The domain name industry report from Nominet: Issue Q4 2011

Top 20 ccTLDs vs GDP – recession proof domains?

  Tough economic times globally have seen mixed changes to gross domestic product with some countries seeing substantial declines while others have seen strong growth. However all the registries in the top 20 have seen strong domain growth as the industry goes from strength to strength.

For most registries the growth rate of recent years has slowed down but two registries have seen distinctive growth rates – Tokelau due to their free domain business model and China who opened Internationalized Domain Names (IDNs) in 2012 and have seen a massive growth rate of +73% despite their negative growth of GDP of -8%. While this growth is exceptional, it’s worth considering that this growth is from a relatively low base and looking at the above graph showing market penetration, China has one of the lowest rates in the Top 20 at just under 0.5%.

Source: ZookNIC

Why 10 million can’t be wrong – .uk is a great place to be


Growth of the .uk register has reached a key milestone, with over 10 million domain name registrations. This is a huge achievement and shows how far .uk has come from the first registrations in 1985. In 2000 the .uk register reached its first milestone of 1 million and in 12 short years has multiplied ten-fold.

Technological innovation has driven that growth along with socio-economic change. The internet and the World Wide Web have changed how we do business, communicate and interact with each other. Underpinning this is the domain name system and its impact on the global digital economy.


The range of domain names that now make up the .uk space represent the diversity and variety of the UK internet community as a whole, from the valuable causes and charities using addresses to the cutting edge e-commerce sites using domain names.

In approaching 10 million .uk domain names, we have taken the opportunity to reflect on the content of the registry database. With 10 million domain names there is a huge variety in length of domain name and the words used in domain names. This section of Domain Business looks at:

  • The most frequently used words in domain names
  • Words used in a variety of business and social categories including banking & finance and sport & leisure.
  • A detailed look at morphemes, the building blocks of words through an analysis of n-grams used in domain names.
  • How the length of domain names has changed in .uk compared to other TLDs
  • The language of domain names looking at letter distribution in domain names and the English language.
  • The use of cities in .uk domain names and the geographical spread of domain name usage.

Vital contribution to the digital economy

Businesses in the UK recognise that the values of trust and stability that .uk stands for positively contribute to the consumer perception of their company online. In looking to establish a successful internet presence that customers can have confidence in, buying into the .uk space is seen as a valuable move.

It is impossible to ignore the vital role that .uk plays in the national digital economy as business sites now make up more than three million .uk domain names. This is even more significant when you consider that 25% of these sites feature some type of e-commerce. These sites are making an important contribution to the digital economy and helping to meet the needs of consumers to buy goods and services online.

Continuing to build trust in .uk

Consumers are also reassured by the credibility and values of .uk. This is demonstrated by recent research which shows 81% of UK internet users would be more likely to choose a .uk domain name when they appear in search engine results. This level of consumer trust is as a result of users experience of dealing with .uk sites and the expected benefits this can bring such as pricing in £, reasonable UK delivery costs and UK based customer support should they need it.

As the trusted guardian of .uk we are committed to working with the domain industry to maintain a trusted, secure namespace. We continue to work hard to secure the future of a self-regulating and well-run space for the UK Internet.

Although our progress so far is impressive, there is still much further to go. According to the latest figures from the Office for National Statistics only 13% of UK businesses with less than 50 employees use their website for online sales. We are committed to ensuring that .uk is as appealing and attractive as ever to encourage many more business to start trading online and help maintain .uk as a trusted space.




A Country Code Top Level Domain (ccTLD) is a top level domain used and reserved for a country or dependent territory. Examples of ccTLDs include .uk for the United Kingdom, .de for Germany, .us for the United States of America, .ca for Canada, and .fr for France. Each country appoints a manager for its ccTLD and sets the rules for allocating domains. Nominet manages the .uk ccTLD.


The FTSE 100TM is a share index of the 100 most highlycapitalised UK companies listed on the London Stock Exchange. This index covers 80% of the market capitalisation of the LSE and is a widely used UK stock market indicator.


A country’s GDP or Gross Domestic Product is one of the ways of measuring the size of its economy. It is usually defined as the total market value of all goods and services produced within a country in a given period of time, usually a calendar year.


A Generic Top Level Domain (gTLD) is a top level domain that is open to registrants worldwide in contrast to Country Code Top Level Domains that are often restricted to registrants located in a particular country or region. The most popular gTLDs are .com, .org and .net.


Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN). An international, not-for-profit, private sector organisation created to coordinate four key functions of the internet: managing the domain name system, allocating IP address space, assigning protocol parameters and managing the root server system.

Nominet members

Nominet is a not-for-profit membership organisation that encourages members to participate in .uk policy decision making through a number of discussion groups, consultations and committees. Members can exercise their voting rights at our Annual General Meeting and elect non-executive directors to the Nominet Board. Nominet members have access to our reduced wholesale prices for domain names.


The definitive database of all domain name registrations within the .uk Top Level Domain.


The individual or organisation (e.g. limited company, partnership, sole trader etc.) that registers a specific domain name. They hold the right to use that domain name for a specified period of time (two years for a domain name ending in .uk). The registrant is the ‘legal entity’ who is bound by Nominet’s terms and conditions of domain name registration.


A registrar is the company or organisation that people register their domain name through. The registrar is the agent through which people register domain names – it does not mean that they are an agent of Nominet. The registrar may be a member of Nominet, but they act on their customer’s behalf rather than our behalf.


An internet domain name registry receives domain name service (DNS) information into a centralised database and transmits the information in internet zone files on the internet so that domain names can be found by users around the world via the worldwide web and email. Nominet is the registry for the .uk Country Code Top Level Domain (ccTLD).

Second Level Domain (SLD)

The .uk Top Level Domain code is separated into a number of Second Level Domains, abbreviated to SLDs. Nominet manages the following SLDs: for commercial enterprises; for non-commercial organisations; for personal domains; and for registered company names only; for Internet Service Providers and for schools.


A Sponsored Top Level Domain (sTLD) is a generic top-level domain proposed by an independent agency that sets the rules about the eligibility of registrants to use the TLD. Current sTLDs include .mobi, .aero, .coop and .museum.


A Nominet Tag allows registrars access to our automated systems for registering and managing domain names.



This year will witness the advent of the biggest change to the internet landscape since the invention of the World Wide Web in 1989 as a plethora of new Top Level Domains (eg .wales, .shop and .book) are launched.

These hotly anticipated new launches will shift the foundations of the World Wide Web, offering greater variety and choice to registrants and introducing a level of competition not previously witnessed in this space. As ICANN (the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) get ever-closer to launching the first TLDs we look at the story so far and the impact we think this will have on the UK.

The Story so Far…

December 2005 Launch policy development begins, led by ICANN’s Generic Names Supporting Organisation (GNSO)
June 2008 ICANN Board approves the GNSO recommendations for introducing the new gTLDs
October 2008 First draft of the Applicant Guidebook launched
June 2011 Applicant Guidebook is finally approved and the public launch of the programme was approved by ICANN’s Board
September 2011 Applicant Guidebook is publicly launched
January 2012 Application window opens
May 2012 Application window closes
June 2012 Reveal Day – Applications published; public comments and GAC Early Warnings invited
July 2012 Initial Evaluation and Clarifying Questions begin, GAC Advice Registry launched
November 2012 GAC Early Warnings published; Prioritisation Draw announced
December 2012 Prioritisation Draw takes place
March 2013 Initial Evaluation results reporting begins (expected to run to end August)
April 2013 ICANN to approve first gTLD?
April 2014 ICANN to have approved first 1,000 applications?
  For nearly a decade ICANN have been working on the launch of a new range of gTLDs and we’re finally getting close to the first launches. Policy discussions began late 2005 and were approved at the ICANN meeting in Paris in June 2008. Following this the first draft of the Applicant Guidebook was launched in October 2008 and this was subject to a raft of revisions and amendments as more than 1,000 comments were posted during the consultation.

