by Roland LaPlante, Senior Vice President and CMO, Afilias

Many great data sources have been available to us over the years to help us understand what is going on with domains.  But there is a wealth of data in this new one that is now available from ICANN via its ODI (Open Data Initiative).

ODI takes advantage of an important ICANN asset:  monthly activity reports (required of every registry operator).  These reports provide valuable statistical data ranging from monthly DNS query counts for a TLD to the number of creates and deletes.  Until now, this data was only available in pdf or other formats difficult to manipulate and analyze.  ICANN has worked to solve that problem with a pilot that makes these data available in a consolidated, useable format.

So what can be done with this data?

One example is to use the data to analyze DNS query counts.  One way in which a “query” occurs is when a user types a name into a browser and the ISP has to ask or “query” the TLD nameserver for the IP address.  Most requests for domain addresses are already known to the ISP because someone would have earlier asked for the same address, and the ISP saved that answer locally to speed up the response for the next person. All the queries with saved answers never get to the TLD nameserver, so the ICANN reported query count represents only a small fraction of the number of actual requests for a particular domain name.  Nevertheless, the counts can be a useful indicator.

Query counts can indicate the relative rates of adoption by internet users of new TLDs in general and specific kinds of new TLDs in particular.  It stands to reason that more queries for names in a TLD mean that more people are looking for names in that TLD, and that means the TLD is more widely adopted.

Which types of these new TLDs are experiencing wider adoption?  dotGenerics like .club? dotBrands like .bnpparibas? Or dotGeos like .London?

A quick analysis (see chart below) of the data using our own definitions of which TLD represents which type shows the following.  Overall, it appears that dotGenerics (the top line) got an earlier start and are better established; dotBrands (middle line) are coming along, and dotGeos (lower line) are still working hard for acceptance.  The “ramp up” time is pretty long for all of them, with Brands and Geos taking nearly 2 years to generate any appreciable amount of interest as measured by incoming queries.  Of course, changing consumer habits is difficult, and it is to be expected that these new ideas will take some time to become accepted broadly.

Readers should note that we have taken several TLDs out of each category.  For example, for dotGeos, we took out the data for .cymru and .wales.  This is because these TLDs exhibited significant anomalies with respect to query counts, and these anomalies obscured the general long-term trend.  Participants in the ODI pilot (everyone is welcome!) should realize that some “clean up” work might be needed for you get a clear picture.  Readers should further note that the “legacy” TLDs like .com, while available in the ODI dataset, are omitted from the chart above, as their query counts are several orders of magnitude larger.

We applaud ICANN for taking another important step toward transparency and for sharing with the community this important data.

We encourage everyone to dive into the data being made available by ICANN and provide feedback that ICANN can use to make its ODI (Open Data Initiative) even more useful.  The ODI is in the pilot phase, and feedback will form the basis of ICANN’s approach to making lots more of its data available to the community.  ODI does NOT replace other existing data sources, but rather provides a supplemental resource to help deepen our understanding.

Roland LaPlante has over 30 years’ senior marketing experience, beginning with Procter and Gamble in brand management, and then successive positions at Heublein/Diageo, Citibank, McGraw-Hill, Providian and Xlibris (an online publisher).  Since joining Afilias in 2001 as Chief Marketing Officer, he has overseen both corporate and product marketing for Afilias, including the launch of the most successful new TLD to date (.INFO) and the establishment of Afilias’ leading position in the current new TLD round.  As the company’s principal industry spokesperson, Roland is a sought-after speaker on a variety of TLD issues and has helped position Afilias as a global registry leader.