The domain market may appear like a static one to outsiders, but facts are that it is often subject to change. Developments in the Internet and the global economy can quickly spur on trends that affect the full domain industry. While the future can never be fully predicted, there are strong signs that the domain industry is set to continue growing and evolving in the coming years. The popularity and scope of the Internet are ever-increasing. More and more people across the globe are obtaining Internet access. On top of this, new social networks and online services springing up every year. Coupled with the explosive growth of e-commerce, the demand for domain names will likely not dry up anytime soon.
However, that does not mean that everything in the industry will remain as it is now. In this article, we outline five key trends that we believe will play a large role in the development of the domain industry during the coming years. On top of this, some of our domain experts at Openprovider share their views on which of these they believe to be the most impactful.
Continued growth of the Internet
Fast, seamless Internet access is a ubiquitous part of many people’s lives. From our smartphones and laptops to newer inventions like Smart TV and virtual assistants, the Internet is everywhere. Worldwide Internet penetration stood at 63.1% in 2022, with most users residing in North America and Europe.
Internet access is currently least extended in South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa. However, that does not mean the Internet isn’t actually booming here. Approximately 1 billion residents of China and 658 million residents of India have used the Internet at least once in the past three months. Other developing countries with large Internet-using populations include Brazil, Nigeria and Mexico.
On top of this, a growing number of people all across Africa, Asia and Latin-America gains access to the Internet every year. Because of this, the demand for domain names and hosting services here is not expected to slow down anytime soon. This is particularly the case for local ccTLDs like .cn, .in, and .ng and their IDN variations. If you have ever considered expanding your business to new markets, now could therefore very well be the time.
New gTLDs continue their momentum
New gTLDs are so ubiquitous these days that it can be hard to remember that they only entered the market in 2013! Currently, the most popular new gTLD is .xyz, with over 4 million registrations as of 2022. .xyz is followed by .online, while the top 5 is further completed by .top, .shop and .site. The number of new gTLDs is rising every year. Some of the newest additions to the market include .kids, .boo, .rsvp and .giving.
New gTLDs offer people and businesses the opportunity to register catchy, unique names. This is a big thing in a domain landscape in which most “good” .com names have already been taken. Number domains and super-short domain names (containing 2-4 characters) are currently some of the hottest domains on the market – and with new gTLDs, there is plenty of choice. These types of domain names are sold for record-breaking prices as premium domains. The demand and supply for geoTLDs, from .nyc to .barcelona, is also soaring, particularly for hyperlocal websites and services. On top of this, the domain industry trend of “creatively” using existing ccTLDs, such as .ai and .io, also shows no signs of slowing down yet.
Innovations in privacy and security
Cybercrime has been around just as long as the Internet, and it (sadly) shows no signs of stopping. Millions of cyberattacks take place worldwide every year. The costs that these attacks incur on individuals and businesses extends into trillions of dollars. These amounts are only increasing. On top of that, hackers and phishers are always coming up with new and more complex types of attacks. Innovation in the areas of security and privacy is therefore a bigger need than it has ever been. Domain businesses need to be able to fill this gap.
Social engineering attacks, such as spear phishing and business email compromises (link) have been particularly on the rise. 93% of successful cyberattacks starts with an email, which makes adequate email protection vitally important. Customers are looking for advanced email protection tools, such as DMARC solutions and S/MIME certificates. Other important services and protocols to capitalize upon include DNSSEC and DDoS protection. Openprovider’s free security scanner gives a quick overview of different measures you can take to improve your domain security. These tools could be a great idea to add to your offer in 2023.
New trends in business models and marketing
The “classic package” in the domain industry has long included a domain name, hosting and a SSL certificate. However, as many domain and hosting businesses are merging or being bought up by larger parties, smaller companies will need to offer more in order to stand out. Consolidating service models, in order to create “one-stop shops” for all domain-related needs, is a growing trend in the industry.