In January 2012 the application window for new gTLDs finally opened, and by the closing date of May, ICANN had received 1,930 applications – more than double the amount anticipated. Dealing with nearly 2,000 applications was a massive logistical challenge for ICANN who considered various approaches to process the applications before deciding to hold a Prioritisation Draw just before Christmas 2012.

In the meantime ICANN’s Governmental Advisory Committee (GAC) began assessing the applications and members submitted 242 Early Warnings against 145 string applications. Australia led the way with Early Warnings, issuing a total of 129 warnings against strings such as .capital, .sucks and .wtf. Other notable Early Warnings included US Federal objections to .airforce, .army and .navy. The UK issued only 2 Early Warnings, both against applicants for .rugby, clearly supporting the IRB (International Rugby Board) application for the string. Interestingly no GAC members objected to any of the sex-related strings (.sex, .porn etc) and .gay was also warning-free. Since these Early Warnings have been issued, more than 600 changes have been made to applications and more than 30 applications have been withdrawn including .hilton, .gmbh, .ketchup, .swiss and .transformers.

At the time of writing, the formal objection window is still open and so we can expect more changes to come. As well as objections to specific strings the closed gTLD debate is still on-going with a month-long public comment period open to gain feedback on the concept of brands being able to close a TLD for a generic term. For example, L’Oréal have applied for closed TLDs for .loreal and .lancome which are their brand names, but should this company be in control of .makeup, .hair or .beauty? Vociferous arguments both for and against closed generic term TLDs rage on and the outcome will be decided by ICANN following the close of the consultation period at the start of March.

The Prioritisation Draw was held in LA on 17th December with 92% of all applications buying a ticket in the hope they would be in the first launch wave. International domain names were the first to be processed – and the power of prayer was clear to be seen as the first name drawn out of the hat was .catholic in Chinese, closely followed by proof of the power of e-commerce with Amazon’s application for .store in Japanese. Amazon also scored the first non-IDN name out of the hat with .play but will have a long delay before they could potentially launch as other .play applications were drawn out 925th, 1,099th and 1,792nd.

Looking at applications directly relevant to the UK market, the first application out was Nominet’s own application for .cymru at number 244, although .cymru’s English language brother .wales was drawn 807th. .london was drawn between the two Wales strings at number 635 and is likely to be launched before the end of 2013. The other celtic strings applied for, .scot and .irish, were drawn 1,453rd and 1,491st respectively so Scottish and Irish applicants will have to wait until 2014 to see their TLDs launch.

At the end of February ICANN published a list of all the new strings that had multiple applicants, known as the “exact match contention sets”. There were a total of 230 such applications with the most contested strings being .app with 13 applications, .home and .inc with 11 applications each and .art with 10 applications. In addition to this ICANN reported on “non-exact contention sets” where there was a risk of consumer confusion between similar strings. There were only two of these identified – .hotel /.hoteis and .unicom/.unicorn. The outcome of these contention sets remains to be seen; we expect to see some withdrawals before the sets are resolved and predict some high-value contention auctions in the future.

Moving forward the independent Initial Evaluation stage is currently in progress and Clarifying Questions (CQs) are being sent to applicants where there are some question marks over the application details. This stage is expected to be complete before the end of March 2013 and ICANN anticipate approving the first new gTLDs shortly after the next ICANN meeting in Beijing in April. ICANN themselves are aiming to launch 1,000 new extensions in the 12 months after Beijing, with all new applications processed by the end of 2014. However, given the many delays already seen in the launch process, some doubt these timelines are achievable.

One thing is for sure, once the new TLDs are launched we’ll see a mass of high-profile marketing activity around the new strings as registries vie to establish their product in this ever-expanding market place. As for predicting the big winners, analysis by Sedo predicts the top 10 new launches will be: .shop, .web, .site, .music, .hotel, .one, .blog, .eco, .sport and .love but ultimately it will be the end user who decides which TLDs last and which are just a flash in the proverbial pan.

A New Domain for Wales

Wales has a strong sense of identity and in the most recent census (2011) 66% of all residents classified themselves as singularly Welsh with an additional 10% considering themselves to be both Welsh and British. For this reason the notion of introducing a new domain for Wales has been positively embraced by the population who relish the opportunity to brand their businesses and themselves as proudly Welsh. When surveyed prior to the new gTLD application seven out of ten respondents believed that Wales should have its own domain space and preferred the idea of a .wales or a .cymru over a or a .com.

The decision to release both the English and Welsh language TLDs was a simple one; Wales is a bilingual country and around 20% of the population speak Welsh fluently. As well as being on all road signs, Welsh is also taught in schools and census data has shown that there are now more Welsh speakers under five years of age than over 60. is a strong example of the popularity of the Welsh language – 16,000 articles on the site are written in Welsh, more than for any other non-English UK indigenous language.

Nominet has recently carried out some research with Welsh businesses to understand the appeal of the new domains. Encouragingly this has shown that 65% of enterprises who trade in Wales think that a .wales/.cymru domain would enhance their business and make it more attractive to potential customers. Much of this appeal is due to the fact that nine out of ten businesses were confident that the new TLDs would provide businesses with an opportunity to express and emphasize their proudly Welsh identity.

Awareness of the new gTLD launches is currently relatively low with just one in six businesses knowing that they are in development. However, once they were made aware of .wales and .cymru the respondents identified many benefits to owning one of the domains including them being proof of their Welsh heritage, being a local Welsh business and being more appealing to their Welsh customers.

Over 40% of the businesses surveyed who already have a website stated an immediate interest in purchasing one of the new domains, with around 80% of these claiming they would use the new domain alongside their existing TLD. The industries most interested in purchasing a .wales or a .cymru were agriculture, farming and forestry as well as food and drink manufacturers and wholesalers. When thinking about specific uses for the new domains three quarters would use the new domain to drive visitors to Welsh language content on their site and 60% who currently don’t have any Welsh content on their site would consider creating it specifically for the new domain.

Nominet’s ambition for the Domain for Wales is that it will have a solid public purpose, helping raise the profile of the country globally as well as boosting the Welsh economy and these recent research results show that we’re on the right track. Engaging with and enthusing the Welsh community will be a vital part of our success and will firmly establish .wales and .cymru in the Welsh psyche.

Phil Kingsland, Nominet


Director of Marketing and Communications

As business sites now account for more than an estimated three million .uk websites it is impossible to ignore the vital role that the .uk space plays in the national digital economy.

This position is even more significant when you consider that 25% of sites feature some form of e-commerce. These sites are actively participating our digital economy, enabling businesses to trade more efficiently and helping to meet the needs of consumers shopping for goods and services online.

This is a very encouraging picture and there remains significant potential for future growth. The infrastructure, reach and accessibility of the internet in the UK is expanding and developing. Businesses able to leverage this along with the consumer trust placed in the .uk namespace are going to be better positioned to grow, particularly in tougher economic times.

There are a relatively high volume of domains that do not resolve to websites, and whilst a significant proportion are parked or being used for email, many will represent domains that have been purchased with an intent to develop for business or personal use, yet barriers such as time, knowledge and cost still exist and have prevailed.

Usage of a domain has a clear link to likelihood of renewal. Registrars focused on growing their businesses know that encouraging registrants not to leave these domains dormant but to bring them to life is key. Once a domain is used registrants are also more likely to invest in other services such as hosting, email, or website development and see their domain as an asset to the business that they need to continue when it comes to renewal.

Social media is also increasingly becoming an important tool for business sites as they use it to engage with customers, increase visits to their site and therefore grow their revenues. Over 800,000 make the connection from their site to their Facebook or Twitter accounts. The pervasive nature of social media is leading some companies to make the switch entirely towards social media campaigns, which will likely have an impact on some traditional marketing techniques.

Dr Victoria Nash from the Oxford Internet Institute is expecting to see more companies focus on their website in the next year as the effects of the recession continue to bite. Meanwhile, Andreas Pouros from Greenlight believes that businesses now realise they can’t afford to not be trading online, which could result in more domains being registered in the business sector.



Trust in the .uk web space is currently at an unparalleled level and with national pride at an all-time high following the massively successful 2012 Olympic Games we expect to see this trend continue.

