Here’s how many three-letter .coms are used by end users – Domain Name Wire

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8 Comments July 12, 2016
In this guest article, Michael Robini analyzes how many three letter .coms are used by end users.
What percentage of domains are really used by end users?
We chose to give an answer for each domains category (defined below in the article):
And we can merge these results, to have the figures in term of Chinese premium and Western premium domains:
And, finally, 43.2% of the whole are developed and used by end users.
Before publishing the current article, I wrote two similar ones related to domains. The first one presenting our statistical method can be read here, and the second one validating the method can be read here. Some domainers found that our analysis was relevant, and asked us to do the same for, focusing on domains developed by end-users. And this requirement included an improvement: splitting the analysis between Chinese premium domains (i.e. domains without the letters a, e, i, o, u and v) and Western premium domains (i.e. domains without letters j, k, q, u, v, w, x, y and z). We accepted with pleasure since the result could be interesting for the whole domaining community.
This study mixes experimental analysis, statistics and computer science, and can be applied to any domain category:, a bunch of keywords domains,… We will try to detail as much as possible how to obtain the percentage of developed websites. Please also note that we are not the first to do this kind of analysis for, Nat Cohen extracted this type of figures a few years back.
First of all, the set of domains on which we are working contains: 26x26x26 = 17,576 domains. Considering the letters included or excluded in each domains categories, the Chinese premium represent 20x20x20 = 8,000 domains, and the Western premium represent 17x17x17 = 4,913 domains.
We would like to point out that an overlap exist between Chinese premium and Western premium domains: belongs to both categories for instance. These domains will be named ‘both premium’ in the next parts of this article, and are built using the letters B, C, D, F, G, H, L, M, N, P, R, S, T. Consequently, they represent: 13x13x13 = 2,197 domains.
With the introduction of this ‘both premium’ category, we indirectly created 2 new categories that we will name ‘pure Chinese premium’ and ‘pure Western premium’. They are, respectively, the Chinese premium minus the both premium and the Western premium minus the both premium. They represent respectively: 8,000 – 2,197 = 5,803 domains and 4,913 – 2,197 = 2,716 domains.
We are left with a last category: the domains that belong to none of the 3 other categories, or, in other words, that are neither Chinese premium nor Western Premium. These domains mix the Chinese premium but non Western premium letters J, K, Q, W, X, Y, Z, with the Western premium but non Chinese premium letters A, E, I, O, but also any letters with one of the letters U, V, since U and V are neither Chinese premium nor Western premium letters. They represent respectively 3,108 (mix of J, K, Q, W, X, Y, Z and A, E, I, O) and 3,752 (domains including U or V), and will be called ‘anti premium’ in the rest of the article. We have thus a total of 3,108 + 3,752 = 6,860 anti premium domains.
To sum up, we created 4 domains categories (the total is naturally equal to 26x26x26 = 17,576):
Clearly, all these numbers are too big to be analysed by looking at each domain one by one. But some clever ideas to do the job will be proposed in the next parts.
We can start by removing parked domains (and domains owned by domainers) from the initial bunch of 17,576, since this will reduce the quantity of domains to analyse. To do this, the first step is to retrieve the nameservers of each domain. Using the nameservers, we will be able to identify all parked domains. Indeed, the nameservers of these domains will contain the name of well known parking companies like in NS1.SEDOPARKING.COM, NS1.PARKINGCREW.NET or NS1.BODIS.COM for instance. In order to list the nameservers of each domain, we can either perform a ‘whois’ command of each of the 17,576 domain (longer, more complex, but most precise way), or scan directly the ‘Start Of Authority’ (SOA) field of the zone file by asking to a domain name server (the fastest, simpler, but somewhat sketchy way). More info on the zone file and SOA field here: Zone file.
For, we computed the nameservers data the 13th May 2016, using the ‘whois’ approach. We obtained the following results, aggregated for the top 20 most occurring nameservers:
Using this table, we can sum the number of domains parked at the main parking companies, or that belong to domainers (lines with ‘Yes‘ in the last column of the table): 1,080 + 1,071 + 429 + 385 + 312 + 294 + 196 + 159 + 155 + 114 + 109 + 106 + 99 = 4,509. This means that at least 4,509 or 25.7% of domains are parked or into the hands of domainers, the 13th May 2016.
Others domains can be parked at smaller or unknown companies, can be not resolving, can be redirecting or can be developed websites. This last category includes domains under construction, domains with a unique simple or void page or real end user developed domains. And this is this last sub-category that will be of interest for us in the next parts.
