Alternative Perspectives on Registrar Market Share:
The Fortune 1000, the Forbes International 500, and the Yahoo Directory

[ Overview - Data & Results - Summary Statistics - Discussion & Policy Implications - Motivation ]


Since the 1999 introduction of competitive registration of domain names, analysts have examined the market share of the various registrars now able to offer registrations in the gTLDs of .COM, .NET, and .ORG. Initially Network Solutions (subsequently bought by Verisign) served the entire market as the sole supplier of such domain names, but competitive registrars have subsequently come to have substantial market share. Understanding registrar market share is of interest in assessing the financial viability and proper valuation of each registrar, in selecting a registrar, and in understanding the registrar features and design seemingly of greatest interest to domain registrants.

Continued work by State of the Domain (among others) documents registrar market share as measured as a proportion of total COM, NET, and ORG domain names. In contrast, the work described in this document takes a different perspective, focusing instead on certain subsets of the domain registration market. In particular, this work considers the domains of the largest American firms (as listed in the Fortune 1000), the largest firms worldwide (as listed in the Forbes International 500), and the relatively well-known sites listed in leading web directory Yahoo. These subsets of the gTLD domain name space are of interest for the distinct registration markets they represent. Most notably, this analysis focuses on domains actually in active use; the design of these subsets seeks to exclude domain name speculators and warehousers, whose millions of domain registrations might prevent ordinary domain registration analysis from properly reflecting the registrations of all domains actually in current active use and most likely to be renewed in the future.

Analysis shows substantial divergence among the groups studied. For example, while Verisign's market share across all COM, NET, and ORG registrations has fallen to 39.1%, its market share among the primary domains of Fortune 1000 companies remains 83.4%. Similarly, while 74.1% of domains in a 2001 snapshot of Yahoo are currently registered with Verisign, only 44.8% of recent additions to Yahoo use Verisign. Nonetheless, Verisign's market share is in every category of domains found to be larger than SOTD reports; thus, excluding registrations by domain speculators and warehousers, it is likely that Verisign has a larger market share -- of domains actually in use -- than SOTD's analysis has suggested. In the Results section of this document, similar data is provided for a variety of other registrars.

In this research, I document the registrars used by each of the Fortune 1000 companies, by each of the Forbes International 500 companies, and by each listing in Yahoo; I subsequently compare these registration patterns with the registrars used by the entire domain name registration market.


Data & Results

In recent testing and archiving, I have extracted a list of 992 distinct COM, NET, and ORG domains used by 995 of the Fortune 1000 companies. I have further prepared some 235 COM, NET, and ORG domains reported by Forbes Magazine to be the primary domains of the respective firms in the Forbes International 500; many other firms on that list use domains outside COM, NET, and ORG, and since those firms' ccTLD registrations cannot be analyzed within the framework of gTLD registrar competition, they are excluded here. Finally, I obtained two lists from Yahoo: First, 446,780 distinct COM, NET, and ORG domains with at least one listing in Yahoo as it stood in the spring of 2001; Second, 9,632 distinct COM, NET, and ORG domains that each host at least one web page added to Yahoo between April 27, 2002 and May 26, 2002..

For each domain, I have used Verisign Global Registry Services's WHOIS service to obtain the registrar of record as of May 2002. A subset of the resulting raw data is available here:

Fortune 1000 companies with registrars - raw data
Forbes International 500 companies with registrars - raw data

I have tabulated each list of domains by registrar name to determine the number of domains registered to each registrar. The table below shows a portion of these results, while the entire listing of registration counts by category and registrar is available in a separate file. The "Overall" column of data comes from the Q1 2002 "State of the Domain" newsletter (available from Snapnames) and reflects March 2002 registrar market share across all COM, NET, and ORG registrations.

Registrar Fortune 1000 Forbes Int'l 500 Yahoo Overall
2001 "New"
Number Percent Number Percent Percent Percent Percent
Network Solutions, Inc.
Tucows, Inc.
9.85%, Inc.

remainder of table available in separate listing of registration counts by category and registrar

The listing of registrations by registrar is available in greater detail:

Registration counts by category and registrar
Registration counts by category and registrar, relative to overall registrar share

This data is graphically summarized in chart form:

Chart of registrations by registrar
Chart of registrations by registrar, relative to overall registrar share


Summary Statistics

Verisign continues to be the largest registrar in COM, NET, and ORG -- among Fortune 1000 firms, among Forbes International 500 companies, among Yahoo listings, and among registrants generally.

