Domain and hosting specialists Fasthosts’ 2023 State Of The Web Report revealed 2022’s top-level domain (TLD) registration figures, dynamics, and domain industry trends for the previous year.
It shed light on its growing correlation to the intricacies of operating in a centralised global network. Here are some of the top findings:
By the end of 2022, there were 350 million active domain names and 308 ccTLDs. ccTLDs are associated with specific countries or territories and allow users to be directed to the correct regional page when searching for a website.
However, they are often subject to political decisions and agreements between countries and organisations, which can sometimes lead to disputes around changes in domain ownership.
Europe – The leading region For TLDs
Leading the way, Germany (.de), the UK (.uk) and The Netherlands (.nl) take the top spot, demonstrating their dominance in the European domain landscape. Their popularity can be attributed to their association with some of Europe’s strongest economies and their recognition as reputable domain extensions for businesses and organisations.
The 5th most popular country code for Europe in 2022 was one of the most recent additions, the .eu ccTLD for the European Union, available to its 27 member countries. Its apparition to market boosted Europe’s internet identity and attracted business owners with its ability to tap into the continent’s substantial e-commerce opportunities.
When the United Kingdom left the European Union on the 31st of January 2020, UK registrants lost access to the extension. It is said that 48,000 .eu domain names were discontinued on the first day, resulting in businesses suddenly losing access to the possibilities and benefits of Europe’s single market.
As expected, the larger and more established islands of Australia and New Zealand featured in the top three largest ccTLD; however, in first place was the sparsely inhabited island of Tokelau with 5.04 million registrations.
The island is home to only 1,500 people and had at one point only four phone lines and dial-up internet access powerful enough to send emails without attachments.
Over the years, thanks to Tokelau’s cheap and easy registration process, the revenue generated from their domain sales has seen a massive rise in their GDP, which, in 2012, had the lowest GDP output in the entire world.
Similarly, .tv (Tuvalu), .pw (Paulau), .fm (Micronesia), .to (Tonga), and .ws (Samoa), among other islands, have also leveraged the marketability of their domain extensions to attract registrants from around the world who want cheap domains or have ccTLDs with specific meanings or relevance to their businesses or projects.
In 2022, the island of Tuvalu made an estimated $10 million from the income of its .tv country code.
Its domain hosting sale to Twitch.tv in 2014 earned the country a $970 million profit, enabling it to join the UN thanks to all the royalties from its domain name registrations.
Ironically, only 49.3 percent of the total population used the internet at the start of 2022, demonstrating the inequality within an island that still accesses the internet through Satellite connection.
Quality of life is said to have dramatically improved for its population thanks to its two primary income sources: territorial fishing rights and country code licensing.
In 2020, Niue Island launched proceedings to regain control of their .nu TLD, which was, in their opinion, wrongfully in the hands of the Swedish Internet Foundation (SIF).
They pursued a case with the Swedish legal system for damages of 10 million dollars, which had been generated through the sale and licensing of the .nu domain name. At trial, the Stockholm District Court dismissed Niue’s case as it “lacked legal capacity”, resulting in Niue losing the battle and being ordered to pay the SIF nearly $36,000 in legal costs.
The US’s .us domain hosting name comes 4th on the list at 1.8 million registrations, which is said to be down to the .com domain being used more prevalently than its’ .us country code on a global scale.
Although not on the list for 2022, the Caribbean island of Anguilla has received a spell of luck in the past few years with the rise of the popularity of artificial intelligence, with AI’s abbreviation the same as the island’s country code .ai.
The top two country codes in the Americas were .br and .co. In recent years, Brazil has established its country code’s popularity due to its large population, economy, and increasing access to the internet. Colombia’s .co, on the other hand, has gained global recognition as an abbreviation for .com, company, commerce, and community.
Mexico was equally the 5th most popular extension behind Canada’s .ca and the US’s .us. Following in Brazil’s footsteps, Mexico is an example of another growing Latin American nation looking to develop its digital landscape further.
Nearly 20 million people in Mexico live in localities without broadband mobile coverage, leading the government’s incentives to improve more excellent digital adaptation to boost digital skills, business opportunities, and overall economic output.
Uruguay and Ecuador, the 9th and 10th lowest registrant numbers, are two of many nations in the continuing grapple to digitise a continent that struggles with low digital literacy, sparse connectivity, and large parts of a complete lack of digital infrastructure.
Gabon (.ga) has emerged as a prominent player in the African domain industry, with over 7 million registered domains.
Following 2nd and 3rd place are .ml (Mali) and .cf (Central African Republic). Each three’s success can be attributed to their accessibility and affordability, making them a strong choice for businesses and individuals across the continent.
With that said, their country codes have some of the highest number of distributed malware, leading to questions around ethics and regulations when managing the TLDs assimilated to developing countries where certain registries might have less stringent registration requirements than other TLDs.
Although not reaching the top 10 list of TLDs in 2022, .africa hopes to become the designated top-level domain for the continent—a strong option for individuals and businesses looking to tap into Africa’s market. The domain extension is a positive initiative to create a common namespace for the African and Pan-African communities and users residing in the continent.
The extension can become a driving force for entrepreneurship, tech advancements, e-commerce, tourism, innovation, and the development of the African domain name industry.
China (.cn) showcases its growing influence on a global scale with 8.98 million registered domains. Following closely behind are Russia (.ru) and India (.in), nations known for their technological advancements and growing industries, attracting businesses seeking to establish themselves in the trade market.
That said, at the start of 2022, the future of the .ru domain was up for debate when domain sales were exempt from US sanctions on Russia to support activists and independent media’s fight against potential government propaganda.
It further emphasised the power of governments and organisations to exert control over domain names to enforce content regulations and censorship.
Also featured on the top 10 TLDs are the Coco Islands and British Indian Ocean Territories, which have been at the centre of controversy over the past few years. Officials called for Australia to take over control of the .cc TLD after large amounts of criminal content became associated with the extension.
Whereas the rights to the .io domains – a popular choice for crypto firms and NFT dealers – furthered disputes between the UK and Mauritius over the ownership of Chagos Islands.
Mauritians and exiled Chagossians, whom the UK forcibly displaced from their homes in the 1970s, challenged the British government’s claim to their .io domain name because they no longer have a claim to the islands.
Despite the ongoing dispute, the British government asserts that they have never financially benefited from the .io domain name. To this day, however, the exiled Chagossians and Mauritians have yet to be able to reclaim the rights to their domain and its associated royalties.
The domain name industry operates within the intricate web of geopolitics, where shifts in international relations can cause profound consequences on the allocation, management, and protection of domain names worldwide.
To ensure a more harmonious digital landscape, governments and regulatory organisations should consider policymaking crucial when balancing upholding national interests and fostering a fair and equitable global digital environment.
Such policies should reflect an understanding different nations’ unique needs, aspirations, and concerns within the Domain Name System (DNS).
This piece was written and provided by Fasthosts