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EU NameSpace is Dead?

Michele Neylon

The European Union's .eu Top-Level Domain (TLD) sunrise and landrush has probably been discussed to death, but what is the landscape like over a year later?

A lot of industry insiders were right to express their doubts about the stability of .eu following on from the high profile squats that have been discussed here at length.

Of course any discussion on a new TLD would have to wait until after the first wave of renewals.

That happened in April, so now, in July, it's a good as time to take stock of the situation.

Eurid is currently running a campaign to increase awareness of "dot eu" as a brand.

The Going for EU concept is certainly attractive, but maybe a bit misplaced. The domain name is a nice play on words, but only works for native English speakers, who are anything but the majority within the European Union.

The site of course pushes all the positive aspects of registering and using a .eu domain, which as its run by the registry you would only expect.

Of course the reality of .eu might be somewhat different

John McCormack has compiled some very interesting and quite disturbing statistics of domain usage (based on a survey of 2.13 million domains). John, who is well known in Irish and international internet circles, runs whoisireland and publishes detailed reports on domain usage every month.

According to John's study less than 22% of EU domains appear to be actively developed.

This was based on spidering the entire EU namespace and then analysing the response codes received, html etc. The report overview breaks the namespace down into:

A: Active/not yet classified.
B: Brand protection registration.
D: refresh in webpage.
F: Forbidden or other 4nn code.
H: Holding page with no content.
N: Duplicate content network of sites.
P: PPC parked.
R: Redirected (301/302 codes).
S: Site is for sale or rent.
U: Site unavailable (127.0.0.1 is not a valid IP etc).
W: Domain aggregation network sites.
X: Porn sites.

In comparison, although statistics for the Ireland's .ie namespace (restricted to those with connection to Ireland) are currently not available, I was able to talk to John who gave me some preliminary stats:

Preliminary utilisation is around 81% (still processing those figures but it might go down to about 75% actively developed)
.ie is a managed ccTLD so usage is going to be higher - being a product of difficulty of acquisition and cost of domain.

.eu is not a fully managed TLD, however registrants are meant to fulfill some basic criteria — ie. have an EU address

By Michele Neylon, MD of Blacknight Solutions. More blog posts from Michele Neylon can also be read here.

Related topics: DNS, Domain Names, Top-Level Domains, Whois

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Comments

Re: EU NameSpace is Dead? Dirk Krischenowski  –  Jul 17, 2007 1:01 AM PDT

Nice report! It would be interesting to compare .eu to .info and .biz at the same level and I personally think that comparable results would be the outcome.

Another measurement method could be to monitor public advertising campaigns or to ask media booking agencies which TLDs have been used on the adds (newspaper, magazines, poster, TV adds). In this case I would believe that the .com is very popular. Even German companies like to have sometimes .com "global appearance" than just the local .de extension.

Some weeks ago I saw my first ever .museum at postern throughout the city:  http://www.smb.museum

Re: EU NameSpace is Dead? Frank Schilling  –  Jul 17, 2007 7:36 AM PDT

Great points on the language Michele. I disliked this namespace at the outset:

""Europe has started two world wars because of nationalism. You are going to get a .de from the Germans or a .fr from the French when you pry them from their cold dead hands. My neighbor in Cayman is Italian.. She still converts things into Lira even though the Euro has been around for nearly a decade. People are proud of their national heritage in Euroland and the domain extension tells folks the language they can expect to find at each destination. .EU offers little of that identity""

Many speculators and investors disagreed with my perspective, saw opportunity and jumped into the space with both feet. Those speculators are like tent poles holding up the fabric of the space. They are the ones out there promoting the namespace on web-sites, in forums, on blogs, advertising the namespace and educating uninformed newcomers.  Any hope of turning this space into something worthwhile was lost when the .EU registry foolishly started clamping down on its registrant population, canceling "those evil investors" registrations. That creates a huge trickle-down of uncertainty..  The registry chased away third-party opportunity when they chased away the opportunists. A name space without opportunity is a namespace with little hope.

So they got what they got.  A namespace which few care about, with even fewer to tell their story.  The registrant population gets to live with the specter of possible cancellation of their registrations, the namespace is stagnating and it's users will eventually return to com, net, org or the cctld of the Country they are in. Big surprise. :)

Re: EU NameSpace is Dead? Michele Neylon  –  Jul 17, 2007 4:30 PM PDT

Dirk - Active usage of .eu is probably the way to drive it forward

Frank - I'd have to disagree with you in some parts and agree with you in others.

