The European Union is home to some of the most successful ccTLD registries in the world. Five of the top ten ccTLDs in the world are in the European Union (.de, .uk, .nl, .eu, and .fr). Penetration of ccTLDs per 1 000 of population ranges from 20 (Croatia) to 330 (Netherlands).
The ccTLD market in the EU (and the continent of Europe) has been strong since the late 1990s. The regional ccTLD organization, CENTR, has been a focal point for exchange of good practices, which has accelerated development. For example, the trend since the year 2000 has been for European registries to move towards open systems of registration (first come, first served). In 2005, NORID (the registry for Norway, .no) developed a matrix to reflect registry policies, and mapped the position of CENTR members (and associate members) at the time.
Since 2005, the tendency for European ccTLDs has been to move towards the bottom-right quadrant (“unregulated”), the most recent examples being .fr (France), .pt (Portugal), .es (Spain), .it (Italy), .lv (Latvia) and .bg (Bulgaria). Following liberalisation of registry policies, these ccTLDs have enjoyed high growth.
European ccTLDs have played an important role in developing local Internet ecosystems since the late 1990s. The majority use locally accredited registrars as their primary channel to market. Typically, there will be a handful of large, international registrars (which may also be ICANN accredited) in most ccTLDs. The familiar “long-tail” of market share by registrar indicates that only a minority of any ccTLD’s registrars will earn their primary income through domains. To survive in business, smaller local registrars develop related added-value services such as hosting, web design, and certification, often in local languages. These stimulate growth in Internet services at the local level, as well as providing an incubation for future international players and ICANN accredited registrars. As an illustration, of EURid’s 734 registrars (December 2015), the top ten managed nearly 37% of the register (an average of over 140,000 .eu domains per top ten registrar). At the bottom end, by inference, 234 .eu registrars manage a total of 0.4% of the register (an average of 66 .eu domains per registrar). Similar patterns are observed in other large ccTLDs.
European ccTLDs have also been at the forefront of technical developments in the domain name system, including implementation of automated registration systems (EPP and national equivalents), security extensions (DNSSEC) and involvement in IDNs, both at the technical and policy levels.
In summary, domain names have been an established part of the European Internet landscape since the early days of mass Internet deployment. Consumers are accustomed to seeing local ccTLD domains in advertising and mass marketing materials. European ccTLD registries themselves have played a pivotal role in the development of thriving, competitive local markets for domains and related added-value services.