Getting the right domain name for your business is essential. In order to find the best domain, it’s important to understand what is going on in the domain name world.
Industry data reveals there are 348.7 million domain names registered across all top-level domains or TLDs. This adds an extra 6.8 million on top of numbers reported in the third quarter of 2018, representing a 1.8% uptick.
Year over year, domain name registrations have grown by more than 16 million, or almost 5%.
What’s the impetus behind this impressive growth? As technology continues to proliferate into every corner of our lives, the domain space is rapidly shifting, expanding and becoming more complex.
Today, we’re taking a look at five domain trends to watch in 2019. Savvy and future-thinking domainers can take note of these patterns and use them to fuel smart investment decisions.
Ready to learn more? Let’s get started.
A Brief Look at the Numbers
Before we delve into the most recent domain name trends, let’s review how the industry as a whole is faring. We’ve already covered that TLD registrations are up from this time last year. What about total country-code TLD (ccTLD) registrations?
Data reveals these are rising, also.
In fact, at the end of the fourth quarter of 2018, the number of ccTLDs reached 154.3 million. Compared to the prior quarter, this shows an increase of 5 million ccTLD registrations alone for a growth of 3.4%. Over the course of 2018, total ccTLD numbers grew by 5.6% with an additional 8.2 million registrations.
The largest TLD registrations were in the .com space, accounting for 139 million of the 348.7 million domain name registrations in 2018. This was far and away from the leading domain, followed by .cn (China) at 22.7 million and .tk (Tokelau) at 21.5 million.
Now we know where domainers are focusing their efforts. Next, let’s take a closer look at some marketing insights to determine which trends will help steer the course of 2019.
1. Tightening GDPR Regulations
In May 2018, the European Union (EU) adopted the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). This rule replaces the outdated Data Protection Directive developed in 1999 when the internet was still in its infant stages.
The GDPR centers on giving individuals within the EU better control over how their personal data is used across the internet. It requires that any company marketing goods or services to EU citizens to get user consent to data sharing. This includes processing, analyzing and transferring their data across borders.
How does this affect the domain industry?
GDPR, ICANN, and WHOIS
Now, even parked domains must include GDPR notices at the bottom of their websites. These include data protection notifications and a cookie that domain owners must display on their parked pages.
Moreover, the GDPR also affects the direct availability of WHOIS data. Managed by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), the WHOIS domain database is a list of all registered domains.
In addition to legal purposes, it’s also used to show the availability of domain names. Users can leverage it to spot any trademark infringement issues and add a layer of accountability to domain name registrants.
It was expected that the GDPR would black out access to much of this data, causing an influx of spam and potential bad domains. However, industry research reveals there have been no such issues to date. Still, complying with this new privacy law continues to be a challenge for companies in this sphere.
This is especially the case as backhanded sellers seek to exploit the system in various ways. For instance, some are generating falsified statistics that tout domain name success. They’re doing so in an effort to boost lagging sales and encourage buyer interest.
Moving forward, stakeholders will need to find a way to adhere to such privacy laws while also seeking to verify domain ownership, keep user information protected, and secure domains via transfers.
On their end, domainers can request that all sellers with statistics to share verify them through the associated domain parking platforms themselves.
Prospective buyers can also research the domain name in question and utilize screen-sharing to get a more detailed view of the information. In all cases, they should avoid accepting screenshots as proof, as scammers can easily doctor these.
2. A Growing Chinese Market
The United States and China are currently in the middle of an ongoing trade war that shows no signs of stopping down. The U.S. launched an investigation into Chinese trading practices in 2017. Since then, the U.S. administration has imposed three rounds of tariffs on imported Chinese products, totaling more than $250 billion.
The tariffs were set to rise on March 1, 2019. Yet, recent talks and negotiations between the countries have delayed this step. As such, while the Chinese domain market dipped slightly in 2018, it appears to be on the upswing in 2019.
Let’s take a look at the numbers.
Growth in Foreign Domain Markets
Only a few years ago, Chinese premium domain names, known in the industry as CHiPS, were hot-ticket items, going for huge sums of money. Both numeric and three-to-four-letter domain names were popular buys.
From 2006 to 2007, the market skyrocketed, going from less than 5 million registered domain names to more than 10 million in one year. This growth was due in large part to low registration fees of around 30 cents or less.
From there, the market ebbed and flowed, reaching its heyday in 2016 when there were nearly 43 million domains registered in China. Now, though that number is down, experts look forward to a progressive year of sales in the country, driven by robust sales teams capable of catering to Chinese customers.
In other foreign market news, there also appears to be an emphasis in India toward moving from the .in space into .com, opening up more potential sales opportunities.
