2008 was a very unique year in the domaining industry. The popularity of domaining continued to rise even as prices dropped. Increasing numbers of end users noticed the value of domains as well and there were quite a few astonishing sales reported throughout the year. At the same time, domain parking came to a virtual stand still and there were some rollercoaster-like price developments in the LLLL and LLL market segments. As the economic crisis picked up steam, end user sales have remained relatively strong, but an unprecedented domainer bubble, which was caused by easy credit and irrational exuberance, came to a slow but certain end.
Domain Registration Growth Continues
Despite all economic troubles, the number of registered domains kept growing during 2008. However, growth has slowed down quite a bit. Over the course of 2008, the growth rate of registered domains dropped from a 30% growth rate to a 15% growth rate. gTLD domains (like .com, .net, .org) went from over a 30% growth rate in 2006 to under a 10% growth rate in 2008. ccTLDs (country code domains) noticed a similar decline as their growth rate fell from 37% to a 26% growth rate. The majority of the newly registered ccTLDs can be attributed to specific TLDs like those for Russia and China.
Of course, it's important to emphasize that even a lower growth rate means that the number of registered domains is still on the rise! And much of the drop in gTLDs can probably be attributed to the introduction of new rules affecting the domain tasting industry.
The End of Domain Parking
Domain parking in the traditional sense is dying a slow but certain death. Earnings from parking revenue dropped significantly over the course of 2008; as both search engines and parking companies tried to maintain their profits during the economic downturn, domain owners found themselves at the short end of the stick. Alternative monetization solutions like mini-development or auto-development have sprung up for those who own dozens, hundreds or even thousands of domains and don't want to concern themselves with actual development.
The LLLL Craze Is Over
On November 2nd, 2007 the last available four letter dot com domain was registered. This was the start of what was going to be an unbelievable reseller bubble; many people argued whether this bubble would ever pop or not. In early 2008, some domainers started selling their lower quality LLLL .coms for $15 to $20 each. There were quite a few larger investors as well and they were hanging on to their domains in the hope of further price increases.
In the spring of 2008, things really picked up and at one point, the lowest quality LLLL .coms were fetching $35 to $45 per domain. Higher quality domains were regularly seeing end user sales.
Over the subsequent months, things slowed down. Lower quality LLLL .coms became very difficult to sell for more than $10 and we're almost back where we started. Still, it's only a question of time until things pick up again; it is possible that by 2010 or 2011 we'll see a second, more mature and sustainable price increase for LLLL domains.
LLL Domains Cool Down
At the start of 2008, low quality LLL .com domains regularly sold at $6,400 per domain. Within a few months, this minimum had increased to around $7,000 per domain. Then everything started to quiet down and the value of most LLL domains slowly decreased. At the end of 2008, low quality LLL .com domains were selling in the range of $4,500. That's still pretty good, but nothing like the predictions we heard from top domain experts in early 2008 that even the worst LLL domains would sell for more than $10,000 by the end of the year.
End User Sales Remain Strong
When the market was at its strongest in 2008, Fund.com sold for about ten million dollars in the most expensive reported domain sale of the year. DataRecovery.com also sold for a fair amount (over $1.6 million) in March, when the industry was at its peak. As if to demonstrate that the domain industry will tough out the hard economy, Kredit.de and Invest.com both sold for over a million dollars later on in the year when the economic crisis was already in full swing.
More recent transactions like FinancialAid.com selling for $480,000, SC.com for $300,000 and YP.com for a very nice $3,850,000 demonstrate that the domaining game will continue on even through harsh times.
2008 – A Year To Remember
It is likely that 2008 will go down in history as the year that the wholesale sector of the domaining industry hit an all time high and went on to drop very rapidly in the same year. At the same time, retail sales remained strong.
It is unknown what the future holds, but it seems that the worst is over and that the domainer-to-domainer market will slowly start to rebuild itself. The primary lesson for all domainers is that we should depend neither on other domainers, nor on parking companies for our monthly income.