As we approach the launch of the new gTLDs maintaining the awareness and reputation of .uk in the mind of the British consumer will become increasingly important.


With the global economic market still in a period of turmoil and uncertainty it is reassuring to see that the domain industry remains strong, with growth rates increasing year on year. There are now over a quarter of a billion domain names registered globally and we expect to see this continue to grow rapidly as internet penetration in the developing world continues and the new range of gTLDs hit the market.


As broadband penetration in the UK grows, and with the launch of the much anticipated 4G service, internet usage in the UK is on a steep upward trend.

Recent figures from the Office for National Statistics have shown that usage has doubled in the last six years and that in 2012 two thirds of adults accessed the internet at least once per day. Email is the most common activity on-line, followed by shopping and banking. Currently only 6% of Brits have their own website or blog, and this is an area of huge potential growth.


Our registrars are vital to the integrity and success of the .uk registry, being the interface between ourselves and the registrants of the 10 million+ .uk domains.

We work with all our registrar partners, providing the technical systems and support needed to help maximise their business while at the same time enhancing the .uk experience for our registrants. As well as technical expertise and support we also pro-actively share any relevant information and insight that might benefit their business.

Latest .uk monthly data for November 2013

Total on register: 10,548,454 Monthly new registrations: 106,518 Monthly Renewals: 352,257

Dr Victoria Nash, Oxford Internet Institute


Director of Graduate Studies and Policy and Research Fellow
Oxford Internet Institute

It’s interesting to note the relatively high proportion of domain names that do not resolve to a valid site or that resolve to a valid site but one that is parked or being held. This could suggest that domain names as a resource are not being used as efficiently as they could.

I see the figures here have risen quite a bit since 2008. The slightly controversial point to make here is that it certainly doesn’t suggest that we are running out of domain names and therefore need new global Top Level Domains (gTLDs).

The economic climate

Given that advertising is supposed to matter more in a recession, I would expect to see more companies focusing on their websites in the next year, particularly looking for new and relatively cheap ways to raise their profiles and attract new customers. In that light, I would expect categories R (Arts, Entertainment and Recreation), S (Other Service Activities) & I (Accommodation and Food Service Activities) to increase their share.

Social media

Using these tools effectively requires some careful thought and research on the part of companies. I would be interested to know of those that say they do use Facebook or Twitter whether they use them regularly, whether they have many followers and in what way this makes a difference to their business. It’s perfectly understandable that non-business sites are more likely to use these tools, and I would certainly expect businesses to be less likely to have photo albums.

Nominet comment


Phil Kingsland
Director of Marketing and Communications

2012 has been another strong year for the global Top Level Domain market with over 25 million new registrations taking the total to over a quarter of a billion. The year on year growth of +11% exceeded that of the previous year and with the new gTLDs hitting the market imminently we anticipate a growth explosion in the next few years.

The UK has the strongest relative internet economy of the G20 nations and as such we expect to see the changing dynamics of the UK’s retail environment reflected globally in future years as omni-channel retailers thrive while traditional high street only retailers struggle.

In recent years the ccTLD market has become increasingly important in the global market but with new gTLDs coming on the scene it will be interesting to see how this dynamic changes. Currently a combination of traditionally local ccTLDs (such as .uk and .de) and actively remarketed ‘global’ ccTLDs (such as .co, .tk and .me) account for nearly half of the total market. In future we will see new gTLDs offer a local geographic appeal (such as .africa, .wales and .london) which potentially could trigger a massive change. While the appeal of owning a TLD relevant to your home will not fade with the increased competition, it will be interesting to see how the more global ccTLDs fare.


Nominet comment


Phil Kingsland
Director of Marketing and Communications

Internet usage in the UK has doubled in recent years and our internet economy is a bigger proportion of our GDP than any other G20 nation which is very positive news for those of us involved in the UK domain name industry.

The nature of the .uk registry has played a significant role in growing the internet economy; its credibility and reliability means that consumers have the confidence to purchase on line. In fact we’ve found that eight out of ten UK consumers prefer to buy from a .uk website and it is the most trusted domain in the country.

We now have well over 10 million domains on the registry and anticipate seeing this number continue to grow just as consumer demand continues to grow. With new gTLDs about to hit the market, the UK consumer is going to be faced with a raft of choices when it comes to domains, whether they are browsing and purchasing from web sites or they are looking to register their own name. Familiarity, relevance, trust and confidence will continue to be key factors in the success of the .uk namespace.


Nominet comment


Eleanor Bradley
Chief Operating Officer

Working closely with our registrars is an integral part of the success of the .uk registry and in the last twelve months we have stepped up our support of the channel introducing various tools and initiatives to help grow their business.

Co-branded marketing activity and a successful co-marketing programme have ensured we have been able to deliver a compelling brand proposition, get our branding front of mind with UK internet users and make a strong case for users to invest in a .uk. Added to this are additional tools and services which have been introduced to help our registrars understand and grow their businesses, from the availability of market intelligence in our Business Intelligence tool to the adoption of multi-year renewal periods (MYRP) which opens up more choice to the end user.

As we approach the launch of the new gTLDs later this year we know our registrars will have an increasingly challenging and diversified product offering and we are committed to working with them to ensure the continued success of and .cmyru.


Nominet comment


Alex Blowers
Director of Legal & Policy

Nominet’s commitment to ensuring a safe and secure environment in which to do business is fundamental to the success of our .uk portfolio.

With four out of five people continuing to prefer .uk sites over other alternatives when searching on-line, this indicates that businesses using .uk continue to offer the services users expect including; pricing in UK pounds, compliance with UK law and providing support from a UK postal address.

Security remains a key element of protecting consumer trust. We continue to focus on raising the bar in this area, working with our registrars, in order to ensure that customers can be confident in doing business on-line.

Our influence in the global policy agenda is credible because of our expertise and good record in operating a stable and secure infrastructure for .uk.

We continue to work with government, law enforcement agencies and policy makers to ensure the entire .uk domain name space remains a trusted and safe environment for all.


The top 20 frequently used words in .uk


The .uk registry now has more than 10 million domain names. Each one of those is generally a word, series of words, a number, date, place or brand name, and, of course combinations of all of those. Analysing which specific words are most frequently used is a difficult process. Many short words are words in their own right, but the majority of their use, is as a bound morpheme within longer words. For example all appears in words such as ball, call and install in over 200,000 domain names, but it would be inappropriate to say that all is one of the most frequently used words in .uk.

Top 10 verbs

In developing the list of frequently used words within domain names we have studied n-grams of varying lengths as well as looking at word tokens and the various parts of speech for the same word e.g. service, services, servicing, serviced. The detailed study of n-grams is also available in this report.

Top 10 nouns

The 20 most frequently used words in .uk domain names total over 1.1 million instances with the top ten accounting for 700,000 of that total. At the top of the list is service followed by home and shop. There is only one geographical location in the top 20: London with over 83,000 occurrences in .uk domain names. School and hotel rank highly at 12 and 13, being used as a constituent part of many school and hotel domain names. As well as business itself, there are a number of business service words in the top 20 including: solution, property, media, wedding, electric, training and print. It is interesting to note that centre is in the top 20 proving that the .uk register predominantly uses UK English spelling of words.

The full top 20 in order of frequency is:

Service, home, shop, london, house, solution, group, photo, property, business, sport, school, hotel, media, wedding, centre, electric, training, world, print.

Top 10 adjectives

Looking beyond the top 20 introduces some more specific industry terms such as insurance at 25, travel at 26, and marketing at 31. The second most popular geographic reference is Manchester at 63 in the list appearing in over 17,000 domain names, closely followed by Scotland at 65. The top 50 words appear in 1.7 million domain names.




Lesley Cowley
Chief Executive

Welcome to our latest issue of Domain Business where we look at the domain industry as a whole and focus in on industry developments in the UK. In this issue we’re taking a retrospective look back at 2012, a year which saw the continued growth of the Top Level Domain (TLD) market as global registrations reached over a quarter of a billion.

