Once again, we’re looking at how the world is embracing new TLDs – country by country. Last time, I compared each nation’s nTLD footprint with its online population, calculating a ratio of overrepresentation / underrepresentation. Another way to view this is “domain user density”, which I define as the number of internet users per registration. Here’s what it looks like:
In case your screen is too squished to view all the captions, here is the list of countries from left to right: China, Armenia, Panama, Netherlands, Switzerland, USA, Austria, Australia, Germany, Lithuania, UK, Hong Kong, Canada, Norway, Cambodia, New Zealand, France, Ukraine, Russia, Indonesia, Ireland, Denmark, Singapore, Sweden, Belgium, UAE, Japan, South Korea, Israel, Czech Republic, Italy, Spain, Romania, Turkey, Greece, Poland, Hungary, Vietnam, Chile, Thailand, Pakistan, Brazil, Malaysia, South Africa, India, and Mexico.
Why these 46 countries? My study is based on nTLDStats, which lists 49 nations with the most nTLD domain registrations (in absolute terms, not concentration). From these I have excluded 3 outliers: Gibraltar, the Cayman Islands, and the Cocos Islands – tiny places that are home to large domain industry companies, giving them an oversized footprint. For instance, the Cocos Islands have fewer than 600 residents; but more than 19,000 nTLD domains list this territory in whois contact info. Why? Probably because of .CC.
As you can see, in China 1 nTLD domain has been registered for every 57 internet users. Meanwhile, in Mexico the ratio is 1 nTLD domain per 3172 people online. Note: nTLD volume within each country is underreported because 27.3% of domains are masked by whois privacy. Consequently, real user density is lower than what I’m reporting. If you assume whois privacy is used equally by all nationalities, then you can shave off a quarter. But these numbers are changing all the time, as new nTLDs are released, more domains are registered, and old nTLD domains expire and are deleted.
Exact numbers aren’t the important story here. The real question is this: Why do nations differ? Why are China, Switzerland, and the USA more interested in buying nTLD domains than Poland, Hungary, and Vietnam? Why the steep jump for Chile, Thailand, and Pakistan? Why the even steeper jump for Brazil, Malaysia, South Africa, and India? And why is Mexico – 35th nation in terms of nTLD registrations overall – so much less interested in nTLDs per online citizen than anybody else?
We’re in the dark here. I have a dozen theories. And 2 partial answers: Wealth and Internet Access.
Wealthy nations register more nTLD domains. The correlation is weak (-0.411) – meaning the dots don’t hug a straight line. But there’s a discernible pattern nonetheless. Really, it’s as if we’re looking at 2 different pictures glued together! Below $30k, we have a messy, haphazard situation. Some countries devour nTLDs; so their nTLD user density is quite low. China is a relatively poor country, with a gross domestic product (GDP) averaging $14.4k per person; yet China registers more nTLD domains than anybody else. Armenia ($8.4k) has registered 1 nTLD per 71 internet users – more than the USA! And the poorest country shown here, Cambodia ($3.5k per person), ranks 14th in terms of nTLD registrations. Its nTLD user density of 217 places Cambodia ahead of much wealthier nations like France and Russia.
Thus, below $30k, national wealth seems unrelated to nTLD registration rates. Above that cutoff, however, we see no such chaos. Wealthy countries register nTLD domains at a predictably higher rate per person. All of them (24 out of 46) have an nTLD user density below 500. Let’s state this precisely:
Apart from national wealth, we should also look at online access. To some degree, the percentage of internet users within a given country is tied to GDP. As you can see, these 2 variables track quite closely (with a correlation coefficient of 0.798). Still, they do diverge; and the more we know, the better. For instance, 2 countries differing greatly in terms of GDP per capita –Singapore ($85.4k) and the Czech Republic ($32.8k) – both have 82% internet access.
So what does internet access tell us about nTLD registration rates? Déjà vu. Once again, there’s a cutoff point. Where 73% or more of a country’s citizens are internet users, the nTLD user density is consistently low – again, below 500; and, again, this applies to 24 countries. As before, below this cutoff, national nTLD patterns are all over the place. Take a look:
What you ought to be thinking right now is this: 24 nations worth more than $30k per capita … and 24 nations with greater than 73% internet access … Are we perhaps looking at the same 24 countries in both cases? Almost. 23 of them are identical, while Italy and Russia each belong to only 1 list. This means 25 countries belong to a sort of elite group. They’re developed nations worth $30k or more per capita and/or having greater than 73% of citizens online. Knowing that, we can guarantee these nations have an nTLD user density below 500 – i.e. at least 1 nTLD domain is currently registered for each 500 internet users.
