During a recent interview with City A.M., former Chair of the ICANN Board of Directors Peter Dengate Thrush, who joined Top Level Domain Holdings in July after retiring from the ICANN Board, stated that the current domain name market is worth about $12 billion.
It is unclear exactly what Dengate Thrush was measuring in this estimation: whether he was referring to the value of the marketplace of companies that provide services to domain name registrants (registries, registrars, SEO service providers, advertisers, etc.), or to the marketable value of all domain names. At present, there are hundreds of millions of domain names across both generic (gTLDs) and country-code top level domains (ccTLDs).
What’s curious, however, is that Dengate Thrush made this assertion in the context of discussing new generic top-level domains (gTLDs). He believes that the domain name market will expand by around $3 to $4 billion with the introduction of new gTLDs. ICANN has predicted that the new gTLD program will launch hundreds of new domain extensions – compare that to the 22 existing gTLDs and approximately 240 existing ccTLDs. When these figures are taken into consideration, Dengate Thrush is basically predicting that the value of the marketplace will increase by only 25 to 30 percent, while the real estate in the gTLD marketplace will increase from anywhere from 2,000 to 5,000 percent, according to some estimates. In that context, his estimations could be interpreted as a lack of confidence in the future value of new gTLDs, or, more likely, a lack of empirical data supporting his assertions.
The point I’m trying to make here is that I wouldn’t put too much stock in these assertions. It will be years before we can know with any certainty what kind of impact the new gTLD program will have on the domain name marketplace. One thing is certain, though: that impact is likely to be dramatic.