In our last issue we looked at the strength of the UK internet economy and how we’re leading the way in the G20. This time we’re looking at the domain market and considering how it is changing as we approach the launch of new Top Level Domains.

Globally the future remains bright

The global domain name industry continues to see strong growth, with registrations up +11% year on year. This growth has been driven by ccTLDs and in particular by some of the actively remarketed ‘global’ ccTLDs such as .co, .tk and .me.

The more established domains, meanwhile, such as, .com, .net, and .org, are experiencing slowing growth rates and are growing at a slower rate than the overall market.

Promotions and creative initiatives are stimulating change in the UK

The total UK domain name market (all TLDs registered to a UK address) has seen a slowing rate of growth in the past year, most notably over the last three quarters. We have seen differing performance rates across all sections of the market at different times as assorted promotional campaigns have been activated showing that the market is responsive to promotions. Why growth rates are slowing is intriguing and there is much speculation:

  • Is it the sign of a maturing market?
  • Is it a symptom of the upcoming launch of new TLDs?
  • Is it a symptom of prolonged tough global economic uncertainty?
  • Is it a combination of these or other factors – or something further as yet unknown?

Looking specifically at .uk in the UK, since passing the 10m .uk names barrier last year, which was a great achievement for all associated with the industry, we’ve seen an overall slow in the rate of growth of the register.

Register growth is based on two key factors: new registrations and renewal of existing registrations. In recent years we have witnessed a long term trend towards lower growth rates of new registrations and 2012 saw our first decline in new registration levels.

We have seen a similar trend in renewals as previously stable renewal rates have declined in the last year. Some of this decline is caused by promotional registrations reaching their first renewal period and experiencing poor renewal rates but this is not the sole reason for the declining renewal rate and we are further examining the underlying causes for non-renewal. More information can be found on our UK Registrar Update page.

What happens next

Overall the market is experiencing changing times and the introduction of new Top Level Domains later this year will stimulate further change. We’ll be keeping a close eye on the changes and keeping you posted of our findings and views.

Andreas Pouros, Greenlight



My overall impression of the data is that there are no real surprises. However, I did find it very interesting how domain name registration is linked to our economic performance as a country. I hadn’t thought of that before.

Even though we have seen lots of changes in the way people promote themselves online, through social media, the domain name still seems to be the most important and takes pride of place. You can see that in the growth of global domain name registrations regardless of what’s happening with the global economy. The continued popularity of domain names is a sign of entrepreneurial spirit. A domain name is the first step in getting that great website created, and it’s largely inexpensive to do that. It’s an indicator of people’s ambition, innovation and entrepreneurship to a degree. I’m not sure whether the economic climate will have an effect on this. It might be that people decide to concentrate on growing their existing business rather than creating new ventures.

However, I don’t believe that the economic climate has had much of an effect on the types of businesses or individuals that are registering domains. The people who are particularly active online are the ones potentially least affected by the economic downturn. Being involved in the Internet is one of the best places to be right now – people are investing in it and more people are advertising online. Some of our clients have changed their behaviour a bit, but not due to the economy. For example, those who used to create a lot of microsites for each advertising campaign are now typically pushing people to Facebook for those promotional activities

I think that over the next year we will see more domain names being registered in the business to business sector. The infrastructure is now in place to make it easier for businesses to sell to other businesses. More and more businesses are coming online and benefitting from website services and registration packages with hosting and CSS built in. Businesses realise that they can’t afford not to be trading online, and although some are slow to catch up with social media etc. they are at least getting domain names and websites now.

Social media is certainly far more prevalent now. Are businesses missing a trick if they are not using it? Well, I think it depends on what kind of businesses we are talking about. Big enterprise brands are investing a lot in social media, engaging in conversations and taking advantage of new methods of promotion. Smaller businesses may be missing a trick, but because social media is so new they are not really up to speed with it yet – they are still trying to get their heads around SEO etc. They’ll probably get there, but not for a while. In fact I think there’s a lot of responsibility within the industry to educate small businesses about the advantages of social media and how to get involved. It is potentially a big market but it’s all a bit big and scary for them at the moment. For smaller businesses there is less brand impact in web advertising, whereas if they jump into social media unprepared it can be quite dangerous. Social media provides so much transparency for the consumer, and once you start engaging socially it creates a lot of work for you as a business. Small businesses could struggle to handle that workload. They don’t want their brand reputation to suffer as a result of one unhappy customer, but at the same time they don’t have the time to spend counteracting that on social media sites.

Whilst it is true that parked pages represent a significant proportion of the registry these days I don’t think the impact on consumers is as bad as it used to be. Google and other search engines have worked out how to identify websites that don’t contain content and don’t display them in the search results. As a result, consumers shouldn’t really see parked pages these days as they don’t rank highly anymore. Where parked pages do have a negative impact is in preventing people from finding decent brand names. It is limiting people’s ability from entering online confidently with a nice short brand name. I’m not really sure how you can counteract that, but it has prevented people from registering the perfect name for their business. I believe that there is a knock-on effect of this in terms of cost to the economy. It can take weeks for entrepreneurs to come up with a list of names for new ventures and then research how many of them have domain names available in the TLDs with a higher degree of trust such as and .com. That means there’s a loss in productivity as a result.

Growth in the use of cities in .uk domain names


The graphic here plots the occurrence of city names within .uk domain names since 1994. Each flash represents the month and year of registration of a domain name containing a city for all currently active domain names. Each location marker then grows in size and colour intensity to demonstrate the popularity of that city within .uk domain names. The graphic can be paused and the month total (cumulative total) for each city can be show. London is the most used city term having grown to be used in over 83,000 domain names in the .uk register. This represents 24% of the total for all English cities and 20% of the whole of the UK.

The internet plays a huge role in UK commerce and the use of city names within domain names gives a good indication of how the internet is used by local businesses to target local customers. However it also shows how the internet can be used to build local communities, charities and associations. Within .uk the use of the 66 city names of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland has grown from a total of 26,000 in 2001 to over 400,000 in 2012. This represents 4% of the 10 million .uk domain names. If you were to add the use of counties, towns and villages, this figure would be even larger demonstrating the importance of a clearly distinguished local offering within .uk to UK consumers.

Analysis of the database is not without complexities and anomalies. For example Bath is also a generic term, and a number of cities are also the stem of county names for example Nottingham and Nottinghamshire. Additionally Chester appears in Manchester, Winchester and Chichester. We have used a number of different techniques and algorithms to reduce the impact of these and other cases, to produce estimated statistics relating to city use within domain names.


Report snapshot

81% of British internet users prefer to use a .uk website


Report snapshot

Nearly 2 million new .uk domains were registered in 2012


Report snapshot

Over a quarter of a billion domains registered globally


Report snapshot

54% of domain renewals are prompted by registrar reminders


8 out of 10 Brits prefer a .uk

Preference for .uk over .com


When buying products or services on-line 81% of British internet users prefer to use a .uk website over a .com. This strong preference is growing year on year, having increased +7% in the last three years and is indicative of the strong consumer trust we’ve developed in the .uk domain space. When simply searching for information on-line we’ve found this number to reduce slightly to 74% as the need for local-specific info is reduced, but this is still a distinct preference for the local choice – and again this preference has increased significantly in the last three years.

Women have a slightly higher preference for than men and nine out of ten users in Scotland prefer a when buying on-line. Preference for is also particularly high with younger users – nearly seven out of eight users aged 18-24 prefer to use a rather than a .com.


Source: Insight Engineers

Global registrations reach 250,000,000

Total global domain registrations

By the end of 2012 the number of domain registrations across the globe reached a quarter of a billion. With the world’s population estimated at seven billion this means there’s a domain registered for every 28 people on the planet – and with the growth rate of registrations currently standing at 10 times that of population growth we can expect to see this penetration to grow to one domain per 15 people by the end of the decade.

Country code top level domains (ccTLDs) are edging nearer to accounting for half of all domains, currently equalling 42% of all registrations, a growth of +2% against 2011 figures.

