Saturday, August 4, 2018

Which Extensions Are Growing in Actual Use?

 Ultimately a domain extension will only be successful it it gains, and maintains, actual real world use.  Yes, an extension can get attention through land rush adoptions and early registration momentum, but if a significant  fraction of those domain names don't actually get used, the extension will lose value.  In this post I take a look at both levels of use and trends for different top level domain (TLD) extensions.

The Data

For this analysis I used data from W3Techs.  If you have not used their site, I urge you to give it a try. They provide a wealth of frequently updated statistical data. In our case we are going to look at their data regarding use of different extensions in actual websites - the direct link to the TLD annual table I used for this post is here.  I outline their methodology in the next paragraph.

They start with the top 10 M websites using Alexa data. The Alexa database has critics, but is probably the most widely used source for site popularity.  The site aggregates any subdomains into a single combined number (e.g. all of the Blogger sites would be added to have one large use number for, and would count as a single website).  As a result, they actually start with a number of sites somewhat less than ten million. do not include redirected traffic in their data. The analysts at W3Tech compute a three month rolling average for the numbers that are reported here, although the data is updated daily. You can read about their methodology at this link.  One final point with respect to their methodology, prior to 2013 they used the Alexa 1M rather than the Alexa 10M as their starting point.  This may cause some bias when comparing statistics over the years.

COM is King (but trending down)

The first thing obvious from the data is the huge dominance of one extension, .com. It accounts for roughly half of all significant websites. The table below shows percentages for the main extensions, .com, .net, .org, .info, a few other global extensions, including some of the more popular country codes.  To a large degree, any particular other extension is almost lost in the noise.

Website use by different extensions.  Data from Consult website for up to date data.

While the data clearly shows that while .com remains dominant, the trend is definitely downward.  Website use of .com peaked in 2011 at about 55.2% of websites. As I write this in early August 2018 it is at about 46.5% use.  While the new global top level domain (ngTLD) introductions may have hastened the decline, it clearly started prior to the new extension introductions.

Challenging Times for NET and INFO 

There has been frequent discussion on NamePros forums about .net and .info struggling in sales numbers and price levels. NameBio data support this, although the change is not dramatic as some domain investors believe.  The extensions .net are also struggling in web use. The .info extension actually peaked in web use in 2011 at about 2.0%. It is currently at 0.9% use.

For .net it was highest in the first year shown in the W3Techs data table, 2010, when it had 6.8% use.  Now it is down to just 3.9% use. It is interesting that the decline of both .net and .info preceded the introduction of the ngTLDs. The introduction of the ngTLDs may well have weakened the use of .net, but they did not start the decline in either extension.

Things Are Good in ORG

The one major global extension that is doing well over the 8 year period is .org, which went from 4.6% in 2010 to 5.1% use currently. The extension has recently got a lot of use by blockchain and cryptocurrency related companies and organizations, but it is not just that factor that has sparked the increase in use of .org, as the extension has increased fairly consistently over the whole period.

Not Great for BIZ

The one extension that seemed most directly impacted by the ngTLD introductions was .biz. Use of the domain name extension peaked around the time of the first big ngTLD introductions and has continued to drop in use since then including during the past year.  At time of writing it represented about 0.27% of web use, still more than even the highest of the new extensions covered in the next section. However, the trend for .biz is definitely negative, and it was at almost 0.40% in global use just a year ago.

New Extensions Well Down List

Even the highest of the ngTLDs are well down the list, with .xyz having about 0.18% use. The trend for .xyz is largely constant since shortly after introduction. Other extensions including .club (0.15%), .online (0.12%), .site (0.07%),  .top (0.08%), and .win (0.05%) make the list but again with modest website use. Most are, however, showing an upward trend (e.g., the .win extension has grown by almost a factor of 4x in website use during the last year - see the graph below).
Data provided  by Consult their website for most current data.

An optimist would point to a slight increase in ngTLD use in actual websites, at least taken as a group. A pessimist would say many of the new extensions have now been around for three years and  in total or individually they are still down around the noise in actual website use.

