Most domain names registered for business
Continued growth of the .nl domain despite the very high level of existing market penetration says a great deal about the current strength of the internet economy in the Netherlands. Demand for domain names is largely business-related. Most registrations are made by companies or by people who have business plans. The growth of the .nl domain is therefore a valuable barometer of the confidence that exists in the business community with regard to internet-based activities.
Business sentiment has changed
Our survey of Trends in Internet Use, the fourth edition of which appeared last autumn, highlighted a change in sentiment, particularly amongst businesses. For example:
- In 2014, businesses were more likely to expect their domain name portfolios to contract than to grow. By 2016, the pattern had reversed. And those that anticipated contraction generally cited mergers and takeovers as the reason.
- In 2014, the number of businesses planning to develop their own apps was falling. They weren't confident of securing a place in the app store. Many businesses have since changed their minds and are now investing more than ever in mobile apps.
- Businesses believe that on-line resources will become more important to their market models. Social media, search engines and corporate websites: more is being invested across the board and income from on-line channels is expected to grow.
Number of internet users and usage duration also up
Positive sentiment isn't simply down to the economic cycle. The increasing number of internet users and the increasing amount of time that people spend on line are also fuelling market growth. Notably, older people are catching up with the young as they get into the habit of using tablets and smartphones. At the end of 2016, 55 per cent of over-65s were making active use of the internet on smartphones, compared with 33 per cent in 2014. The digital age gap is narrowing all the time.
Ample scope for on-line growth
So the future looks rosy, and it seems that 2017 will be another good year for the Dutch internet economy. For the longer term, the key question is how diverse the Dutch public's internet use will remain. Because, although people in the Netherlands are spending more time on line, they are visiting fewer websites and using fewer apps – even though the total number of available apps and websites continues to rise. As long as overall internet use keeps on growing, the concentration of use isn't problematic. Ultimately, however, it could lead to 'independent' websites and apps having fewer visitors and fewer users. Fortunately, there is no sign of that happening yet. The scope for on-line growth remains ample, even for smaller businesses.