Source: ZookNIC

Renewals Research

What prompted you to renew your .uk domain name?
I received an email reminder from my registrar. 54.%
I received a reminder in the post from my registrar. 0.4%
I received an invoice from my registrar. 4.5%
I received an email reminder from Nominet. 4.9%
I visited the web site. 0.1%
I checked my registration certificate. 0.5%
The domain name stopped working (suspended). 0.9%
I monitor my domain names closely so do not need reminders. 2.4%
I looked up the renewal date using a WHOIS service. 0.5%
Personal reminder from a friend or colleague 0.5%
The domain name renews automatically. 26.8%
Other 3.6%
  Recent qualitative research into .uk domain renewals has shown that in the majority of cases, registrar actions can secure the renewal. 27% of renewals are driven by an auto-renew function and another 54% are prompted by registrar reminders that the renewal is due. Of all the renewing registrants surveyed just over 2% actively monitored their domains and were aware of renewal dates showing that the registrant needs registrar support to manage their domain. Here at Nominet we are reviewing our communications with the registrant around renewal and would urge registrars to optimise theirs too.

Preferred renewal periods

  When questioned about preferred periods for renewal the two most popular choices were five years or lifetime, each being the favoured period for just over 30% of respondents. This preference has so far not been seen in actual renewals; since we introduced Multi Year Renewals Periods (MYRP) in May 2012 we’ve seen that 84% of all renewals have been for a two year period and another 13% for single year periods with the remaining 3% being for periods of two years plus. Ensuring that registrants are fully aware of the different renewal period options open to them and encouraging longer renewals should help drive more long-term renewals.

Source: Nominet registrant renewals research

Report snapshots

23% of business sites on .uk contain ecommerce functionality

Domain name length

The average length of a .uk domain name has grown from 11.67 in 2001 to 13.84 in 2012. The increase in length could be attributed to a number of factors. The first is availability. Shorter domain names are viewed as more memorable and therefore more desirable. In .uk, 94.1% of all 3 character combinations are registered, 7.7% of 4 character and just 0.3% of the 67.5 million 5 character combinations.


However the .com register is ten times larger than .uk with around 100 million domain names, yet its average length is lower at 13.3. The reason for this could be that UK businesses and consumers are more accepting of longer domain names that are a more accurate description of the product, service or location of the business or website.

.uk registry tops 10 million as growth slows

.uk total registry size and growth rate

The .uk registry maintains its position as the fifth biggest registry in the world, behind .com, .de, .net and .tk. Having passed the 10 million domains landmark in March 2012, by the end of 2012 the number of .uk domains stood at 10,301,331. The slowing growth rate is partly due to the maturing market, expiring promotional domains with a lower renewal rate and increasing competition in the marketplace with growing consumer awareness of other TLD offerings in the UK. With the launch of the new gTLDs we expect to see the .uk register continue to grow at a conservative pace but the increased choice for consumers will undoubtedly impact the uptake of new .uk domains.

Source: ZookNIC/Nominet

Global growth is driven by ccTLDs

TLD registration growth rates

In the last seven years ccTLDs have driven the growth of the global market, out-growing gTLDs every year except 2010 when a near 10 million drop in .cn domains (due to policy changes) had a massive impact on the total. In 2012 ccTLDs grew nearly three times as fast as gTLDs (+18.3% vs +6.4%).

With the impending launch of the new range of gTLDs we expect to see this picture change drastically with large growths in the gTLD area, however the consumer appeal of the established ccTLDs will continue, particularly as existing registries continue with innovative marketing strategies such as .co’s re-positioning as the TLD for business and .tk’s free domain business model.

Source: ZookNIC

.uk grows faster than .de and .net

TLD annual growth rate

With the exception of .tk which benefits from an aggressive free domain business model the top TLDs appear to have reached maturity and as such their growth rates have slowed significantly in recent years. .uk has seen the steepest decline in growth rate in the past year, dropping from +9.4% (2011 vs 2010) to +4.6% (2012 vs 2011) but this rate is still higher than .de and .net which both saw growth of +3.7% year on year. Increased competition from the new gTLDs in 2013 and 2014 will impact new registrations across all existing TLDs but the established reputation of the top five registries should ensure their continued growth.

Source: ZookNIC

Companies Act compliance

November 2011

Screen Shot 2011-11-08 at 21.39.12

All UK business websites are required under the UK Companies Act 2007 to show clearly a small amount of business information, including their company registration number and registered address.

The information was not easily found on 26% of sites. However, 65% did provide easy to find information related to the business and 9% were fully compliant with the law.


Start with an S…

The letter S is the most frequent first character used in domain names

Multi-Year Renewal Periods impact on the register

New Registrations

Multi Year Renewal Periods (MYRP) were introduced to the .uk registry in May 2012 and early results have shown that this is driving a growing proportion of short-term registrations. We have yet to see how these single year registrations perform at renewal, but given the trend of younger domains having lower renewal rates (see The UK in Detail page for more information) they could be subject to lower renewal levels. To counter this, we recommend close communication with these registrants prior to the expiry date to encourage early renewals.

Source: Nominet

.uk is more trusted than .com

Trust in .uk vs .com


The preference for .uk websites is driven largely by the inherent trust in the space and we’ve found that only 5% of British internet users trust .com more than .uk.

While the majority of users trust the two spaces to the same degree, just under a third express more trust in .uk than in .com. In recent years we’ve seen some movement from trusting .uk more than .com to trusting both equally and there has been no significant change in the number who trust .com more. Overall, nine out of ten users trust .uk more or the same as .com.


Source: Insight Engineers

TLD Market share – .com continues to dominate

TLD market share

  .com continues to dominate the global TLD market although its market share has declined in the last two years as registrations have not grown at the same pace as the total market. Conversely .tk have seen their market share grow from 2% in 2010 up to 5% by the end of 2012, due to the innovative business model of giving away up to three domains free of charge to individuals or small businesses who agree to their usage requirements. .uk has seen a small decline of 0.3% in market share in the last year as competition in the UK market place has increased and .de is also witnessing a declining market share, losing 0.4% since 2011.

Source: ZookNIC

Nearly two million new .uk domains registered in 2012

Annual new .uk registrations

The number of new .uk registrations in 2012 was 1.98 million, just under the two million levels seen in 2010 and 2011; overall the year on year decline of new registrations was -4.8%. With the launch of the new gTLDs just around the corner being mitigated by increased marketing support for .uk we anticipate the new registrations levels to flatten out at this level of around two million per year. The start of 2013 has reinforced this prediction with new registrations at the same level as January 2011.

Source: Nominet

Domain name usage

November 2011

Screen Shot 2011-11-08 at 21.40.41

Of the .uk domains checked in the sample, 76% resolved to a valid web page. Comparable research from 2008 found that 74% of .uk domain names resolve to a valid web page.

The majority (20%) of sites that did not resolve to a valid web page returned an HTTP 404 error message.

For those sites that did resolve to a valid web page:

  • Business sites account for 43% (33% of total). In 2008 this was 38% (29% of total)
  • Parked pages account for 29% (22% of total). In 2008 this was 28% (21% of total)
  • Holding pages account for 19% (15% of total). In 2008 this was 20.5% (16% of total)

Did you know?

is the most frequent character used in domains

Report snapshot

UK on-line shoppers prefer to Buy British.


Registrant Data Update Window

At Nominet we strive to provide a world-class registry for .uk and minimise any fraudulent domain name usage. A key element of this is ensuring that the information we hold for each and every one of our 10 million+ domains is accurate and up to date. To this end we are constantly reviewing the information we hold for each domain and identifying where there may be missing information or anomalies in the data we hold.

In May and June last year we ran a trial of a Registrant Data Update Window which enabled registrars to update any records that we had identified as being inaccurate or unable to be validated by third parties. This trial was successful in improving our overall data quality and so we have re-opened this window for a six month period, running until 6th August 2013. During this time a list of any domains that we have not been able to validate will be available to all registrars through our Web Domain Manager (WDM) and these records can be updated via Standard-EPP, the Automaton or directly in WDM.

