Active nameservers

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Active name servers  enable a domain supporting active services, such as a website or email.  Our sample of 2.3 million domains comprised IDNs in gTLDs (both top and second level) and .eu (second level), a similar number to last year.  Of these, approximately 1.8 million are IDNs at the second level, and 500 000 are IDNs at the top level.  The above chart shows the overall percentage of active name servers by level of TLD:

  • 62% of second level IDNs in our sample have active name servers
  • 31% of top level IDNs in our sample have active name servers

The higher rate of active name servers in second level IDNs in part reflects that they have been on available to the market for approximately a decade longer than top level IDNs, which are still comparatively new. The gap between second level and top level in our sample has increased since last year’s analysis, but is 5% higher than in 2015.  Variations may in part be affected by the methodology, which relies on ICANN’s CZDS service – some TLDs can drop or be missed in the collection.

Active name servers at the second level

The rate of active name servers suggests the rate of usage of a TLD, because active name servers are an essential prerequisite in supporting services such as web sites or email. 

The largest IDN space in our sample is .com (second level), which has a 64% rate of active name servers, a 3% improvement since last year.  In .eu (second level), 79% of registrations have active name servers, a 3% decrease since last year but still at the higher end of the TLDs in the sample.

There are significant variances between individual TLDs, as shown by an analysis of the twenty larger zones available to the research team, with rates of active name servers from as low as 13% (.wang) to more than 90% (.berlin).  

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A high percentage of active name servers can be an indicator of quality in a TLD and of stability, as domain names which are actively in use are more likely to be renewed.  For example both .wang and .top – which had active name server rates of less than 20% in December 2016 – have both declined in IDN registration volumes during 2017.

Active name servers at the top level

The top level IDNs in our sample (500 000) were launched since late 2013 as part of a massive expansion of the domain name system, brought about through the ICANN new gTLD programme.

Industry wisdom is that where a TLD has a low percentage of active name servers, the individual domains comprised in that TLD could be less likely to renew. However, registration rates continue to be volatile and the predicted correlation between high usage rates and stability is not always seen. An example from the IDN space is .网址, which had more than 350 000 registrations in December 2015, but an active name server rate of only 12%. By December 2016, the number of registrations under .网址 had dropped to 74 000, but the active name server rate had improved to 34%.  By December 2017, the number of registrations under .网址 increased again to nearly 200 000, and the rate of active nameservers declined to 20%.

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Of the new gTLDs in the sample shown above, the highest rates of active nameservers in .中文网 (‘Chinese website’ in Chinese) at 86%, .在线 (‘online’ in Chinese) at 81% and .コム (.com in Japanese, operated by Verisign) at 81%.  At the lower end of the scale are .世界 (‘world’ in Chinese) at 17%, and .рус (short for ‘Russian’ in Russian) at 20%.