Incidentally, one nice feature of the W3Techs is that you can get additional data on any particular extension. For example, at this link for .xyz you see a temporal plot of its use. Another plot shows how it compares to some other extensions in amount of use and in how popular the sites are that do use the extension.   It also gives you the names of some of the more popular sites using the extension, as well as a random selection of other active sites using the extension.

What about IO?

You can use the site to study other TLDs.  For example, .io has shown steady growth over the last year, although it still only accounts for about 0.28% of web use in significant sites. The .io extension is much more important in domain name sales than it is, yet, in actual website use.  It is significant, though, that while total use of .io is fairly low compared to the legacy extensions, when it is used, the websites tend  to have higher traffic sites than .net, .com or .org.
The .io TLD is used in fewer websites than the legacy extensions, but when it is used the site tends to be more popular. Consult for most recent data. 

The Long Term View

At current trends, I project that by about the year 2290 .com and .xyz (and actually a number of other new extensions) will have approximately equal website use! We ngTLD investors better take a long term view or find a profitable niche!


I summarize what I regard as the key takeaways from this analysis below. Keep in mind that the reference set is the 10 million most popular websites in the world (from a total of about 1.9 billion global websites currently). This is a snapshot in time, and you should consult for the for the most current statistics.

  1. The .com TLD dominates actual web use, with about 46.5% of total use.
  2. While remaining dominant, the percentage of websites that use .com has been trending downward since 2011, with a decline of about 0.17% per year on average.
  3. The .net and .info extensions have been falling in use for a number of years.  In both cases the decline began prior to the ngTLD introductions.
  4. The .org TLD has been growing in popularity over the past decade in website use, and is now at about 5% of global website use. 
  5. The .biz extension seems most strongly hurt by the ngTLD introductions, with a drop from about 0.9% in 2014 to less than 0.3% currently. Several of the ngTLDs will probably pass it in use during the coming 12 months.  
  6. Most of the other places in the top 25 TLDs by use is taken by country code extensions, some of which are trending up and some down.
  7. The new extensions are all well down the list in website use, although most are trending upward. For example use of .win has grown 4x during the past year, well above its growth in registration numbers over the same period.
  8. The most used of the ngTLDs are currently .xyz (0.18%), .club (0.15%), .online (0.12%), .site (0.07%),  .top (0.08%), and .win (0.05%). 
Some domain name investors argue that sales data is all that matters.  I respectfully disagree.  Good prices will not be established or maintained if there is not significant use of a domain extension.  By looking at the trends in TLD use in actual websites, it may be be possible to predict which domains will increase in value, and therefore which warrant maintaining. This analysis suggests that .io and .org both fall in this category.   

Original post Aug 4, 2018.
Minor edit Aug 4, 2018. Missing .xyz data added in point 8 of conclusions.


Fine Print

This post is offered for informational and educational purposes only, and should not be considered domain name investment advice. While an attempt has been made to be accurate, there is no implied or explicit warranty, and you are responsible for verifying any information of importance to you.

In a few cases there may be affiliate links will on this blog. This means I receive a small amount if users visit or make purchases via the link. You do not pay any additional charge due to using an affiliate link, and in some cases below the normal price. I receive no identifying information about who clicks, or does not click, any link. I never accept compensation to provide favourable review of any particular service or product.

I try to be fair, balanced and objective in my analysis.  If you feel this post does not meet that standard, please express your concerns to me.  As disclosure, I do have a domain portfolio that is predominantly ngTLD domain names, although I do also own a number of .com, .ca, .co and a few other country code extension domains..

The text of this posting is ©R.L. Hawkes, all rights reserved. However, you may, without permission, use reasonable length portions of the post as long as a link to this post is also provided. If you wish to use the complete contents of a post, please request permission. I am normally open to reprinting, but will consider each request individually. 

The images used are either those associated with a product or service, or Pixabay images believed to be available for use without attribution. If you see any image that you believe is problematic, please let us know and we will immediately correct the situation.

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