This is exciting, as India has the largest online population, totaling more than 460 million internet users, ranked second to only China. By 2021, this number is expected to skyrocket to 635.8 million.
Still, though the market potential is enormous, the current active use continues to lag, coming in at only around 26%. The transition from .in to .com may encourage more participation in the Indian domain space.
3. An Emerging Emphasis on Cryptocurrency
It’s come under scrutiny for myriad reasons including security and fraud. However, cryptocurrency continues to have a stronghold over tech-savvy investors still curious about its potential.
Thus, sales of crypto-centered domains continue to grow. Likewise, companies in the domain space are looking for ways to support this emerging sector. Some are holding crypto domain auctions while others are adding.ETH (Ethereum) as a new category within their search parameters.
The staying power of cryptocurrency has yet to be determined, and it will likely rise and dip in popularity and interest along with the world’s economies. Still, leaders in the domain realm should pay close attention to the news regarding these technologies. As they do, they should note how any changes might affect the domain markets.
Niche Industries and Innovative Technologies
Another tech-centric domain sphere that shows continued momentum is that of artificial intelligence, with .ai domains growing in number and online searches along with the .ai domain growing by more than 1,000%.
For those in the know, this growth brings to mind a similar trend that occurred when .io domains surged in popularity following the tech startup craze that began around 2015. Both are popular choices in this sphere due to the level of branding and recognition they offer.
Another controversial domain trend that has seen a similar rise in popularity along with cryptocurrency is the cannabis domain market. It comes as no surprise that domains such as canja.com are not only promoting products in this space but also a general lifestyle, as well. Continuing into 2019, expect to see even more competition in this space, especially as the country’s obsession with all things CBD continues to grow.
4. Focusing on Quality Domains
Especially within the new GDPR environment, companies are focusing even more on offering high-quality domains that will add meaning and value to a company’s comprehensive branding strategy.
Non-premium .com domains, generic top-level domains (gTLDs) and even some top-level domains (nTLDs) that sell for pennies on the dollar will still have their place. Companies tend to choose these as brand protection measures (Cars.Digital is a prime example) or to pursue non-conventional marketing routes.
However, there has recently been downward pressure on them, as users opt for more meaningful and brandable alternatives. Some of the most popular trends in this space include number domains, as well as 2-character, 3-character and 4-character domains.
One interesting shift to note? While .com domains reigned supreme in 2018 and will continue to perform in 2019, many of the top-tier premium domains are being sold by the registries themselves versus individual investors.
Still, though premium sales are up, it’s important for domainers to keep a close eye on global market conditions. There is a forecasted bear market on the way for stocks, with the cryptocurrency and blockchain markets following suit. Those concerns, coupled with the loose strings that still remain following Brexit and the U.S. and China trade war, might affect the buying power of domain professionals.
One trend that this complex global economy might create is a preference for more politically or socially-slanted domains that relate to worldwide current affairs. Especially as social justice issues continue to take center stage, these domains could become even hotter commodities.
Improving Visibility and Transparency
To maintain integrity amid this climate, it’s become increasingly important for domainers to be as thorough as possible with their pricing structure, enhancing clarity for both buyers and sellers. Just as the quality of domains and their associated “For Sale” landing pages has improved, so too should the quality of distributed information.
One way that leaders in this space are enhancing their transparency? They’re setting their domain charges as fixed-priced sales to add an element of reliability and trustworthiness to the exchange.
The bottom line? The global domain market might be growing, but there will always be a place for personalized service and assurance-building on an individual level.
5. Service Model Consolidations
While many corporations will continue to offer users the ability to buy, sell, and park domains, there is a growing emphasis on consolidating service models into one-stop shops for all domain-related needs.
My personal favorite is Bodis, a top-level domain parking platform with the highest payouts in the industry. The continuous developments with integrated flexibility, advanced reporting features, and account management services that our platform provides makes it first in its class
Improved flexibility can help to encourage the cross-selling of domains, along with related functions, including SSL, hosting and even emails. As a result, more service providers will merge with existing brands to grow their respective platforms.
This means that traditional domain companies that cater to the buying and selling business may also adopt dynamic reseller networks and other complementary services into their core offerings.
These networks are designed to help registrar partners grow their outreach efforts and improve the visibility of their domains. At the same time, buyers can leverage the networks to access a wider inventory range.
It’s no secret that the domain world is always changing. Depending on the global economy, current affairs, business news and more, the way that domainers buy, sell and trade domain names across the internet continues to shift with the times.
It can be difficult to stay up-to-date on the latest online marketing trends. If you’re looking for a blog that will keep you connected, even as the industry regulations, expectations, and movements change, that’s where we come in.
President, Direction Inc.