TLD registry market share
Under both definitions of the TLD registry market, VeriSign has the largest market share. If the gTLD
registry market is treated as a standalone market, VeriSign's market share clearly makes it the principal
player with 85% of all registrations. Competition, in the form of new registries, has begun to develop but
the open (or unsponsored) gTLDs only make up a relatively small share of the overall registry market. On
the other hand, if ccTLDs in the OECD area are included the overall picture significantly changes. This
raises the question of how significant is the level of competition, or to be more precise the degree of
competitive choice which is available to registrars and users.
Clearly, ccTLDs and gTLDs do represent a choice for users. A user in the Netherlands, for example,
has a choice between registering under the various gTLDs, the ccTLD for the Netherlands (
) or one of
the other ccTLDs that has relatively open criteria (
). While all these domains can perform the same
technical function how substitutable they are depends on the application the user has in mind and their
perception as to how a registration, under a particular gTLD or ccTLD, may be regarded by others in that
Some ccTLDs may not be commonly associated, by Internet users, with a particular country and
therefore be seen as substitutes for gTLDs. The
domain, for example, the country code for the South
Pacific Island of Niue, is widely used in Scandinavia. On the other hand most ccTLDs corresponding to
OECD countries are strongly associated with a particular country. Moreover, if ccTLDs beyond the OECD
are considered then further adjustment to market share would need to be considered. VeriSign, for example,
acts as the registry for
. To the extent that users register under names such as
first choice is unavailable under a gTLD, or an OECD ccTLD, a greater choice of domains would be
welcome. Many ccTLDs have successfully promoted availability and choice by only registering names at
the third level across multiple second level alternatives. These ccTLDs clearly offer a competitive
alternative for some users. It is far from certain, however, that new gTLDs could compete at the third level
on equal terms with existing gTLDs using the second level, given the challenges they already face in
winning market acceptance.
For their part, registrars appear to be generally willing to sell all TLDs that are made available by
registries if they are likely to reach a significant volume. The most important issue for registrars is that they
have equal access to registry services. That being said a greater range of registries should also increase the
level of competition between registries. The underlying efficiency of registries should then, in turn, be
reflected in the overall service the registrar can offer to users.
One more aspect of registry service needs to be considered. Registries whether they are gTLDs,
sTLDs or ccTLDs, have a monopoly over registration in the TLD over which they exercise responsibility.
In other words all registries have 100% of the market under the TLD or TLDs for which they have
responsibility. Safeguards are therefore essential. One example is where registrars sell services to end users
in competition with the registry's own registrar.
A more complex question arises where, although there may be no registrar owned by the registry,
issues emerge at the boundary between services performed by the registry and by the registrar. This can
occur, for example, in respect to new services, associated with the domain name registration process,
which might be commercially performed equally well by either the registry or the registrar. This question,
while not related to the discussion of overall market share, may need to take into account the control which
can exercised by the registry over the TLD (or TLDs) under their responsibility.