In light of Uniregistry’s price hike, I decided to get a better view into one of its low-volume TLDs.
Uniregistry is getting ready to jack up the price of many of the top level domain names it operates, especially vertical TLDs with low volumes.
.Guitars, for example, will see its retail price quintuple from about $20-$30 to $100 or more.
Uniregistry founder Frank Schilling says the price increase is necessary to make strings like .guitars profitable.
Indeed, .guitars is a very small TLD. There were just 1,546 names in the zone file when I downloaded it earlier this week. (nTLD stats says there are 1,851 registrations.)
Even if the wholesale price is $15, .guitars barely covers the $25,000 annual ICANN fees for the name.
I wanted to get a better understanding of the .guitars zone and the type of registrants using it to see what impact the price change will have. So I dug in, bigly. Over the past 24 hours, I nearly 1,000 .guitars domains by hand to see how they are being used.
Of the 1,546 names in the zone, 117 were registered by the registry. A further 13 resolved to expiration pages. I’m sure more are in various phases of expiration, but I decided to remove only the 13 that resolved to an expiration page or had expiration name servers.
That left 1,416 names…
Of these 1,416 names, I was able to determine that at least 393 of them belong to end users. By end users, I mean a company or person that has a logical connection to .guitars. This includes guitar companies, guitar teachers, sheet music companies, musicians, etc.
140 of these resolved to a valid website on .guitars. I can’t be certain that these aren’t copies of existing sites on other TLDs, but I checked most of them to make sure they weren’t framing another site.
Another 157 are forwarded to a website on another TLD. The remaining 96 either don’t resolve or resolve to a registrar holding page.
There are likely more end users that have registered .guitars domain names that I wasn’t able to identify. However, none of their domains resolved or forwarded to a working website other than a registrar holding page. To be clear, the total number of resolving websites hosted on .guitars was 140.
Add these sites to the forwards and you have about 300 “active” .guitar domains.
Predictably, the are dozens of guitar manufacturers and stores with .guitars websites, such as Rocha.guitars (left) and Jacaranda.guitars (right):
But the majority of sites I saw were independent musicians, guitar teachers, independent instrument stores and other hobbyists. Examples include Dartmouth.guitars (left) and Parlor.guitars (right):
Many of the end user purchases that are forwarded or don’t resolve are probably defensive purchases. But there’s another category of defensive registrations to consider: brands that have nothing to do with guitars or music.
I count at least 101 domains in this category, such as TDameritrade.guitars and Twitter.guitars. There are certainly more, but some of the other brands are smaller and unfamiliar to me.
At least 216 domains are owned as investments. I counted any domain that resolves to a parking or aftermarket nameserver (e.g. sedoparking.com, uniregistrymarket.net) as well as ones that resolve to a page saying the domain was for sale as domain investor-owned. This doesn’t include registrar holding pages.
The other half
There were 706 domains I couldn’t categorize by owner type. Many of these seem to be small-time speculators that registered a few .guitars domains and didn’t park them with a typical domain parking company. Others may be end users that haven’t done anything with their domains and whose names were not obvious to me.
But none of these 706 domain names are used.
How many will survive the price hike?
How many of these domain name owners will pay $100 a year for their .guitar domains?
That’s a tough question that we won’t get the answer to for another year or two.
I imagine many of the domain investors will drop their domains or only hold on to a select few.
Some of the 140 domains owned by end users that have an actual website probably won’t pay the added fee. Others will.
Then you have the end user domains that don’t resolve or are forwarded. How many of these will be renewed? Will some people not notice the increased price until after the domains have been renewed?
Another wildcard: Uniregistry founder Frank Schilling has said he might apply discounts to the new prices, so it’s possible that the renewal prices will be much lower than $100, at least for the next year or two.
Uniregistry only needs 1/5th of the existing registrants to stay on board for its price increase to make financial sense if all of them pay the new price. It’s betting on more sticking around, and it’s probably a good bet. Some of these large brand holders won’t blink an eye at the price increase.
A lot of premium inventory will now be opened up at $100, too, so this might stoke some demand of domains that previously had very high prices.
To understand the economics, take a look at Uniregistry’s .game and compare it to .games.
.Game only has about 2,500 names. Rightside’s .Games has over 10,000. Yet .game costs 10x-20x more than .games.
Who is making more money?