We are urging all our registrars to assist us with this project so we can ensure the integrity of our register and maintain the high levels of trust and confidence in the .uk domain space. If you would like any more information on this project, please visit

ccTLD registry size – .tk almost doubles in size

ccTLD registry sizes

.de maintains its position as the largest ccTLD having broken the 15 million domains barrier during 2012 although .tk is getting closer to this top position having almost doubled in the last 12 months (from 7.1 mio to 12.3 mio). .uk holds firm as the third largest ccTLD but beneath these top three there have been some changes in the rankings. .cn has seen significant growth in the last quarter (more than 1.5mio registrations) and has jumped up from sixth to fourth in the table, overtaking .nl and .ru in the process. In the middle of the table the registries are very close in size with less than 100k registrations separating the registries for Australia, France, Italy and Argentina.

Source: ZookNIC

Business classification on .uk

November 2011

Screen Shot 2011-11-08 at 21.41.34

The largest segment of business sites were classified as wholesale and retail trade. These made up 18% of the overall results. Sites in the information or communications industries were the second most common making up 16% of the total. Other significant categories included arts, entertainment and recreation, construction, and accommodation and food.


Cities in UK domain names


In 2001 the 50 cities of England were used in over 22,000 domain names. This averaged 441 uses per city. The least mentioned city was Ripon with 45 and the highest was London with 4,875. Manchester was the second highest with 851. The city of Ely ranks highly with 846 however it is not easy to isolate the term ely from other uses.

Growth factor: 2001 – 2011


Over the past 10 years the year on year growth in use of English cities has been consistent averaging 28%, peaking at 40% in 2003. In 2012 the total figure had grown to 333,028 across all 50 English city names. London still represents over 20% of the total, however growth in registrations containing London has declined from a peak of 46% year on year growth in 2003/4 to 16% in 20011/12. Although with 83,343 domain names already containing London, availability of useful domain names may now be limited.

In 2012 by total volume Manchester (17,315) is the second most popular city followed by Bristol (17,315) and Leeds (13,190). England’s second city, Birmingham, only ranks 5th in domain name terms with 12,366 mentions. The city with the highest growth factor over the past 10 years is Liverpool with a growth factor of 21.9 between 2001 and 2012. This is followed by Chichester, Southampton and Wolverhampton who have all seen a growth factor in excess of 21 over that period. In comparison, London’s growth factor is 16.1, Manchester 19.1 and Birmingham 20.9. Ripon is still the least mentioned city in 2012 with 556 domain name mentions and a growth factor of 12.4. The lowest growth factor over the past 10 years is 7.1 for the City of Westminster. Second lowest is Wells with a growth factor of 8.5. The use of York and Bath show very high volumes at 21,000 and 20,000 respectively, however using filters to remove NewYork, Yorkshire and generic bathroom terms sees these figures reduced by more than 50%.

When looking at city use in domain names per 1,000 population, the smaller cities fair much better. However the cities topping the list all have anomalies that potentially make the data unreliable. Ely, Wells, Durham and Bath top the list. 3 of these potentially have generic use and Durham is also a county name. Chester has 85 domain name mentions per 1000 population and Chichester has 63. Cambridge scores 61 compared to Oxford with 52.


The five cities in Wales have grown from being used in just under 1,000 domain names in 2001 to over 16,000 domain names in 2012. Cardiff has consistently represented 50% of this total. Cardiff and Swansea combined account for 74% of the Welsh cities mentioned in domain names. The average year on year growth rate for the use of Welsh cities in domain names is marginally higher than the figure for English cities at 29%, peaking at 43% again in 2003.

Growth factor: 2001 – 2011


When looking at the growth factor however, Swansea and Newport have grown in usage at a higher rate than Cardiff. Comparisons by population are more useful than the English cities due to the smaller data set and lack of generic terms. The Welsh city of St David’s, the smallest city in the UK therefore tops this table being used in 324 domain names per 1,000 population (stdavids/st-davids). This means that for every 3 people living in the city there is a domain name that mentions St David’s. This is most likely due to the cities reliance on tourism and therefore the number of small businesses using the internet to market the city and their services to a global audience using the .uk top level domain, it additionally picks up generic usage as the patron Saint of Wales. Bangor also scores well with 41.8 mentions in domain names per 1,000 population.


Growth factor: 2001 – 2011


The six cities in Scotland are currently mentioned in almost 37,000 .uk domain names. This represents an average of 6,163 for each city, growing from an average of 388 and a total of 2,382 in 2001. 67% of the current total is made up by Edinburgh and Glasgow. These two cities, over the past ten years, have matched each other in terms of domain name mentions with Edinburgh marginally ahead from 2001 – 2010. Between 2010 and 2011 however Glasgow grew by 42% and is currently mentioned in 13,208 domain names compared to 11,006 for Edinburgh.

Glasgow leads the way in terms of domain name growth with a 10 year growth factor of 18. Edinburgh with a growth factor of 14.4 is lower than Inverness at 16.4. Inverness’ growth over the past few years has seen it overtake Stirling in terms of volume of domain name mentions.

The cities of Scotland are all closely matched when looking at domain name mentions per 1,000 population. Again the smallest city, Stirling, with the lowest population and volume of domain name mentions, tops the per capita table with 49. In this measure Edinburgh out performs Glasgow with 21.4 mentions per 1,000 population compared to 19.9. Dundee has the lowest figure at 16.7.

Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland has 5 cities which have grown in domain name mentions from 319 in 2001 to 7,601 in 2012. Belfast dominates this list being used in 63% of domain names mentioning cities in Northern Ireland. Derry just exceed 1,000 mentions with Newry and Lisburn at 5-600. Armagh trails slightly behind with 448. Mentions of Belfast in domain names are at a similar level to the cities of Swansea in Wales and Bradford in England.

Growth factor: 2001 – 2011


Newry has seen the largest growth over this period with a growth factor of 36.1 over the period 2001-2012. Despite the low volumes, the cities of Northern Ireland have seen growth rates exceeding those in other countries with 4 of the 5 cities (80%) having a growth index above 15. This compares with just 33% in Scotland and 56% in England.

Armagh has the highest number of domain name mentions per 1,000 population with 26, comparable to Inverness in Scotland and Carlisle in England. Derry has just 6.8 mentions per 1,000 population one of the lowest values in the UK city sample. In total the cities of Northern Ireland are used 13.7 times per 1,000 total city population. This is lower than Scotland at 21.3, Wales at 21.5 and England at 17.6.

Nominet is almost 93% of the total .uk register

New registrations by SLD

uk-register is by far the largest Second Level Domain (SLD) in the .uk portfolio, accounting for 94% of all new registrations in 2012., the non-commercial SLD is the second largest with just under 5% of new registrations and is the next most popular choice with just under 1% of all new registrations. In total on the register domains are 92.6% of the total and are 5.8%.

The other SLD options (,, and are targeted at niche markets with specific registration rules and so have considerably smaller registration numbers. The number of domains on the register is over 35,000 – with the total number of schools in the country estimated at between 30-40 thousand, this domain clearly has a very high penetration level.

Source: Nominet

.uk sites are expected to be tailored to the UK consumer

Expectations from a .uk website/domain


When questioned about their expectations of a .uk website, unsurprisingly we’ve found that users expect sites to be tailored to the UK marketplace, with £ sterling prices displayed, conformity to UK laws regarding security and data protection and UK-based customer support. While the internet may have opened up international trading and the ability to source goods from around the globe, UK on-line shoppers still primarily prefer to buy British.

Source: Insight Engineers

The Best Customer Experience in the country (nearly)


Our busy Customer Services Department are here to help you and your business and in 2012 they dealt with over 80,000 calls and 25,000 emails.

To ensure we are delivering the best possible service we conduct an independent customer satisfaction survey each year, using an external specialist research company. We target our two primary customer groups: our registrar partners and our domain name registrants. Each year we select 25,000 registrants and 200 registrars who have used our service and invite them to complete a web based survey. We’re delighted to report that last year our registrar satisfaction index was 92% and our registrant satisfaction index was 88%.

