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Registrars serve an essential role, as the intermediary between the registries and the domain name investor. In this article I take a look at the number of domains under management at different registrars, as well as providing a brief history for the ten companies with the most domains under registration.

Part 2 in the series will look at a number of the registrars that are important to domain name investors, but did not make the top 10 in terms of registration numbers.

In this article when I refer to top 10, it just means the most registrations, and should not be interpreted as an attempt to rate any registrar.

Start With The Test

Before reading on, I hope you will try this little test. Then read on to learn the answers.
  1. In terms of domain names registered, can you list the top-5 registrars in order? Give yourself 1 point for each registrar you have in the right place.
  2. For 2 additional points, can you list at least 4 of the next 5, not necessarily in order? That is, the registrars that placed 6 though 10. Give yourself 1 point if you got 3 of the 5.
  3. This famous registrar started out not with its current name, but named after a road in Arizona. What was that original name?
  4. This registrar was once the only place you could register a .com domain name.
  5. This top-10 registrar is part of the Endurance Group of companies.
  6. A waitress at a coffee house in San Francisco helped validate the name choice for this company.
  7. This current top-10 registrar started life as a source for reviews and downloads of shareware and freeware.
  8. In what year did GoDaddy become the registrar with the most domain names under registration?
  9. This top-10 registrar is owned by Web.com.
  10. How many of the names of the top-5 registrars were originally hand registrations?
  11. This registrar uses a single character .com. What is the registrar name and which one character is the domain name? Two points possible.
  12. One registrar on list has headquarters in Germany. What is its name?
  13. This top-5 US registrar was founded in year 2000.
  14. This registrar was started on the 10 year anniversary of the parent company.
  15. Which registrar purchased a portfolio of 39,000 surnames?
After recording your answers, read on. The correct answers are given near the bottom of this article.

Registrar Market Share

While size may not matter much, since a small registrar that is sensitive to investor needs may have advantages over a much larger one, nevertheless investors should at least know basic facts on each registrar they are considering.

The number of domain names registered is not quite as simple as one might think. For example, does one include domain names which have not been renewed and are in the auto renewal period? When a domain name expires it is required that the registrar pay to renew, then if the owner does not renew during this period, the registrar can let it expire and apply to get the renewal funding back.

There are other reasons, such as effective date and extensions considered, that different sites show different numbers of registered domains.

For the following I used registrar data provided by DomainNameStat.com. The graph shows the top 10 registrars in terms of number of registered domain names.

IMAGE-RegistrarTop10.png

I created this graph of domain names registered at the top 10 registrars using data provided by DomainNameStat.

A number of things surprised me, including how high on the list Network Solutions and Google placed. I look at the registrars from the top-10 list below.

GoDaddy

As expected, GoDaddy dominates, with almost 5x as many registered domain names as the second place registrar, NameCheap. According to DomainNameStat, GoDaddy has more than 75 million domain names under registration.

GoDaddy started life in Jomax Technologies in 1997. Apparently Jomax is the name of a road in Arizona. In 1999 group of employees were considering a name change, and Bob Parsons suggested GoDaddy, a name available for hand registration at the time. The official name change only came in 2006.

The registrar role at GoDaddy / Jomax Technologies started in 2001 after Network Solutions no longer held a monopoly in the .com domain registration space.

By 2005, GoDaddy became the largest ICANN-accredited registrar, in terms of registrations, a position they have, I believe, maintained ever since. The company is headquartered in Tempe, Arizona.

Namecheap

While only a bit more than one-fifth as large as GoDaddy, in terms of domain registrations, Namecheap has a clear hold on second place, with more than 16 million domain names registered.

Namecheap was founded by Richard Kirkendall in 2000. The company is headquartered in Phoenix, Arizona.

Tucows

Some may not be familiar with Tucows, even though they are in third place with about 12 million domain names registered. That is because Tucows is a wholesale registrar, meaning that they provide names to a large number of other registrars and resellers. Hover is perhaps the best known retail registrar in their network.

They also own eNom. DomainNameStat list eNom registrations separately. If they were included with Tucows. then Tucows would leapfrog into second place.

Tucows is registered in both Canada and the USA. It was founded in the United States, although their primary headquarters are in Toronto.

The history of Tucows is interesting. They started in 1993 when Scott Swedorski, of Flint, Michigan, saw a need for shareware reviews and download capability. While the company is probably thought by many as a brand around idea of two cows, really TUCOWS was an acronym for The Ultimate Collection of Winsock Software.

The company went through a series of acquisitions and changes over the years, and became a public company, on the Toronto Stock Exchange, in 2005.

Tucows purchased the NetIdentity portfolio of about 39,000 surname domain names. Following several registrar acquisitions, their domain registrar focus gradually emerged. This took a big step forward in 2017 when they acquired eNom, one of the early registrar giants.

Recently the acquired portions of the former Uniregistry.

Google

While registrar services are a tiny part of Google, the domain division has grown strongly year by year. Google Domains was launched in 2014.

Google is in fourth place, with more than 7.4 million registrations. That is not just due to registrations in their own extensions, such as .app, .dev and .page. They currently handle registration for more than 300 different extensions.

Network Solutions

Network Solutions is the oldest registrar in the list, although not the oldest company.

Network Solutions started out as a technology company, primarily programming, in 1979.

The company was contracted by the US National Science Foundation (NSF) to manage the domain name system in 1991, handling .com, .net, .org, .gov, .mil, and .edu.

Initially domain registrations were free, but then changed to $100 for a 2 year period, of which 30% went to the NSF. Subsequently this was challenged in a court case, and the price was reduced to $70 for two years registration.

Network Solutions was the only company to bid, and thus become the first and sole, registrar of .com, .net, and .org starting in 1992.