Fortune 1000 Registrations

Fortune 1000 domain registrations show an apparent preference for Verisign; Verisign's share of registrations is more than twice as high among the Fortune 1000 than it is among registrations generally (80.8% versus 39.1%). The Discussion section considers possible interpretations of this finding. An additional 8.9% of Fortune 1000 domains are registered to, an amount comparable to's overall market share of 9.8%. No other large registrar (with overall market share above 0.5%) has Fortune 1000 market share of more than a half of that registrar's overall market share.

Some of the registrars serving the Fortune 1000 serve significantly more Fortune customers than their overall registration counts would have predicted. For example, serves only 0.25% of all COM, NET, and ORG domain registrations, but it serves fully 1.8% of Fortune 1000 firms. Though Fortune market shares are smaller for other firms, both Nameengine and Emarkmonitor also serve disproportionately more Fortune firms than their ordinary registration shares would have predicted. These results may reflect that certain registrars offer premium services (such as monitoring) that are of particular interest to large corporate customers.

Among large registrars, Tucows and Bulkregister are notable for showing the reverse effect; they have, respectively, fully 9.85% and 5.39% of COM, NET, and ORG registrations but only 1% and 0.9% of Fortune 1000 registrations. This data suggests that, through the services these registrars offer, they have made themselves significantly more appealing to ordinary and high-volume registrants than to Fortune 1000 registrants.

Forbes International 500 Registrations

Among Forbes registrations, Verisign's market share was 72.8%, somewhat lower than its share among Fortune firms.'s share remained similar, but Tucows, CORE, Melbourne IT, and Transpac showed notably greater share among the more international Forbes firms than among the American firms listed by Fortune. This may reflect a preference among non-American firms to use non-American registrars, i.e. registrars in their geographic region, or otherwise to use registrars other than Verisign.

Registrations of Domains Listed in Yahoo

A snapshot of Yahoo from 2001 shows an allocation of registrations among registrars that again strongly favors Verisign. Verisign has a 74.1% share of such domain registrations, followed by Tucows with 6.1% and with 3.7%, and Bulkregister, Melbourne IT, Enom, Dotster, and Go Daddy each with more than 1%.

In contrast, new additions to Yahoo reflect a substantial shift away from Verisign. Only 44.8% of domains added to Yahoo in April-May 2002 use Verisign as their registrar, while competitors show significant increases -- to 12.9% for Tucows, 9.82% for, 5.39% for Bulkregister, and 5.20% for Melbourne IT. These differences suggest that while Verisign may continue to serve as registrar for the bulk of Yahoo-listed domains, it is registrar to fewer of the listings newly added to Yahoo.


Discussion, Policy Implications, and Future Work

Fortune 1000 Registrations

Although the primary domains of Fortune 1000 companies represent a very small sample of all gTLD domain registrations, these and other major corporate registrations may represent a disproportionate share of registrar profits. The domain registration market is currently alleged by some (for example, Snapnames) to be undergoing a shake-out among registrars, with certain registrars buying others and with business thought to be in a temporary or even long-term downturn. In this context, registrations by large corporate customers are of particular interest since the per-domain fees paid by these customers may be, some have suggested, substantially higher than the fees ordinarily paid by individuals, small businesses, and speculators. Of course, Fortune 1000 registrations are but a small portion of domains and of registrar profits. However, a registrar with many Fortune accounts paying significant registration fees might be better able to weather a downturn than a registrar without such clients. Further research might attempt to better quantify a wider notion of a registrar's "premium customers" and subsequently examine which registrars have the most such customers. In the short run, this analysis suggests that while, for example, Emarkmonitor may be a small registrar, with less than 0.01% of all registrations, it might nonetheless be and remain a commercially viable operation thanks to a sizable number of major corporate clients paying, it seems likely, above-average registration fees.

The Fortune and Forbes work described here discusses only the primary domains used by the respective firms, as reported by the respective magazines. Most such firms likely have multiple domain registrations, and it would be desirable to examine trends in these many registrations. For example, examining this data would make it possible to determine whether Verisign continues to maintain notably high market share among Fortune firms' additional domain names, or whether its 80%+ market share is limited to Fortune firms' primary domain names. Indeed, fearing some glitch or errata during transition, firms may hesitate to transfer their key domains between registrars; if primary domain names were by and large registered before competition was introduced to gTLD domain registration, but additional Fortune domain names were registered thereafter, examining this additional data might reveal that in fact certain corporate customers have switched to other providers of domain registration services. From this perspective, a reader might then remark not on Verisign's high market share (relative to its baseline of 39% among all registrations) but instead on its low market share (relative to the 100% of domains that it had registered prior to 1999).

