2015 Trend lines for the Big Six

1.1% growth in 2015 in sight for the six largest Legacy gTLDs, against 2.5% in 2014. .com, .net and .org are resisting better than .biz, .info and .mobi.

With the publication of ICANN data at the end of May, it possible to trace the first 2015 trend lines for the "Big Six", i.e. the six main Legacy gTLDs: .com, .net, .org, .info, .biz and .mobi.


This study is based solely on ICANN data finalized at month-end May 2015. The trend line is calculated taking into account the historical weighting for the various periods of the year in the performance characteristics, which enables the integration of seasonal variations. Although the trend lines we present are estimates that are still liable to vary, the orders of magnitude are probably quite close to the actual final performance to the extent that we work on large gTLDs, whose volatility is moderate or low.

Table 1: Annual changes in stocks of domain name.

Real 2011-2014 figures, 2015 trend lines.


The trend lines calculated from the figures in ICANN reports indicate growth in 2015 of the "Big Six" was halved. But as in previous years, the average obtained conceals sharp contrasts. For example, the .COM maintained its growth at around 3% while the .MOBI continued its descent into hell with a second year at -28%. The .NET accentuated the decline that began in 2014, but the drop is still under control for the time being compared with the .BIZ, which fell from -9% in 2014 to -15% in 2015.



Fig. 1 – Growth rates for the “Big Six”

Real 2011-2014 figures, 2015 trend lines.


The graphical representation of these trends (Fig. 1) shows the low volatility of the three “legacy” gTLDs (.com, .net, .org) which are following fairly stable trends in comparison with the three most recent (.biz, .info, .mobi) which are undergoing high-amplitude variations. This difference in performance profiles can be explained in part by the size, but also by the more or less aggressive marketing strategies. A final factor, combined with promotional practices, could be that these TLDs are all the more vulnerable faced with the new TLDs in that they have failed to establish themselves in practice with the same success as their three predecessors.


Table 2: Annual changes in Create Rates

Real 2011-2014 figures, 2015 trend lines.

Create Rates are calculated by dividing the volume of domain names created in a year and the stock of domain names at the end of the same year. In periods of high growth, it is difficult for a registry to maintain a Create Rate at the same level, because the calculation base is continually growing. This explains why the Rates naturally follow a downward trend. Comparing them, however, gives an idea of the relative dynamics of the various TLDs in question. It can be seen (in Table 2) that the .com was slightly above average in 2014 and 2015, and now holding up fairly well in an increasingly competitive environment. The largest change affected the .info (-3 points) which probably suffering from a relative decline in demand – which still lies well above average. .mobi has recovered a little (2 points), the 2015 level remaining substantially lower than it was in 2011-2013.


The case of .MOBI is exemplary because it reveals the play of the two forces governing the performance of a TLD: the dynamics of demand on the one hand, as measured by the Create Rate, and the loyalty of holders on the other, measured by the Retention Rate (Table 3).


The Retention Rate is the ratio between the number of domain names kept in stock during a given year and the stock at the beginning of the same year.

Table 3: annual changes in Retention Rates

Real 2011-2014 figures, 2015 trend lines.


We see here that the .MOBI Retention Rate has collapsed over the last two years, from 70% in 2013 to 58% in 2015. This TLD is therefore faced with a certain phenomenon of non-renewal of the domain names in its stock which explains the decrease at least equal to the Create Rate. The .COM is undergoing a drop-off in its Retention Rate following the trend observed since 2011. The .BIZ apparently has problems (-3.6 points). The Retention Rate for the .INFO has stabilized at 60%.


This model of quantifying TLD performance can be used to compare them and provide the keys for identifying the causes of the phenomena that can be seen. For example, a TLD with a Create Rate dynamic that is too low would do well to launch promotional campaigns and develop a more active distribution network. Too low a Retention Rate or one significantly on the downward highlights a problem in holder loyalty, and requires action to retain and anchor the TLD in their uses.


To conclude, the observable current trends show that the most recent Legacy TLDs seem to suffer much more from the new TLDs than the .COM, .NET and .ORG. A similar "resistance" trend can be seen in ccTLDs from the European Union. Their growth, at the end of August, was of 2,5% over 12 months rolling (3.8% for .fr). 


If it therefore seems premature to proclaim their "end" today, the study of the change in trend lines helps us understand the dynamics at work in the domain name market and assess the impact of new TLDs, which should be increasingly felt over time.





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