The Domain Name Year 2011 In Review

With the end of the year rapidly approaching, it's timely to now look back on the events that defined the domain name industry in 2011. What a year it has been, notably with the approval of new generic top-level domains (gTLDs). The long anticipated new domains will bring a flood of choices for naming your home on the web and an increasing need for next generation domain management tools and practices.

Here are our domain industry highlights for you:

1. New Generic Top-Level Domains

Internet regulatory body ICANN, concluded a lengthy history of internal debate and negotiation with multiple stakeholders that began with its formation in 1998. The organization unleashed approval to allow anybody to apply for a top-level domain. The historic move opens the doors to specifically branded domains, such as .ibm or .bmw, as well as new domains aimed at more general verticals, such as .hotel or .sport. There are also moves afoot to create domain brands for geographic regions, such as .berlin and .nyc. The application window begins January 2012, but industry observers predict that it may be 2013 before the first new domains roll off the production line. It is anticipated that the new offerings will encompass internationalised domain name (IDN) facilities, incorporating non-Latin scripts from day one.

2. Rising Popularity of Internationalized Country Domain Extensions

2011 saw a marked rise in the adoption of Internationalized Domain Names (IDNs) across the globe; a trend likely to be accelerated as new top level domains begin to emerge. Registries from countries embracing a diversity of ethnicity and languages have been quick to become involved, with a total of 29 country code domains having been evaluated by ICANN. Malaysia has been the most recently added, enabling fuller representation of Internet names across a nation of four different official languages and numerous regional dialects. Russia operates one of the most successful domains achieving over 800,000 registrations of Cyrillic domains on the transliterated .ru country code. More recently the Russians achieved dual listing status with the launch of the top level national domain .PФ (Российская Федерация).

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You can buy this IDN map from Byte Level Research

3. .COM Reaching 100 Million Registered Names (almost)

Are we there yet? The familiar and reliable .COM domain has been around 26 years and is by far the most popular domain with nearly half of all global registrations. Whilst Planet Earth clocked up its 7 billionth citizen in 2011, .COM is expected to attain 100 million unique domains around about the end of the year (give or take a week). It is almost unbelievable to think that this plucky little generic top level domain (gTLD) had less than 10,000 registrants back in 1995, but has now become the standard for almost every business, blogger or home user on the net.

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Source: Registrar Stats TLD Domain Counts

4. Domain Name Sales Still Going Strong

Domainers, traders and domain real estate investors had a buoyant 2011, despite perturbations in the global economy. It seems some domains appreciate in value (a lot!). But the trick of course is to figure out which ones. In a year which saw both a Facebook movie and a staggering IPO by business network LinkedIn, it came as no surprise to see social.com change hands for a cool $2.6 million. The arrival of new gTLDs will no doubt stimulate and expand the market for highly sought after domains.

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Source: DN Journal's 2011 YTD Top 100 Sales Chart

What were your highlights for 2011? We'd love to hear them in the comments.