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ICANN Announces Phase One Results from Economic Study Evaluating Competition in the Domain Name Space

28 September 2015

ICANN today published the findings from the "Phase 1 Assessment of the Competitive Effects Associated with the New gTLD Program," [PDF, 966 KB] setting a baseline for measuring competition in the domain name marketplace to be compared against changes that may be found a year later. The study, conducted by Analysis Group, is in response to three recommended metrics that the ICANN Board has adopted for inclusion in the competition, consumer choice and consumer trust review of the New gTLD Program, as mandated by the Affirmation of Commitments. ICANN invites public comments on the report. The comments will be used to guide Phase 2, which will be conducted in approximately a year's time to determine if there are changes or trends in the marketplace.

Analysis Group reports several key findings:

  • The majority of domain name registrations are accounted for by legacy TLDs. However, registration shares across registries, and across registrars, are more dispersed for new gTLDs as compared to legacy TLDs.
  • Wholesale price dispersion is greater in new gTLDs than among gTLDs that existed prior to the New gTLD Program's expansion of the domain name system.
  • When add-on products offered by registrars are considered, such as email and web hosting, the cost of registering a domain name is a relatively small part of the total cost of creating a website.
  • Among add-on products, some display very little price dispersion across registrars (e.g., forwarding services) while others have much more variation (e.g., services designed to assist customers in building websites).

The report included several major analyses of pricing, including in the wholesale and retail markets, as well as sunrise pricing. To establish a baseline, Analysis Group has used the following analyses:

  • Price dispersion: These evaluations explored dispersion among several dimensions – sunset prices, wholesale prices, retail prices, mark-ups, and add-on pricing.
  • Price index: Average prices from a sample of TLDs were used to create a price index, both weighted and unweighted, which allows for broader comparisons across TLDs.
  • Registration distributions: Exploring trends in registration volumes allows for insights into the impact pricing has on consumers' buying decisions.

To prepare for this review, ICANN's stakeholder community recommended a list of metrics and definitions to help inform consideration of these areas. The recommendations from the Implementation Advisory Group on Competition, Consumer Choice and Consumer Trust (IAG-CCT) included 66 metrics, of which a subset of three were identified as best being measured via a study of competition in the domain name marketplace before and after the expansion of the DNS. ICANN conducted an open RFP and signed a contract in February 2015 with Analysis Group to conduct the study.

About the Phase 1 Assessment of the Competitive Effects Associated with the New gTLD Program

In order to establish a baseline of competitive effects in the domain name market place, Analysis Group compiled pricing data from a sample of TLDs, representing 81.4% of all domain name registrations as of March 2015. The sample included data from 109 new gTLDs, 14 so-called legacy gTLDs which existed prior to the launch of the New gTLD Program in October 2013 and 15 ccTLDs to ensure geographic diversity. Registration counts were based on transaction reports registry operators submit to ICANN. Only those TLDs that were open to the general public for domain name registrations were included in the sample. The sample represents 59 unique registry operators, which directly provided Analysis Group both wholesale and retail pricing data. It also includes data from the websites of 39 registrars.

Analysis Group directly collected, aggregated and anonymized all pricing data included in the study. Neither ICANN nor any party outside Analysis Group have access to this data set.
Data sources will be revisited in a year's time to allow for a comparison with these baseline findings.

Supporting Materials


ICANN's mission is to ensure a stable, secure and unified global Internet. To reach another person on the Internet you have to type an address into your computer - a name or a number. That address has to be unique so computers know where to find each other. ICANN coordinates these unique identifiers across the world. Without that coordination we wouldn't have one global Internet. ICANN was formed in 1998. It is a not-for-profit public-benefit corporation with participants from all over the world dedicated to keeping the Internet secure, stable and interoperable. It promotes competition and develops policy on the Internet's unique identifiers. ICANN doesn't control content on the Internet. It cannot stop spam and it doesn't deal with access to the Internet. But through its coordination role of the Internet's naming system, it does have an important impact on the expansion and evolution of the Internet. For more information please visit: www.icann.org.