Of China, Growth and TLDs

In case you needed further proof of China’s breakneck pace of growth, VeriSign is reporting that the .cn Top Level Domain (TLD) has now become the second biggest TLD, surpassing Germany’s .de.

The stats are part of VeriSign’s ongoing look at how some TLD registrations are performing.

For the third quarter of this year, growth rates were 76 percent for
China’s country code .cn compared to the same time last year.

Although 76 percent growth is impressive, the stats suggest that growth has slowed a bit in this realm for China. Last year, for example, VeriSign reported that registrations for the .cn TLD were up by 467 percent over the same time in 2006. It was enough to put China in second place by surpassing .uk, which had held the number two position after .com for several years.

VeriSign also tallied 8 percent growth for .de year-over-year and 14 percent for .uk. over the same, year-ago quarter.

Overall, the registrar counted 174 million domain name registrations across all TLD’s, which is an increase of 19 percent over the third quarter of 2007.

County Code Top Level Domain Names (ccTLDs) were on a tear in the third quarter, up by 26 percent on a year-over-year basis to hit 68.9 million registered domain names.

By contrast, .com and .net domain name registrations totaled 89.4 million, up by 16 percent on a year-over-year basis. VeriSign reports .com and .net together, so a breakout of the two domains is not something that VeriSign could provide.

However, the top ten domain TLD’s for the quarter were: .com, .cn, .de, .net, .org, .uk, .info, .nl (The Netherlands), .eu (European Union), and .biz.

“I can’t say there were any huge surprises as we carefully and continuously monitor several data sources that pertain to the Naming business, so that we understand new trends as they unfold,” said VeriSign spokesperson Allison Fritz in an e-mailed comment.

The .org registry is one of the original three gTLDs (generic top level domains) along with .com and .net and it also saw growth in 2008. Fritz noted that .org experienced growth quarter over quarter that is in line with the growth of other TLD’s.

VeriSign declined to comment further on .org as it is not a TLD with which it has any oversight. Since 2003, the .org domain has been operated by PIR (the Public Interest Registry).

Alexa Raad, CEO of PIR, told InternetNews.com that the .org TLD passed the 7 million mark for domain registrations in August of this year, while noting that .org experienced 14 to 15 percent annual growth for 2008. (Full stats on the year are expected in January of 2009.)

While .org is growing at a respectable rate, Raad pointed out that there is an important difference in how .org deals with short term registrations, a practice commonly referred to as “domain tasting.” The domain tasting practice occurs when a domain speculator buys a domain name and tries to make money from it during a five day grace period.

“We were the first registry to introduce a fee for domain tasting,” Raad stated. “So we drove a lot of that out. So .org didn’t have the same speculation as others and we have a rather solid base of registrations.”

The implication is that the practice of domain tasting can inflate domain registration numbers beyond those that are legitimately used. Though 2008 was officially a year in which the US was in a recession, Raad has a degree of measured confidence in the continued growth of the .org domain.

“We all live in the same world however we’ve done a lot of work to stabilize our part of the business,” Raad commented. “We’re not prone to the speculators and our brand is known for trusted well intended content and we also have high renewal numbers. From that perspective we’ve actually been able to achieve stability.”

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