In 1998 ICANN was formed and the registration of legacy names was opened to other registrars.

Network Solutions was purchased by Verisign in 2000, but sold three years later.

Web.com acquired Network Solutions in 2011. They continue as the parent company.

Network Solutions is still the the fourth largest registrar in terms of domain name registrations, with just over 6.7 million names registered.

Alibaba

China-based Alibaba is a diverse company, and one of the world’s largest companies, with more than 250,000 employees and 2021 net income of about $22 billion USD.

The Alibaba company was founded by Jack Ma in 1999, with 17 friends and students. It was initially a B2B company, but soon bridged out into a retail marketplace and numerous other ventures.

The domain registrar side of Alibaba came about after the company started its cloud computing branch in 2009, on the 10th anniversary of the founding of Alibaba. In the same year they acquired HiChina, the largest web and domain registration company, at the time, in China.

Currently Alibaba Cloud Computing is 6th on the list, with more than 6 million domain names registered.

The name for Alibaba comes from the Arabian folk tale Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves. A poor woodcutter discovers the secret phrase to enter the thieves’ den where the treasure is hidden, Open Sesame. The tale is part of One Thousand and One Nights.

Jack Ma, the Alibaba founder, was considering the name which he liked personally. He asked a San Francisco coffee shop waitress if she knew the name Ali Baba, and she said yes, Open Sesame. Jack Ma then went into the street and asked 30 people, of different nationalities, and when most knew the name, it confirmed for him that it was a good choice.

The domain name Alibaba.com was registered on April 15, 1999, and Alibaba Group was formally founded about a month later.

PDR Limited

Public Domain Registry, PDR, is part of the Endurance International Group. Although operating globally, Endurance is headquartered in Burlington, Massachusetts. Endurance, previously known as BizLand, was founded in 1997.

PDR Limited has about 6 million domain names under registration. Other brands within the Endurance group include Bluehost, Direct, Domain.com, eHost, HostGator, iPage, IX Web Hosting, and Reseller Club, among many others.

IONOS

With more than 5.5 million domain registrations, IONOS SE takes eighth place. 1&1 IONOS provide web serving and domain services. The company is owned by United Internet.

Also known as IONOS by 1&1. IONOS was founded in 1988 in Germany. It has headquarters in both Germany and the United States.

eNom

With so many acquisitions and wholly owned companies, it can be tough to decide which registrars to count as independent for statistical purposes. DomainNameStat, our data source, list eNom, with more than 5.2 million names registered, as an independent listing, even though, as mentioned earlier, eNom was acquired by Tucows in 2017.

eNom was founded in Kirkland, Washington in 1997. In the years after the ending of the Network Solutions domain registration monopoly. eNom was one of the three largest registrars in the world. In its early years it operated largely as a wholesale reseller, making the acquisition with Tucows a natural fit.

On some lists Tucows is listed in second place, since if both Tucows and eNom are added, it edges out Namecheap.

GMO Internet

With just over 5.2 million registrations, the top 10 list is completed by GMO Internet. It is a public company headquartered in Tokyo, Japan.

Z.com is a pretty great domain name. It takes you to GMO Internet. They purchased the domain name in 2014 from Nissan for $6.78 million.

NamePros Polls

There are a few NamePros polls with respect to domain name registrars. As these close at the end of the year, please vote if you have not already done so.
Test Answers

Here are the answers to the test, and how to score your responses.
  1. In terms of domain names registered, can you list the top 5 registrars in order? Give yourself 1 point for each registrar you have in the right place. Answer: GoDaddy, Namecheap, Tucows, Google. Network Solutions. Give yourself full points if you have Tucows, Namecheap reversed. since if we include eNom they would. up to 5 points total
  2. For 2 additional points, can you list at least 4 of the next 5, not necessarily in order? That is, the registrars that placed 6 though 10. Give yourself 1 point if you got 3 of the 5. Alibaba, PDR, IONOS, eNom, GMO up to 2 points
  3. This famous registrar started out not with its current name, but named after a road in Arizona. What was that original name? GoDaddy started as Jomax Technologies 1 point
  4. This registrar was once the only place you could register a .com domain name. Network Solutions 1 point
  5. This top 10 registrar is part of the Endurance Group of companies. PDR 1 point
  6. A waitress at a coffee house in San Francisco helped validate the name choice for this company. Alibaba 1 point
  7. This current top 10 registrar started life as a source for reviews and downloads of shareware and freeware. Tucows 1 point
  8. In what year did GoDaddy become the registrar with the most domain names under registration? 2005 1 point
  9. This top 10 registrar is owned by Web.com. Network Solutions 1 point
  10. How many of the names of the top 5 registrars were originally hand registrations? I believe all 5, at least they were registered just before or at time of founding. 1 point
  11. This registrar uses a single character .com. What is the registrar name and which one character in the domain name? Z.com for GMO Internet 2 points
  12. One registrar with headquarters in Germany is on the list. What is its name? IONOS 1 point
  13. This top-5 US registrar was founded in year 2000. Namecheap 1 point
  14. This registrar was started on the 10 year anniversary of the parent company. Alibaba 1 point
  15. Which registrar purchased a portfolio of 39,000 surnames?Tucows 1 point
I hope you did well. Maximum points possible is 21.

Next Week

A number of the registrars that are most popular with investors, at least according to poll results, are not in the list of the top 10 according to registration numbers.

In part 2 in this series I look at some of those registrars, as well as list some factors you might want to consider when choosing a registrar.

I will share one surprising statistic I found. I will also provide links to ICANN information sources with respect to registrars.

I encourage readers to share how they did in the test, including their score and which question(s) tripped them up.

Got some historical trivia about the registrar’s in the top 10 list? Why not share them in the comments.
 
The views expressed on this page by users and staff are their own, not those of NamePros.
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