With regard to national identity - you're 100% right. Italians still think in Lira and the recent report that Nominet highlighted shows how many UK residents will tap in .co.uk first. I'd do the same with .ie, as I'd expect to see content that is relevant to me NOT to someone in New York or London.

However I would strongly disagree with you about Eurid's stance on registrants. The sunrise and landrush was dominated by non-EU companies abusing weak trademark rules to disenfranchise EU citizens. If Dublin.eu, for example, had been awarded to Dublin City Council and Cork.eu hadn't been another ADR proceeding then the general stance within the EU would be a lot more positive

Michele

Re: EU NameSpace is Dead? John McCormac  –  Jul 19, 2007 9:25 AM PDT

The figure for active web development in .eu is now close to 16% of the domains in the survey. Over the past few days, I’ve been refining the parsing (classifying holding pages and redirects based on frame src tags, duplicate content checking etc). The active web figure now stands at 286222 websites out of the initial 1.436M websites. That’s 19.94% of the websites and 16.16% of the total resolving .eu domains. The .eu ccTLD is a disaster zone compared to real ccTLDs. In comparison, the Irish ccTLD (.ie) has approximately 57% of websites actively developed - a figure that reflects the activity of a vibrant ccTLD.

The Top 20 .eu Hosters (July 2007), based on a survey of 2.16M .eu domains checked, shows some rather unsettling concentrations of parking, monetisation and aggregation hosters near the top. For a ccTLD, that level of PPC/monetisation is potentially dangerous at this early stage of its development.

The problem with .eu is that there is comparatively little natural web development. Natural web development is critical for any extension and it progresses from the ground up. The small businesses and individuals are the ones who drive it. They create the awareness more than the large brands. People think of Google.com rather than Google.eu (ironically Google.eu doesn't resolve). Unfortunately much of this critical small business element was frozen out of the .eu by speculation by the phantom registrars and their EU based front companies.

Over 81% of UK and Irish businesses did not get their tradenames as .eu domains due to PwC BE's validation process. EURid got to pocket the most of the fees for those failed applications and ended up making millions of Euro from this. Some of these domains were subsequently picked up by cybersquatters. Small businesses that had spent hundreds of Euro putting together were not going to waste thousands on an ADR. Those losses hardened the business community's attitude to .eu ccTLD. To most affected businesses, the .eu was just a 419er scam with the same result - lost money.

The extreme level of speculation (much of which used mature market, .com reasoning in selecting domains) in the landrush phase and the handling of the phantom registrars issue by EURid destroyed public confidence in the .eu ccTLD in Europe. The .eu is regarded now in much the same light as .info or .biz - nice for a company to have for its portfolio but not necessarily essential and certainly not primary brand material. After all, what company would want to be associated with a failure?

Speculation and development have to run in parallel in a successful extension. It is development that drives the value, especially in a ccTLD. There are more holding pages in .eu (22.67% of the websites) than there are actively developed websites. The PPC, domain aggregation and warehousing element accounts for 15.15% of the websites. Potentially over 100K .eu domains are hidden, mainly by the UK front companies operated by people connected with US registrars, by not having any nameservers associated with the domain.

While EURid might have been competent to run a small ccTLD registry, the landrush fiasco showed that it was incapable of running a large one. By the management's own admission, it underestimated the demand for .eu domains. That combination of ccTLD arrogance and incompetence proved deadly for the .eu ccTLD. The EURid registry software couldn't even calculate a domain year and the landrush was launched without a functional domain transfer system in place.

Some drastic measures to restore confidence in .eu are needed. Perhaps stripping EURid of the contract to run .eu, and replacing it with a competent, industry backed, registry operation and properly validating registrations might go some of the way. But that might also completely kill off speculation in the extension and hundreds of thousands of .eu registrations could disappear very quickly. And it is too late for the businesses that would have provided the foundation. They have ignored .eu and have concentrated on their ccTLD and .com brands.

The .eu may be a write-off for the next five to ten years. It will take that much time for the damage to work its way out of the extension. European businesses and individuals will continue to use their ccTLDs and .com domains. EURid's incompetence put the spotlight on the value of well run European ccTLDs. And those speculators who flooded the Sunrise and Landrush phases - they may have ended up with a lot of fools gold. Many of their landrush domains dropped and were never reregistered. One such speculator ended up dropping over 30K of the approximately 44K domains his operation had registered in the landrush. The real gold is still in .com and the ccTLDs.

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