It appears that the domain name market has embraced its new VIP member, based on registration numbers reported this week from Minds + Machines: dotVIP. The new Top Level Domain (TLD) overnight became the registry’s most successful launch to date, with over 139,000 registrations on the first day of General Availability. It has continued to grow at a rate of a few thousand a day – reaching over 215,000 as of 25th May.
Minds + Machines’ most successful gTLD until now had been dotLondon, which has had over 64,000 registrations since its launch two years ago. But that number was eclipsed within a few hours as the Chinese market jumped at the opportunity to register in the three-character suffix. Based on its initial winning bid of just over £3m for the TLD, Minds + Machines saw a return on its investment within days.
Out of the 215,000 registrations, over 75% have been snapped up by Chinese registries – the bulk of which have been with Alibaba Cloud Computing and Chengdu West Dimension Digital Technology, who are the leading new gTLD registrar, with nearly 24% of all registrations in the program so far.
So what has driven the huge volumes of TLDs in dotVIP? Part of the reason is down to cost, but one other reason has been the dearth of recent popular TLDs moving into General Availability. In the past three months, there have only been a dozen or so launches of gTLDs that are free from registration restrictions; the most popular being Uniregistry’s dotMom, which added around 20,000 names in the first 24 hours of General Availability. Again, the majority of registrations came from China. The next 30 days could change that view, with dotGroup, dotSalon, dotStore and dotLtd all due to enter GA.
In amongst all this, the retail cost element of the domain name cannot be ignored. Chengdu West (www.west.cn) is currently selling dotVIP domain names for around £2.50 a year, which has driven domain name investors to get heavily involved in the TLD – many, it seems, at the expense of brand holders. In a sample of ten huge global brands, nine of them had been registered under the dotVIP TLD by individuals in China. At the moment, these domain names cannot be developed into websites, as Minds + Machines has not yet gone through the official Chinese governmental approval process, but it’s still a concern that so many major brands will not own ‘their’ dotVIP. Minds + Machines does offer a rights protection mechanism, MPML, which would have protected brand holders’ trademarked terms under the dotVIP registration.
The true test for the TLD will be usage. Although domain investors may snap up initial registrations, seeing how they then develop those domain names will determine the long-term success of the suffix. But there can be no denying that the investment made by Minds + Machines has so far proved to be very astute.