We also run real-time satisfaction surveys and invite registrars and registrants to give us immediate feedback about their recent contact with Customer Services. From the real-time satisfaction results, we contact any dissatisfied customers to find out if we can resolve their issue or hear their suggestions on how we can improve our services.

Last year we were finalists for the second year running in the UK Customer Experience Awards. These awards celebrate and promote excellence in customer experience across a broad spectrum of industries and we were delighted to receive recognition for our team. Unfortunately we were pipped at the post by Abel and Cole but are determined to reverse this result in 2013.

ccTLD penetration varies massively across the world

Top 20 ccTLD penetration against population

Globally, the penetration level for domain ownership stands at just under 4% but there are massive variations at individual registry levels. Looking at the top 20 registries we see penetration levels ranging from a tiny 0.1% in India through to a mighty 31% in the Netherlands. These variations reflect different factors in the countries themselves such as industrialisation, registration policies, internet reach and broadband take up and pricing.

Tokelau is not shown in the above graph. The free .tk domain business model has attracted massive global registrants, far out-reaching the population of this small territory of New Zealand. Were the penetration to be measured against the 1,400 population of the islands the results would show that each inhabitant had registered around 9,000 domain names each.

Source: ZookNIC

Promotional domains impact renewal rates

Monthly renewal rates

Monthly renewal rates for .uk domains have been impacted by the maturity of promotional domains in the last twelve months and we’ve seen that when a domain is registered on impulse it is less likely to be renewed. Removing these promotional domain campaigns from the renewals picture shows an average renewal rate of around 70% which is in line with the strong rates seen at the start of 2008.

Source: Nominet

Social media on .uk

November 2011

Screen Shot 2011-11-08 at 21.43.10

We found that more than 35% of all .uk sites sampled featured some type of social media content. This increased to 43% for e-commerce sites and 53% for non-business sites.

Facebook (14%) and Twitter (13%) were the most common services, closely followed by blogs (12%) and photo galleries (11%). RSS remains less prevalent – less than 5% of sites provided easy access to an RSS feed from the home page.

In our test, which focused on the homepage, very few sites displayed a form of trust mark – such as “Verisign Secured” or “McAfee Secure”, although these may be present deeper within the site.

A small proportion of sites audited offered content in multiple languages (4%), or carried 3rd-party advertising (also 4%).



Associations with .uk

Associations with .uk vs .com


As you would expect, British internet users rate .uk websites as being more local than their .com equivalents and they also consider them to be more familiar, secure, credible and trusted. The only area where .com outperforms .uk in the mind of British users is in being considered global.


Source: Insight Engineers

Analysis of .uk domain names by Industry category

The words that are used in domain names show some interesting trends. As products and services come in and out of vogue, the use of certain words within domain names change reflecting the latest fashions and trends.



In its early years the internet was a technology platform and unsurprisingly the use of technology terms within domain names was high. As technologies and specific products have come to market, the use of those terms has increased also. The introduction of smart phones and the growth in application development has seen the term app grow from use in 3,700 domain names in 2001 to over 50,000 occurrences in 2012. However it should be noted that the the term app is also a constituent part of many other words.

Generic technology terms such as computer, server, internet and web have seen steady growth in their use. The term broadband shows interesting levels of use. The boom in broadband provision from 2004 resulted in significant growth in that term, however as broadband services became the accepted norm, its use has plateaued since 2010.

Shopping and e-commerce


Over the past 10 years the volume and value of transactions carried out on the internet has grown exponentially. This is reflected in common terms associated with shopping and e-commerce. The term shop is currently used in over 82,000 .uk domain names, growing from around 10,000 in 2001. As consumers have increased their spending online, the growth of sites offering product reviews has also increased. The term review has seen year on year growth rates in its use of over 30%. Bargain, discount and sale also show significant use and growth in this category.



The internet has had a major impact on the travel industry in the past 10 years with a large number of holidays, flights and hotels being researched and booked online. Hotel, holiday and travel are used in over 120,000 .uk domain names. Within this category, however, the explosion in the use of travel related terms in domain names was seen between 2000 and 2005 as the industry positioned itself in the new digital economy and adapted to new methods of customer acquisition and online marketing.

Banking and finance


Conducting personal finance online is now commonplace. Digital marketing of financial services is a highly competitive market with direct players, resellers and comparison services all operating in the online economy. There has been a six-fold increase in the use of the term bank in domain names since 2000 and this generic term now features in over 18,000 .uk domain names. Insurance has increased ten-fold in the same period and is currently used in over 33,000 domain names. Mortgage, cash, loan, and tax all feature strongly in .uk domain names.

Sport and leisure


Within sport and leisure football surprisingly only features in around 10,000 domain names. Given the number of professional and local clubs as well as fora, blogs and fanzines this total is surprisingly low. Rugby is half of this volume currently standing at around 5,000 domain names. Both football and rugby saw steady growth in usage from 2000-2009 but have now started to tail off, perhaps as local clubs and associations have established their online presence and fewer new registrations have taken place.

Food and drink


The rise of the celebrity chef has been accompanied by the increased use of the term chef in domain names increasing from 356 in 2002 to 3,210 in 2012. Eat features in almost 130,000 domain names, however being a short string the figure is skewed by it being a constituent part of many words – for example feature. The current trend of micro-businesses making cupcakes can be seen by the use of that term. In 2001 there were only 2 sites with cupcake in their domain name. From 2008 this started growing and it is now used in over 4,500 domain names. Slightly surprisingly this is more than the term recipe which only appears 2,255 times in the .uk registry. The words diet and healthy have both grown consistently at around 15% per annum. Restaurant and pub showed strong growth in usage with year on year growth figures in excess of 25% in the early part of the century, however growth in usage has declined in recent years – perhaps as established businesses have already set up their websites and fewer new businesses are being set up in the difficult economic climate.



Online gambling has been an industry in growth over the past 10 years and unsurprisingly terms associated with gambling have grown in use within .uk. Poker has grown from being used in 60 domain names 10 years ago to almost 9,000 domain names in 2012. However growth rates in usage in excess of 100% year on year between 2003 and 2006 have now stabilised to single digit growth in the past 4 years and an actual decline in use of -6% in the past 12 months. This is a similar story for a number of terms in this category.


Dispute Resolution Service update

2012 was a busy year for our Dispute Resolution Service (DRS), dealing with a total of 818 cases in the course of the year, an increase of +16% year on year.

More cases are raised in the areas of retail and banking than any other sector and collectively amount to just under a third of all cases. In the last three years around 20% of all cases were retail-related and a further 10% were from the banking sector. Of all the big name brands that have been subject to disputes in the last 12 months, the top 5 were all retail or banking related: Karen Millen, Coast and Swarovski on the retail front and Barclays and Natwest/RBS from banking.

Looking in detail at the closed cases, over a third (37%) saw no resolution which means the complaint was judged invalid or was withdrawn/not pursued by the complainant. Just under a third (28%) were resolved either directly by the parties themselves or through our mediation service and the remaining 34% were resolved using our panel of independent experts.

Results of resolved DRS cases 2012

The vast majority of resolved cases (88%) resulted in the domain being transferred to the complainant, with just 8% of cases seeing the respondent retain their domain.

The busiest months for new DRS cases were March, April and July, each accounting for around 10% of the year’s cases. November and December were the quietest months as registrant focus was firmly fixed on Christmas e-commerce.

Source: Nominet

Top 20 ccTLDs vs GDP – recession proof domains?

  Tough economic times globally have seen mixed changes to gross domestic product with some countries seeing substantial declines while others have seen strong growth. However all the registries in the top 20 have seen strong domain growth as the industry goes from strength to strength.

For most registries the growth rate of recent years has slowed down but two registries have seen distinctive growth rates – Tokelau due to their free domain business model and China who opened Internationalized Domain Names (IDNs) in 2012 and have seen a massive growth rate of +73% despite their negative growth of GDP of -8%. While this growth is exceptional, it’s worth considering that this growth is from a relatively low base and looking at the above graph showing market penetration, China has one of the lowest rates in the Top 20 at just under 0.5%.

