The .fr TLD grew twice as fast as the average growth rate for extensions in 2012

February 2013

A comparative study of the top 50 domain name extensions worldwide was carried out by Afnic in January 2013. The average growth rate for all the extensions was 7% in 2012, a decrease of 2 percentage points compared with the previous year due to the gloomy economic environment. The slowdown in national extensions (ccTLDs) was also sharper than generic extensions (gTLDs): whereas in 2011 ccTLDs saw an increase of 11% – significantly higher than gTLDs (8%), both types of extensions slowed down and posted the same growth rate of 7% for 2012.


The portfolio of names in the French extension .fr grew 15% in 2012, more than double the average growth of other extensions (excluding .cn). The extension which underwent the most spectacular increase in 2012 was the ccTLD for mainland China (.cn), with an annual growth of 113%. Its development has been sharply contrasted for several years: after reaching nearly 14 million domain names at year-end 2009, it plummeted to about 3 million names in 18 months! The collapse is due to a large-scale purge of the .cn zone carried out from late 2009 onwards at the request of the Chinese authorities (checking the contact details of holders as well as controlling the content of web sites), and to the drastic new registration conditions that were imposed thereafter (prohibiting individuals from registering a domain name with the .cn extension and a complex identification process of holders for the corporate sector). These conditions were relaxed somewhat in May 2012, among other things, allowing individuals once again to register domain names with the .cn extension regardless of their nationality, which helped revive the Chinese extension such that it reached 6.5 million names by year-end 2012. Since that growth is linked to decisions about Chinese national policy and not to the economic situation or the strategic actions of the registry, we have chosen to calculate the average growth rate excluding the .cn extension (as we have done for several years in this Industry Report).


The .ir extension for Iran also experienced strong growth in 2012 (40%), while remaining modest in size (representing around 300,000 names). This was also the case with other national extensions such as those of Iceland and Mexico. Portugal liberalized the registration conditions for the .pt extension between March and May 2012, allowing it to reach an annual growth rate of 28%. The Colombian extension .co is rather a special case: when it opened in mid-2010 it was a great success because of its similitude to the .com and support from major net players (including a promotional operation by the registrar Go Daddy, and aligned by Google with the .com in terms of SEO). Its portfolio reached 1.5 million names in just two and a half years, with an annual growth rate of 25% in 2012. Similarly, the performance of the Montenegro extension .me has been fine since it opened in 2008: its marketing strategy is based on the meaning of "me" in English, and is very well positioned on the English-speaking markets and particularly in the United States. Its growth rate was still very high in 2012 (17%), but has been declining for a number of years and should eventually converge with values ​​close to the world market average. Large-scale extensions with double-digit annual growth rates also include .ru (for Russia, with more than 4 million names), .au (Australia, 2.6 million), .br (Brazil, 3 million), .ca (Canada, 2 million), .es (Spain, 1.6 million) and .be (Belgium, 1.3 million). Conversely, certain ccTLDs declined in 2012, such as the extension Korean .kr (-9%), or the Russian extension in Cyrillic characters .рф despite the great success it met when it opened in late 2010 (-17%).


As far as generic extensions are concerned, .com fared best in 2012 with an annual growth rate of 8%, one percentage point more than in 2011. The other generic extensions slowed down over the year with growth rates of between 2% (.mobi) and 6% (.biz, .org), while .info even declined (-3%).



In terms of numbers of registered names, .com still retains the top spot with 106 million domain names at year-end 2012. It is followed by the extensions .net (15,500,000), .de (Germany, 15.3 million), .org (10,300,000), .uk (United Kingdom 10.3 million) .info (8.1 million) and .cn (China, 7.5 million). The .fr extension ranked 14 among the 50 extensions (generic and national) studied in this report, and tenth among national extensions. Compared with the 2011 rankings, the French extension is now slightly ahead of the Italian .it, the Polish .pl, and the .biz. Also worth mentioning is the highly specific case of .tk (Tokelau), which reached 10.5 million domain names due to an extremely attractive trade policy (domain names can be registered free of charge most of the time, regardless of the holder’s nationality). According to Verisign, at year-end 2012 the total number of domain names registered worldwide all extensions combined was almost 250 million.


The .fr TLD crossed the 2.5 million name milestone in December 2012. In raw data terms, the total number of new domain names stood at around 730,000 for the year, up 14% compared with 2011. In addition to the seasonal nature of domain name registrations (they regularly decline during the summer months), the curve for monthly creations of domain names shows a clear growth trend over time.


Highlights in the life of the extension that helped boost its growth over the past year include the opening to holders throughout the European Union in December 2011, and the inclusion of IDN characters between May and July 2012 (making 30 new characters available for registration).



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