That’s interesting, right? But what I’m about to tell you is even more striking. Wealth and internet access explain most cases of high nTLD registration rates – not all. As you can see, there are 9 countries that fall short of both standards … yet have nTLD user density below 500. Who are these “registrant nations” that bucked the trend and ambushed us, registering more nTLD domains per person than we have any right to expect? Say hello:
|Country||User Density||% Online||GDP Per Capita||Near Cutoff|
Some of these nations are quite near our cutoffs of $30k and 73% web access. Lithuania barely falls short – which is why I say it’s 90% near the cutoff. But Cambodia is far, far away in both respects. It measures only 3% of those standards. Why, then, are so many nTLD domains registered in Cambodia?
At this point, aside from Lithuania, the other 8 nations all remain a mystery. Even China, about whom so much has been written, doesn’t fit the mold. That is to say, national wealth and internet access aren’t the full story. Clearly other factors are in play. What are they? On the flip side of this coin, look at the following 12 nations, where fewer than 1 nTLD domain is registered per 500 internet users:
|Country||User Density||% Online||GDP Per Capita||Near Cutoff||Above 500||Discrepancy|
Those nations that sit near our cutoff ($30k and 73% web access) ought to have an nTLD user density not too far above 500. Multiplying these 2 percentages together gives us a measure of the discrepancy. The farther this discrepancy is from 1, the less we know about what’s going on.
Above 1.0 indicates the country is registering fewer nTLDs per person than we’d expect, given its wealth and web access. Malaysia and Mexico apparently take no interest in nTLDs. Conversely, a “discrepancy” below 1.0 indicates the country is registering more nTLDs per person than we’d anticipate based on our development metrics (GDP per capita and online access).
It turns out, India, Pakistan, and Vietnam – despite registering few nTLDs per person – are actually over-performing. Once we make allowances for wealth and internet penetration, we find these countries are punching well above their weight. This squares with my experience in the domain industry. Indian and Pakistani domainers are quite active; and I was surprised, at first, to see such a small nTLD footprint for India in particular.
Having uncovered the reason for this lag in nTLD registrations in India so far, I can make a sort of pronouncement: This bodes well for the nTLD program. Internet penetration in India is expected to grow at triple the global rate. GDP will increase too. If web access doubles, reaching just 57.6%, that will mean 735 million internet users. And if India’s nTLD user density is reduced to 500 – in keeping with other developed countries – India will have 14.7 million nTLD domains … compared to 2.06 million today. As of today, there are 27.6 million nTLD domains registered worldwide. Thus, ongoing growth in India might conceivably add another 50% or so to the total. That’s a big “if”, but India will soon overtake China as planet earth’s biggest population. Obviously, India has big potential.
Many other nations could affect nTLD registration volume. Remember, I’m only looking at countries that appear among the top 50 at nTLDStats.com. Combined, those countries have 2.5 billion internet users; but another 0.7 billion live in other countries, where internet access is advancing by leaps and bounds. At present, some countries show a startling lack of interest in nTLD domains; and that might change. In addition to Mexico and Malaysia, consider which nations don’t appear at all at nTLDStats. Nigeria ranks 7th worldwide with 86.4 million internet users – more than Germany, France, or the UK. Nigeria also has 47.4% web access – better than India’s. And its GDP per capita is exactly the same as that of India and Vietnam. Those 2 nations are #9 and #19, respectively, in terms of nTLD registration volume. So why not Nigeria?
Other nations that didn’t rank on nTLDStats but which already have more than 10 million internet users include (in descending order by online population): the Philippines, Iran, Egypt, Argentina, Colombia, Bangladesh, Saudi Arabia, Kenya, Morocco, Venezuela, Taiwan, Algeria, Kazakhstan, Peru, Uzbekistan, Myanmar, Ethiopia, and Sudan.
These countries aren’t as far behind as you might think. Even a nation like the United States, which is only mediocre according to the metrics we’ve been discussing, does pretty well for itself. Depending on the source, the USA ranks 10th, 11th, or 13th by per capita GDP ($56.1k); and we come in 49th by internet access (74.6%) – which is about even with Kazakhstan, Hungary, Russia, or Lithuania … far behind Canada, Australia, the UK, Japan, Korea, and (of course) western Europe.
But let’s return to the mystery. Why don’t Mexico and Malaysia buy nTLDs? And why do Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Ukraine, and Armenia register so many? What factors are we missing?
Footnote: I should mention that I have filtered the data for this study. Some nTLDs describe cities, regions, or ethnicities. Predictably, a country will register more GEO nTLDs when those describe its own geography. But the distribution of these GEO nTLDs is far from uniform. Some countries have several; many have none. If we are to compare nTLD registration rates among different nations, looking for factors that underlie them all, then we must remove the unequal contribution of GEO nTLDs. So that’s what I did; I excluded GEO nTLD domains from my counts. Those GEO nTLDs will be the topic of my next article.