Source: ZookNIC

Site extent

November 2011

Screen Shot 2011-11-08 at 21.44.29

We found that 26% of the sites sampled contained 10 or more pages – with retail sites, or sites with e-commerce functionality being more likely to be extensive. A majority of sites examined – 69% – were between 2 and 9 pages, and 5% were a single page.

Commerce on .uk

Of the business sites examined, 23% provided a form of e-commerce where goods or services could be bought and paid for online. All other business sites contained some form of online brochure or contact details for offline ordering.


Analysis of n-grams in the .uk domain name register

The analysis of common words used in domain names is an interesting but difficult exercise to complete. A more pragmatic approach is to analyse the use of n-grams. An n-gram is a contiguous sequence of n items. For example the most common 3 character n-gram in the .uk register is ing, which at the start of 2012 appeared in over 1 million of the 10 million .uk domain names.

Leading n-grams in .uk


n-Gram length n-gram occurrence % of register
3 ing 1,021,942 10.22%
4 tion 363,041 3.63%
5 ation 168,073 1.68%
6 servic 129203 1.29%
7 service 126,975 1.27%
8 services 103,010 1.03%


Three character n-grams (3-grams)

Three character n-grams tend to include the most significant morphemes used in the English language. Most of these are bound morphemes such as ing, ion and ent, however there are a number of free morphemes included in the top 20 3-grams such as and and the.

ing is by far the most common 3-gram, with over 1 million occurrences in the .uk domain register. ing therefore appears in over 10% of .uk domain names. The leading free morphemes are and and the which are also approaching half a million instances in .uk domain names, however it should be noted they are both bound and free morphemes. This clearly makes and and the the most common used words. However as a conjunction and definite article respectively, they are fairly meaningless as words in their own right. The majority of frequently used 3-grams are suffixes.

There has not been a great deal of change in the top 20 3-grams used in the past 10 years however, the free morpheme car has risen from 19th position in 2001 to 14th position in 2012 – the most significant movement within the list.

Four character n-grams (4-grams)

The popular four character n-grams are generally builds on popular 3-grams, with tion heading the list with 363,000 uses. Second is ting appearing in over 200,000 domain names. The extra character brings in a few more morphemes that are both bound and free such as vice, ment and sign. Combinations can also be seen that indicate likely common longer n-grams such as atio, tion and ions all being in the top five 4-grams.

Five character n-grams (5-grams)

As with the 4-grams at five characters we are still seeing bound morphemes dominating the list in ation and tions topping the frequency list. Service is quite clearly a commonly used word in domain names as we are now seeing the constituent parts of that word the third, fourth and fifth most frequent 5-grams in servi, ervic and rvice. At this number of characters the list is dominated by broken words like this with elements of design, online, London and solution making up the majority of the top 5-grams. There are now a couple of proper words included in the list in house and photo, with photo only entering the top 20 in 2010.

Six character n-grams (6-grams)

At six characters we are still seeing the building blocks of longer words, with some now being complete. Servic and ervice now head the list.  Design, online and London are now complete at six characters and rank 3rd, 5th and 6th in the 6-gram frequency list. Direct also now features in the top 20 having not featured previously, this is likely because at 5-gram direc and irect are almost exclusively used in the word direct so do not have increased frequency as a result of multiple word use. Now that there are more complete words, room in the top 20 is made for 6-grams of other long words such as property, photograph and consultant.

Seven character n-grams (7-grams)

At seven character the top 20 is now made up from the constituent parts of nine words: services, solutions, property, photography, consult, business, holiday, electric and wedding. Parts of the word insurance dropped out of the top 20 in 2010 and mortgag/ortgage left the top 20 in 2008. Product, systems and compute/omputer also featured previously. Between 2002 and 2005 the only hyphen in the n-gram study featured in the top 20 as part of the 7-gram –online.

Eight character n-grams (8-grams)

The list of frequent 8-grams now reads more like a list of proper words used in domain names. Heading the frequency list is services followed by solution. Property, business, and electric are also in the top 10. Cleaning and marketin/arketing are included in the top 20 for the first time.


Consumer confidence in on-line transactions is growing

Have security concerns when buying from a new site


During these challenging economic times, e-commerce is one area of reassuringly strong growth. On-line sales grew by a massive +16.4% in December year on year and consumer confidence in making on-line purchases is a crucial part of this growth.

Around a quarter of British on-line shoppers always have security concerns when making a purchase from a new website and a fifth usually have concerns. 42% admit to sometimes having concerns regarding security when buying from a new site leaving 14% who “rarely” have security concerns, an increase of +4% year on year. Whether this growing confidence is due to increased experience and understanding of on-line security or is due to misguided optimism is as yet unknown but as on-line purchasing continues on this upward trend we can expect to see consumer confidence in on-line security growing.


Source: Insight Engineers is going on the road

We are taking on the road as part of our 2013 integrated marketing campaign, to further raise awareness amongst SMEs and entrepreneurs within the UK.

We will be at various events across the country including the Business StartUp Show in London in June and MADE: The Entrepreneur Festival in Sheffield in September. A full list of the events we’ll be attending can be found here:

If registrars are in the area please do come along and visit us, or alternatively if you are exhibiting yourselves we would like to explore any cross-branding opportunities with you. We have developed a branded range of promotional merchandise for such events which are available for registrars to order for their own use. If you are interested in ordering any materials or would like to discuss any cross-branding opportunities, please contact us at

Renewal rates correlate to the age of the domain

Age of domain at renewal

As you would expect the longer a domain has been registered, and so the more established the website at that address is, the higher the likelihood of it being renewed.

Domains between three to four years old follow the average renewals rates of around 70% and this increases up to over 90% for domains aged 10 years and over. The lowest renewal rates are seen for domains aged less than two years old and here we can clearly see the impact of promotional domains which are registered on impulse and often without a clear plan for usage. Nearly half of these domains lapse once the initial registration period is over indicating that these new registrants need more support during the renewals period to encourage them not to let the domain lapse.

Source: Nominet

Relative frequency of characters


Ranging between 4 – 13%, vowels are the most frequently used characters in domain names, with the letter E being the most popular. The letters J, Q, X and Z are used the least.


Report snapshot

.uk is the 5th biggest registry in the world


The English language and the registry


When comparing the distribution of letters in .uk domain names, the registry shows good correlation to both the English language in common use and with the English dictionary. The letters E, H and T show greater use in language, suggesting less use of the word ‘the’ across the registry than in general use.

.uk, .com and .net all show similar letter distributions within domain names, and all show reasonable correlation to English. This suggests that .com and .net are predominantly based on the English language. However when looking in greater detail, where deviations in direct correlation are observed, .com and .net tend towards correlation with the Spanish language. This suggests that .com and .net are used in a more global context with regard to language.


Report snapshot

.uk registrations grew +4.6% in 2012


Monthly Registration Statistics for .uk Domain Names (Jan 2012 – Mar 2013)

Month / Year
Jan 2012 179,905 76 1,772 3 8,615 1 40
Feb 2012 177,239 57 1,692 1 8,644 1 33
Mar 2012 167,736 77 1,580 3 9,778 1 20
Apr 2012 154,753 73 1,576 2 9,030 1 9
May 2012 163,956 53 1,556 0 9,477 0 18
Jun 2012 151,279 55 1,526 2 8,013 2 24
Jul 2012 151,955 75 1,327 2 7,834 0 35
Aug 2012 138,991 84 1,368 5 7,162 0 23
Sep 2012 147,760 48 1,339 0 8,016 0 26
Oct 2012 159,407 77 1,369 0 8,463 1 31
Nov 2012 155,094 59 1,200 3 7,632 2 16
Dec 2012 113,516 49 1,079 1 5,884 1 22
Jan 2013 177,162 74 1,343 3 8,419 0 13
Feb 2013 162,572 60 1,399 1 9,109 3 12
Mar 2013 171,501 63 1,603 6 8,776 2 18