VeriSign released its quarterly Domain Name Industry Brief (DNIB) on April 9, once again showing a steady rise in the total number of top-level domains (TLDs) on the Internet. The fourth-quarter DNIB reported that there are now 271 million domains registered across all TLDs.
TLDs include the popular .com and .net domains, both of which are administered by VeriSign under a contract with the U.S. Department of Commerce that was most recently renewed in 2012.
According to VeriSign, the .com and .net registries now include a combined 127.2 million registered domain names, with 112 million in .com and 15.2 million in .net. Year-over-year growth for the combined .com and .net domain space was reported at 5 percent.
The other large component driving TLD registrations comes from country-code TLDs (ccTLDs). At the end of 2013, the total number of ccTLD registrations was reported by VeriSign to be 123.5 million, for a 12.1 percent year-over-year growth rate.
The most popular TLD as ranked by the total number of registered domains is .com. Following .com is the .tk domain, which is the country-code TLD (ccTLD) for Tokelau, a small territory in the South Pacific Ocean belonging to New Zealand. One of the reasons for the popularity of the .tk ccTLD is the fact that it offers free domain names to anyone who wants one.
The .tk ccTLD is managed by domain registry operator Freenom. The way that Freenom's .tk ccTLD actually generates revenue is by monetizing domains that expire.
"Domains that are no longer used by the registrant or are expired are taken back by Freenom and the residual traffic is sold to advertisement networks," Freenom stated in a recent press release. "Next to this primary source of income, additional revenue will be generated by offering digital white labeled services, such as hosting packages, SSL certificates and others, to free domain name users."
The domains .de (Germany), .net, .uk (United Kingdom), .org, .cn (China), .info, .ru (Russian Federation) and .nl (Netherlands) round out the top 10 in the TLD list.
In addition to managing the .com and .net TLDs, VeriSign also manages the root zone for the global Domain Name System (DNS) that powers the entire Internet. VeriSign manages root DNS under contract with the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) and the Commerce Department. IANA control is set to shift away from the Commerce Department by 2015. The transition, however, is not expected to impact VeriSign's administration of DNS.
During the fourth quarter of 2013, VeriSign reported that its root DNS infrastructure had a peak domain query load of 100 billion queries a day, which is a 19.2 percent decrease from the fourth quarter of 2012. The average daily DNS query volume during the fourth quarter of 2013 was reported at 82 billion queries a day, for a 6.4 percent year-over-year increase.
Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at eWEEK and InternetNews.com. Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist.