Bellwether or Anomaly? The Rise and (Apparent) Fall of .PW

| July 24, 2014

pw-domainsThere’s been a lot of speculation about how domain registrations will take off (or not) in the new gTLDs that are rapidly coming online. Last year we covered the growth of .PW roughly one month after launch; this commercial re-launch of the ccTLD for Palau was watched closely because many felt it might predict customer reception of new gTLDs. (Granted, .PW does not have the same intrinsic semantic meaning as .movie or .club.)

It’s easy to get caught up in an “insider” view, and assume that consumers will embrace the new TLDs as quickly as those of us who work in Internet-related industries. But do they? Looking at .PW, we saw that most of the growth could be attributed to registrations through Chinese companies. Of course other markets were represented too, but a handful of Chinese companies really drove that growth. This makes sense because .PW was promoted widely in Asia as the “Professional Web.” .PW’s hope was that organizations—and their customers—would flock to this “business neighborhood” of the Web. Let’s see how it played out.

Three months after launch, the registry for .PW announced that they saw over 250,000 registrations in the first three months. (At that moment DomainTools saw just over 150,000 domains in our data, indicating coverage of about 60%.) It looked at that point like there was a healthy ramp-up in registrations. Perhaps the Professional Web was catching on.

Fast-forward to the present. Our data shows that .PW topped out in late March of this year at just over 300,000 domains in our database. What is more interesting, though, is how the numbers have declined since then: as of June 5th, we saw fewer than 190,000 domains, representing a 37% drop in registrations. While it’s likely that our domain counts aren’t completely accurate, we think they are accurate enough to point to a sharp decline in renewals at the one-year mark. There is a bit of a turnaround in the last couple of weeks—it will be interesting to track whether the uptick holds.

As for the overall decline, we can imagine at least two possible reasons for this:

  1. Domain owners have decided to spend their money on other new gTLDs.
  2. Promotions and special deals to encourage initial registration won’t guarantee renewals. (You’ve doubtless seen some of these campaigns from registries.)

The moral of the story? There probably isn’t just one, but it seems safe to say that relying on a “build it and they will come” philosophy for new TLDs is risky. Sooner or later, the economics of domain strategy (whether for investment or as the online home of a product or organization) always comes down to commerce and traffic. If too few of the Web’s users are aware of—much less visit—a given domain space, the money will move on. A registry can do a fine job promoting a new TLD to organizations, but the job those organizations then take on of promoting the TLD to consumers at large is a task of another magnitude. It may well be that owners of .PW domains simply didn’t see the growth in attention that they were hoping for.

If you haven’t already done so, be sure to visit our Internet Statistics pages. They are a great way to get at-a-glance information about large-scale trends in registrations, address space allocations, and more. Tip of the hat, by the way, to Michael Klatt for the original research on .pw.



Category: Domain Tools Updates

About the Author ()

Tim Helming, Director of Product Management at DomainTools, has over a decade of technology product management experience. Areas of particular focus and interest are cybersecurity software and hardware, distributed storage and computing, and DNS/Whois. He has spoken at cybersecurity, technology channel, and media events worldwide.

Comments (5)

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  1. Ms Domainer says:


    Thank God. Finally. A sensible and no-rah-rah take on the new gTLDs.


  2. Almost all the traffic I see going to .pw domains is malware, to the extent that we block traffic to those domains with zero ill-effect. I wonder what proportion of those domains are malicious? I would guess that it is a LOT.

  3. Jaime says:

    This could certainly be a hint on what could happen with the rush of new gTLDs after the first year…

  4. carledgar says:

    Not sure where this word “bellweather” came from. It has nothing to do with meteorology. It’s to do with sheep. A “wether” is a castrated ram around whose neck a bell is fixed so that it can lead the flock.

    We use the word in domaining to indicate trends. It has nothing to do “wit dat stuff up in da sky”, as some would-be writers might essay.

  5. Tim Helming says:

    Carl, good catch! We’ve updated the title…and your humble correspondent learned something new! (I’d always thought it was an archaic word for a bell-equipped buoy, which would sort of make sense as a herald of things to come, but obviously not). Thanks for reading!