gTLDs in France: dynamics demonstrating a potential for new TLDs

December 2013

Does the French market still represent a potential for gTLDs on the eve of the launch of hundreds of new TLDs? This potential can be shown by an assessment of the comparative dynamics of the main gTLDs in the French market and worldwide.

Our study only covers the largest gTLDs, i.e. .com, .net, .org, .info, .biz and .mobi with a global portfolio of over one million domain names. The national .fr ccTLD was deliberately excluded from this study, as it has seen its market share grow continuously in the French market over the period in question, although its "catchment area" is not global but limited to the European Union.

Contrasting dynamics

The dynamics of the six gTLDs surveyed can be classified into three groups: those for which the French market outperforms the world market, those in recovery following a period of underperformance in 2011 and 2012, and finally those that are clearly underperforming.

 

 

Figure 1 shows the evolution of the .mobi and .info TLDs in France and worldwide. For the .mobi TLD, the French market dynamics remain higher than those of the world market over the whole period. For the .info TLD, the sharp decline observed in the global variation seems highly attenuated in the French market. This trend is probably related to the fact that the .info TLD has previously been very aggressively marketed in some markets outside of France, and its renewal rate in those markets is now much lower than in France, where promotional efforts have been less "brutal", as the 2010-2011 period would suggest.

 

 

 

Figure 2 shows the performance of the .org and .biz TLDs, which follow quite similar patterns: after an outperformance in 2010, both gTLDs experienced a rather gloomy period in 2011 and 2012 in France compared with the rest of the world, before returning to higher relative dynamics in 2013.

 

 

 

Figure 3 illustrates the variations of the .com and .net TLDs, which have been experiencing a decline of the relative strength of the French market over the 2010-2013 period, with a switch from very strong dynamics (particularly due to the promotional campaigns for the 25th anniversary of the .com TLD) to performance results that are having difficulty catching up with the respective worldwide levels achieved for both gTLDs.

 

The year 2012 appears to have been quite critical for gTLDs in the French market, with a general decline in relative performance (with the exception of the .mobi TLD). This decline began in 2011 for the .org and .biz TLDs, which started to recover in 2013. One can surmise that these two gTLDs are particularly sensitive to the substitution effects which may occur when one of their "competitors" benefits from promotional efforts, as was the case, to some extent, for the .com (and the associated .net), .mobi and .info TLDs.

 

Conversely, the recovery of the .org and .biz TLDs in 2013 in an overall bleak environment perhaps reflects less aggressive promotional campaigns for other gTLDs.

 

The .mobi TLD is a special case that is particularly noteworthy: it has quite a regular performance and the French market is continuously more dynamic than the worldwide market. This may reflect the strong growth in mobile use patterns in France, which stimulates registrations and rather protects the .mobi TLD from the ups and downs experienced by other gTLDs less specifically targeting niche markets.

The three scenarios identified could therefore correspond to three gTLD profiles:

  • gTLDs aimed at specific targets or subject to specific positioning in terms of prices: .mobi, .info (2010-2011). These TLDs tend to outperform in France compared with the global market;
  • So-called "second-tier" gTLDs (.biz, .org) which are very sensitive to substitution effects, at least in the French market;
  • gTLDs which previously enjoyed the status of benchmarks, a position that appears to be increasingly challenged (.com, .net)

What does this tell us? That the French market has a strong potential for some gTLDs

One of the first lessons that can be learnt is that, with the exception of the .mobi TLD, dynamics that are higher than global performance are generally cyclical or temporary and linked with specific events or campaigns. These dynamics are difficult to sustain over time.

However, gTLDs generally have higher dynamics in France than globally: they were more than two times greater in 2010-2011, and 1.48 times greater in 2013 (in projection). This demonstrates the existence of a genuine and serious demand for domain names.

It should also be noted that the .com TLD is far from outdoing the other gTLDs and is not preventing them from reaching users often more effectively than in the rest of the world.

However, there are substitution effects, as users rarely register names in a large number of TLDs (with the exception of right holders and large corporations with specific names to protect).

The scenarios that are beginning to emerge concerning the various gTLDs in France should therefore be interesting to follow: on the one hand, sustained dynamics supported by efficient marketing strategies and promotional operations, but difficult to maintain in the long term; on the other hand, slowdowns either followed by recovery periods or prolonged over time for those gTLDs at risk of decline.

What will be the impact of gTLDs in this already complex pattern? The presence of high-potential projects in France itself (e.g. the .paris and .bzh gTLDs, which will be among the first to be launched) will necessarily affect the existing players by increasing competition, thus making it harder for registries operating globally to acquire and sustain dynamics that are significantly higher than their global average, and making slowdowns even more pronounced.

The market is there, and so is demand, but the "cost of acquiring and sustaining registrants", to put it in marketing terms, is very likely to increase, resulting in a polarization between "active" gTLDs that invest in high potential countries, and gTLDs that are losing momentum and have chosen to focus their efforts in other areas or not to carry out any specific actions. The segment of "second-tier" gTLDs is probably the most threatened by this development, which should increasingly favour meaningful gTLDs by targeting niche markets at the expense of gTLDs sometimes considered to be "just the same as .com's".

 

 

 

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