Do we need a .eu?

On my frequent travels around Europe I always make a note of public facing domain names.  One sad game I play is to write (or mentally note if it isn’t a flight that lands to early or late) down the first fifty domain names I see when I get off the airplane.  The usual suspects are always there – HSBC (.com) seem to have the monopoly on adverts on the jetty bridges at airports these days, is another popular one and DHL seem to be spending money on their branding like it is going out of fashion.

But what I have noticed in my adventures is the lack of one particular domain suffix – the dot eu.  Obviously some of the places I arrive in aren’t in the EU – such as Switzerland and Norway, but I am yet to see a dot eu being used publically in Germany, France or Denmark.  These countries still prefer their local .de, .fr or .dk respectively even favouring them more than a .com or .net in some instances.  The sense of national pride that you can see throughout these lands is reflected in the use of their own domain names.

So if that is the case, who is actually using a dot eu?  The most famous domain investor in the world, Frank Schilling wrote back in 2007 about his thoughts on the launch of the suffix and he has been proved right.  Probably the most well known .eu is, the online gambling company who rebranded from the .com last year.  But perhaps the domain is well known because of the recent problems the company has had and the fact their .eu domain name has been plastered across the media.

Currently there are approximately 3.5 million .eu registrations.  The breakdown of registrants is still quite interesting:-

  • Germany – 1.1m
  • Netherlands – 480k
  • UK – 332k
  • France – 327k
  • Poland – 233k

These are the top five.  But they are also five of the biggest domain consumers in Europe.  So is .eu just a substitute option for when the country specific domain suffix is taken? Or are they simply registered for defensive purposes.  Below are the same five countries and how many country specific domains they have:-

  • Germany (.de) –  14.2m
  • Netherlands (.nl) – 4.4m
  • UK (.uk) – 9.9m
  • France (.fr) – 2.3m
  • Poland (.pl) – 1.5m

Domain suffixes peak in the first year that a TLD is launched.  Two million .eu domain names were registered in the first two months of general registration.  It took nearly three years to add another million domain names. So it is hard to see the tipping point in the future for this domain.  With the launch of the new gTLD programme, does it spell the end of any potential high profile .eu campaigns?  Most major European brands will look at developing pan-Continental campaigns using a new TLD such as a .HSBC or a .UBS (note: We have no idea if these brands are applying for a new TLD, they are merely in here for comparison purposes) rather than a .eu which could turn off some nationalist consumers.

So is there a future for .eu?  What can Eurid do to boost its popularity?  Perhaps the only future is a pricing one.  After all, the fastest growing domain in the world today is .tk (Tokelau) simply because it is free.  Website owners are consumers like me and you, and if they can see a value in a free domain name then they will use it.  Otherwise the future of .eu is very uncertain.

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