Some trending services include domain leasing and auctions, integration with aftermarket platforms and offering advanced security products, such as DMARC solutions and Anycast DNS. Other focus areas include more advanced solutions for account management, reporting and customer service. Modern consumers are looking for flexibility, personalized experiences and purpose-driven companies that align with their personal values. All are important elements to consider to achieve business growth in these trying times.
Together with new business models, new marketing strategies are also cropping up. Along with “classic strategies”, such as paid ads and SEO, social media continues to be prominent in the marketing landscape. Video content, particularly in short-form videos through TikTok and YouTube, is on the rise. This trend could very well be applied to the domain and hosting industry. Other rising trends include influencer marketing and the usage of social media DMs to provide quick and accessible customer service.
Web3 and crypto domains
One of the most fascinating – and unpredictable – trends in the domain industry is undoubtedly the recent rise of Web3, and the special “crypto domains” that are coming with it. These domains come with a wealth of new domain extensions, such as .nft, .crypto and .x. Unstoppable Domains, a major player on the crypto domain market, has sold over 2 million domains since its inception in 2018. They offer the option to pay using almost 300 different cryptocurrencies. In addition to crypto domains, blockchain DNS is another new service on the market. Blockchain DNS services offer a decentralized DNS server that allows for domain registration and management on the blockchain. Web3 domain names are most often used as pointers to cryptocurrency wallets. Here, they serve as a single marker of identity within this new era of the Web.
Crypto domains are still very new, and it is unknown whether their popularity will remain or what will become of them in the future – especially with 2022 having been a rough year for cryptocurrencies in general. Some traditional domain resellers may choose to add crypto domains to their portfolio, or to facilitate payments through cryptocurrencies. Others are more wary, or consider concentrating their efforts in Web3 service as a waste of time. For those who are interested, SIDN, the registry of .nl, has pointed out some drawbacks in the usage of blockchain technology as well.
Domain industry trends, according to domain experts at Openprovider
“Growth for top extensions has saturated, and the market is moving more towards premium domain names. However, for the developing world, which is still catching up with the internet and website boom, there is a lot more potential for ccTLDs. For countries like the Philippines and Indonesia, with much larger populations compared to developed nations, there’s a lot more to come in terms of domains.”
“When I try to imagine how people will be using the Internet in 5 or 10 years, I mostly see the rising role of AI assistants doing a lot of the heavy lifting for us. Instead of visiting websites, opening a browser, and typing the domain address, we will simply talk to our phones. We will be asking them questions and seeing answers directly on the screen, or having them read out loud by the device – just like you can currently write a question into Google and most likely get a direct answer, without the need to open any pages.”
“The future will pull towards the growth of voice assistants to get necessary data and information. However this technology is not exclusive, and corporate websites, e-commerce and other business-related websites will continue to require websites (and subsequently, domain names). There is still room for growth in the web industry, and we must keep in mind that emails still need web domains (and other “domain add-on” products)!
In the long future, domains will take a back seat, being a “categorization” of website content, and the door to access the source of the information. The idea of domains (and DNS) was to facilitate access to web servers, in order to translate IPs, since they are difficult to remember. But we will go one step further, and it will not be necessary to remember domain names in order to access services – whether it is in regards to virtual assistants that will extract information from websites (which will have domains!), links between applications, more friendly and interactive chats between humans… The future looks promising, as it will force TLD registries to make changes and add more value to domain names.”
“When it comes to talking about the future of domains, the first thing one will ask themself may be “How do I make myself noticeable on the internet” or “how do I make noise that everyone will listen to?” With advancing technology and rapidly growing demands for new sources of income, the market is witnessing an urge to pull their socks up, and it is the same case with domain registrars. Building your online presence requires careful consideration when selecting a domain name. In addition to acting as a URL for people to access your site, it’s a crucial component of branding, influencing how your target market perceives your company. If you have additional valued products while choosing your domain name(s) which are required in the initial phase of setting up your own business, you feel comfortable and confident enough about taking off from the ground!”