portfolio of .fr domain names when launching new brands or products.

 

It is worth noting that the above estimates are based on the numbers of holders in the Afnic database, which creates a slight bias. This is because Afnic makes every effort to identify holders of domain names in its database unequivocally, by analyzing the information supplied when the names are registered. However, a given person may sometimes occur as several different holders in the database, if the person uses different providers and provides different information to each of them. This may also be the case for certain companies, if their domain names are registered by different subsidiaries or entities. The numbers of holders output by the Afnic database is therefore slightly over-estimated compared with the actual situation, which means that the above statistics on the number of domain names per holder are probably slightly lower than the real values.

 

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