.App is a shining example of a healthy and stable top level domain.
One thing that has become clear since new top level domains came onto the scene nearly a decade ago is that you can’t judge a TLD by the number of registrations. Registries have played all sorts of games to make themselves look more successful than they really are. Some gave domains away for free, and nearly all TLDs in the top 10 by registrations continue to offer first-year registrations for next to nothing.
There’s one TLD in the top ten that stands out from the rest: .app.
Google paid $25 million for the rights to the .app domain in 2015. It then observed the market and deliberately launched the domain in 2018.
It priced domains affordably but not cheap. Current prices are about $15-$20 per year. It also required sites using the domain to install an SSL certificate, which adds legitimacy to the namespace and cuts down on people using the domains for nefarious purposes because of the extra hoop they have to jump through.
According to nTLDStats, there are about 750,000 .app domains registered today. The shape of the growth chart is healthy:
There was only a small dip during the “junk drop” anniversary. Growth was particularly strong in late 2019, and I seem to recall some promotions, but certainly not anything like the dollar sales that other registries offer. Regardless, there wasn’t a commensurate drop one year later.
The distribution between registrars is also healthy. GoDaddy has 57% of the namespace. This is a positive sign because you should expect the biggest registrar to have the most registrations, and GoDaddy hasn’t done deep discounting of domains (for the most part). Google, NameCheap, Key-Systems and Name.com round out the top 5.
Aftermarket sales for .app haven’t been particularly strong. Shopify paid $200,000 for shop.app and launched a shopping and payments service through it. 8 other domains have sold for at least $15,000. That’s just public sales, of course. But an aftermarket isn’t the primary sign of a healthy top level domain.
Few companies have the financial wherewithal to plunk down $25 million for a top level domain and then be patient and deliberate in launching and marketing it. But Google deserves credit for how it has managed .app, and it should be held out as an example for the next round of top level domain expansion.