Verisign Domain Counts vs. DomainTools ‘Dark Domains’

| July 31, 2012

Verisign’s New Disclosures Still Leave Some Questions Unanswered

We’re pleased to see that Verisign is now disclosing ’not configured domain names’ in their daily zone count. By Verisign’s definition, “not configured domain names” are: domain name registrations that are not configured with name servers at the Top-level Domain (TLD) registry, and thus are not published to the TLD zone file. Verisign’s defines about 180K .com and .net ‘not configured domains’.

In January this year, we blogged about what we called ‘dark domains‘ in com/net. Our counts on dark domains for these TLDs now approach 500K.  So why is this number so different from the 180K ‘not configured domain names’? The difference lies in the fact that there are actually a number of different domain status types that are outside of Verisign’s active zone count and we decided to classify a few of these states as ‘dark’. Let’s try to make that clear.

We’ve already mentioned the ‘not configured domain names’ category. Verisign made it clear that these 180K or so .com/.net domains lie outside of their active zone counts and files. Because Verisign does not publish this list of domains, they are the only entity that could know the full and accurate count of ‘not configured domain names’ at any point in time. DomainTools through its own methods has uncovered about 60% of these domains, a number we could never calculate until Verisign published the full count. DomainTools includes this domain status in our definition of ‘dark’ domains.

Redemption Period and Pending Delete  domains is another category that lies outside of the Verisign Active Zone count. DomainTools currently counts over 2.5 million .com/.net domains in one of these two states. We do not classify these domains as ‘dark’ because they are in a known and well-defined state of expiration.

A third category of domains that lie outside of the Active Zone count are ‘on hold’ domains. These are domains for which Verisign returns a ‘hold’ response in thin Whois. Because domains can remain in this ‘on hold’ limbo state for very long periods of time, we decided to include these domains in our ‘dark domains’ count. They do not resolve, but they are also not available to register. DomainTools counts well over 350K com/net domains currently in this state.  It appears that a significant number of these ‘on hold’ domains have just passed their expiration date, so it is possible this is a registrar-driven limbo state prior to Redemption Period.  We’re going to take a closer look at the data and chat with some of our registrar friends to see if we can better segment this category.  There is certainly some huge concentration of on-hold domains by registrar.

In the meantime, the DomainTools ‘dark domain’ count, shown daily on the blank-nameserver report at our DailyChanges.com site, is a combination of our known domains from Verisign’s ‘not configured domain names’ list plus the domains we have found to be in ‘on hold’ states. Given that we know we are 40% short on the first category, and that there are over 350K in the second category, we see that there are well over half a million ‘dark domains’ in the .com/.net  TLDs alone. That’s a lot of domains!

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Category: Domain Tools Updates, Verisign

About the Author ()

Susan is the VP of Partner and Industry Relations at DomainTools. An accomplished domain industry executive, Susan is responsible for leading DomainTools’ business development efforts in the DNS and network security markets. In this role, she is responsible for all Enterprise clients, Reseller partners and Affiliates. Susan plays an integral role at DomainTools, leading thought leadership and participation in important industry working groups such as at ICANN, INTA, IACC and APWG. Susan joined DomainTools in 2007. Prior to DomainTools, she spent 15 years in the DNS and hosting markets, most recently running Client Service and Operations for a fast-growing webhost provider ultimately rolled into what is now Web.com.