The Internet expanded by 2.3 percent in the third quarter over the second quarter, VeriSign reported in its latest report on domain registrations. There were 4.9 million more domains at the end of September than there had been in June, the report found.
Almost 220 million domain names were registered across all top-level domains at the end of the third quarter, VeriSign found in its quarterly Domain Name Industry Brief released Dec. 22. Registrations have grown by more than 18 million, or 8.9 percent, since the third quarter of 2010, and by 4.9 million, or 2.3 percent, since the second quarter, VeriSign found. The increase was driven primarily by growth in country-code top-level domains (ccTLDs), the company said.
The ccTLD market grew 2.7 percent over the prior quarter and 9.8 percent from last year, according to VeriSign. There were 86.9 million ccTLDs by the end of September. The top 10 top-level domains, in order of size, were .com, .de, .net, .uk, .org, .info, .tk, .nl, .ru and .eu. While there are more than 240 ccTLDs available worldwide, the top 10 codes accounted for 60 percent of all registrations, VeriSign found.
The Tokelau domain, .tk, appeared in the top 10 in the third quarter largely because those domains are available for free and are popular with spammers and other cyber-criminals, according to the report. China's .cn TLD has been in decline for some time and finally dropped off the top 10 list, driven by the strict rules the Chinese government implemented two years ago on who can register domain names.
Top-level domains for Brazil, Australia, Tokelau and the Russian Federation saw the biggest gains during the quarter.
Verisign's .com and .net zones accounted for more than 112 million domains, representing a 1.8 percent increase from June and 8.2 percent increase over the same quarter in 2010, the company said in the report. There were 7.9 million new .com and .net registrations during the quarter, representing a 5.9 percent increase from 2010. However, there was a slight decline in new registrations for these two top-level domains compared to the second quarter.
Not all the domains registered and counted in the report take a user to an actual Website, according to the report. VeriSign estimated that 88 percent of .com and .net domains resolved to an active Website, which includes sites under construction, parked pages and fully functioning ones. The renewal rate for .com and .net domains was 73.3 percent during the third quarter.
The new generic top-level domains (gTLDs), which were approved by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) earlier this year, will be added into the naming system after the application window closes in April 2012. VeriSign addressed the impact these new suffixes would have on the market. The gTLDs would give Internet domain owners the ability to pick a TLD using other scripts, such as Cyrillic, or from any kind of word, including consumer domains, like .shop and .bank, to geographic ones, like .nyc and .london.
"Perhaps the most fascinating aspect of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) plan to create new gTLDs is the expected emergence of several new gTLD categories of use that could fundamentally change the way Top Level Domains are used and how organizations position their online identity," VeriSign wrote.
The application window begins in January, but a bipartisan group of 17 Congressional lawmakers asked ICANN on Dec. 21 for a "short delay" before allowing applications due to cyber-security concerns. Members of the House Energy and Commerce Committee said gTLDs would make Internet users and businesses perhaps infinitely more susceptible to fraud. ICANN claimed the expansion of the naming system would better protect trademarks, stimulate innovation and boost competition.
"Many stakeholders are not convinced that ICANN's process has resulted in an acceptable level of protection," the House letter to ICANN stated.