Fewer cancellations and more registrations
Last year's final quarter was particularly good. All across Europe, fewer domain names were cancelled and more new ones were registered. After contracting in 2016, the European Union's .eu domain returned to growth in 2017. That's particularly impressive in light of Brexit, which means the loss of a large market from the Union.
European country-code domains grew faster than Asian and American peers
Notably, Europe's ccTLDs recorded better growth figures than their counterparts in Asia and the Americas. In those regions, the market penetration of ccTLDs is much lower, creating scope for relatively healthy growth over the previous five years. In 2017, however, Europe's ccTLDs grew by 3.8 per cent, while their Asian peers saw only 1.2 per cent growth. The figure for .nl was 1.8 per cent: down on the European average, but up on ccTLDs of a similar size. The biggest growth numbers were recorded by .se (Sweden) and .uk (United Kingdom). An important driver of .uk registrations was the fairly recent decision to allow the .uk extension to be used without a prefix ('.co.uk' or '.org.uk').
Growth of new gTLDs flattens off
It wasn't good news for all registries in Europe, however. Some figures are still awaited, but it seems that the growth of new gTLDs flattened off, while several legacy gTLDs contracted. Two major legacy TLDs (.org and .net) were apparently hit badly by increased competition. By contrast, .com was barely affected. There are now 144 million .com domain names registered worldwide, and in the Netherlands the domain continued to expand in line with the market.
Use of brand domains gathering pace
A new trend – possibly a game-changer – was the rise of the brand domains. For the first time since the creation of brand domains in 2013, multinationals started promoting their use last year. Websites such as thepredator.fox, home.barclays, mabanque.bnpparibas and fizzy.axa are all examples of blue-chip companies using their own brand names instead of .com. It will be interesting to see how things develop if, as expected, ICANN authorises more brand domains from 2020.
The outlook for 2018 is positive, but the year doesn't seem to have started quite as well as 2017 ended. Stock market uncertainty is the likely cause.