Forbes International 500 Registrations

The apparent preference among non-US firms for non-US registrars confirms an anticipated benefit of registrar competition -- that registrants could, should they be so inclined, do business with a firm in their geographic area. The clear divergence in registrars' focus customers -- with some registrars focusing on premium corporate customers and others on the mass market -- confirms a further anticipated benefit of registrar choice.

Registrations of Domains Listed in Yahoo

Profitable operation of a registrar no doubt benefits significantly from renewal of domain names; with high rates of renewal, a registrar has substantial predictable recurring revenue, but without renewal or with lesser renewal a registrar must advertise for or otherwise obtain new customers in order to attain yearly profit goals. (See, for example, Verisign's March 19 SEC 10K Filing and subsequent discussion at ICANNwatch.) It is likely that the domains listed in Yahoo will have higher rates of renewal than other domains due to the relative popularity of these domains, their recognition by Yahoo's editors, and their prominent promotion in the Yahoo directory. Accordingly, even as domains listed in Yahoo may offer only average revenue per registration, a registrar with many Yahoo domains may see higher renewal rates in the future and therefore higher revenue in the long run.

Further Implications on Evaluation of Registrar Competition

This research quantifies outcomes that suggest significant benefits to registrar competition. Identifiable groups of customers are found to choose particular registrars that seem to address their particular needs; for example, some large firms choose registrars with special monitoring services, and non-US firms disproportionately tend to choose registrars located outside the United States. In addition to serving the market through lower prices and higher quality, these new choices likely lead to better matching of suppliers with customer needs -- further increasing consumer surplus. Further research might attempt to better investigate, organize, and quantify the differences in services offered by registrars -- and to determine whether such service differences are in fact significant predictors of registrar choice.

Characteristics of the addition of new sites to Yahoo suggest that registration of new domains is well subject to competition. However, there remains a substantial divergence between the registrars of new additions to Yahoo and the current registrars of sites long listed in Yahoo. This divergence might be taken to imply a low rate of switching from the registrars previously found to be optimal (perhaps in a time of lesser or no registrar choice) to the registrars currently thought to be optimal for new registrations. Registrants' decision to stay with, in general, Verisign may reflect registrants' rational evaluation of the benefits and savings associated with transferring a domain to a new registrar versus the costs and risks of doing so. To the extent that registrant decision-makers have imperfect knowledge of the facts at hand -- for example, to the extent that they perceive large risks where risks are small -- corrective communications are likely to be necessary to assure efficient decision-making. To the extent that transfer procedures are in various ways difficult, confusing, or poorly-documented, a reduction of such costs and confusion (accompanied by a widespread publication of such improvement) would likely encourage additional transfers and increase the rate of equalization between the "snapshot" and "new addition" registrar market shares.

Certain registrar behaviors may make it especially difficult to draw correct conclusions about likely future registrar market shares. For example, registrar market share may vary unpredictably if a registrar offers special prices or other terms to some customers in order to obtain their business. If such offers have been made and accepted in the recent past, current registration counts reflect the results of these anomalies, and conclusions about likely future trends may as a result be skewed.



The purpose of this work is primarily academic -- to document the registrations at issue for the benefit of those who seek to make policy decisions on related matters. For example, in the context of fears that certain registrars may be at risk of bankruptcy or insolvency, it is of interest to know which firms have the corporate clients perhaps most likely to assure strong finances going forward. While this data cannot fully answer such questions, it is a first step towards addressing them.

This page is made available to inform discussion about the registration of Internet domain names. The data contained here is not intended for use for other purposes, and it should not be used for other purposes without first contacting the author.

Thanks to Diane Cabell, Bret Fausett, and Marc Schneiders for suggestions and feedback on this work.

This work builds on and supersedes the author's previous "Fortune 1000 Domain Registrations: An Alternative Perspective on Registrar Market Share."



Ben Edelman
Last Updated: May 29, 2002 - Notify me of major updates and related work.

This page is hosted on a server operated by the Berkman Center for Internet & Society at Harvard Law School, using space made available to me in my capacity as a Berkman Center affiliate for academic and other scholarly work. The work is my own, and the Berkman Center does not express a position on its contents.