We are now left with 17,576 – 4,509 = 13,067 domains to analyse. Let’s now split these 13,067 domains into the 4 categories we introduced in part 3: pure Chinese premium, pure Western premium, both premium and anti premium. We obtain the following figures for each category:
Naturally, the total number of domains from this 4 groups is: 4,416 + 2,243 + 1,819 + 4,589 = 13,067, that is the number of domains non-parked or not into domainers’ hands, established in part 4.
Again, each of these sub-groups contains a number of domains too big to be analysed one by one: we can’t look at each domain to check if it is resolving, if it is parked, developed, etc… So, in this second step, we will use statistical samples to evaluate, with a given and known precision, the number of developed domains in each group. In other words, we will look manually at small groups of domains, and we will extrapolate the result to the whole groups. But the ‘small’ groups need to be ‘big enough’ to have relevant results. For more details, you can have a look at the following pages: Sample size determination and Sample size calculator.
Let’s say we want to evaluate the number of developed domains with an error margin of 3%, and with a confident factor of 95%. In this case, the size of the statistical samples must be, for each domain category:
Again, looking one by one at all the domains contained in these 4 samples is not an easy task, even if they are smaller. We have to open an url and wait for the page loading for each domains… Instead of this, we created a small tool that takes screenshots of websites from a list a domains (using the Selenium tool and the PhantomJS webdriver. More info here). Like this, our final job is only to review 4 bunches of pics, to determine which domains are really developed in each of the 4 samples.
But before that, let’s detail below what is (or is not) a domain owned and developed by an end user:
For the first group of 4,416 pure Chinese premium domains that are not parked, we chosen randomly (using the Unix ‘shuf’ command) a sample of 860 of them and took the associated screenshots. From the pics analysis, we identified 391 developed domains corresponding to 45.5% of developed websites. This means that 2,009 domains over the initial group of 4,416 non-paked domains are developed. Thus, we can extrapolate that 2,009 domains in the full group of 5,803 pure Chinese premium domains are developed websites. That corresponds to 34.6%.
We repeated this exercise for the 3 other groups (pure Western premium, both premium, and anti premium) and we obtained the following final results for the 4 groups:
The last step of our study is to combine the result obtained in part 6 in order to have figures for Chinese premium, Western premium and the whole domains. Starting from:
And if we want to present these result in term of ‘Chinese premium’ and ‘Western premium’ domains, we need to merge the ‘both premium’ percentage with respectively ‘pure Chinese’ and ‘pure Western’ percentage:
And if we want to obtain the overall percentage of domains developed by end users, we combine all the previous results: [(34.6% X 5,803) + (59.6% X 2,716) + (58.4% X 2,197) + (39.1% X 6,860)] / 17,576 = 43.2%
Finally, we can give a few more details to interpret this last figure. 43.2% of domains developed by end users, does not mean that 100 – 43.2 = 56.8% of domains are into the hands of domainers. In fact, some parked are already into the hands of end users, but they are just not using them. And around 15% of all are not resolving: for these domains, for can’t know if they belong to end users or domainers. We can only conclude that domainers own less than 56.8% and probably less than 50%, if we assume that non resolving belong for half of them to domainers, and half of them to end users.
We would like to say thank you to Nat Cohen for the exchange of ideas, for his advices and for re-reading the article. A big thanks to you Nat.
Thank you to Andrew too, that accepted to publish this article on Domain Name Wire.
And a few words for the end: we would like to add that we are not IT experts nor mathematicians. Feel free to report any error in the study. All pics, samples, and software parts are available on demand.
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Nat Cohen says
July 12, 2016 at 12:52 pm
Thanks very much for contributing your time and effort to doing this research and for sharing your results with the community. One of the big questions with domain investing is the level of end-user interest. Thanks to your research we now know that most Western premium 3-letter dot-com domains are already held by end-users and are developed.
Anonymous says
July 12, 2016 at 8:04 pm
Nice writeup, Mike.
Joseph Peterson says
July 12, 2016 at 9:04 pm
Great work, Mike! And I do mean WORK. Studies like these don’t happen merely by snapping one’s fingers.
Kassey Lee says
July 12, 2016 at 9:18 pm
Very much agreed. Based on my own experience, I know it takes enormous amount of time to do a good study like yours. So, thank you, Mike.
Yess says
July 12, 2016 at 11:36 pm
F1G1NS1.DNSPOD.NET – I think this most be some Chinese investor. look closer
John says
July 13, 2016 at 8:33 am
“…These domains will be named ‘both premium’ in the next parts of this article, and are built using the letters B, C, D, F, G, H, L, M, N, P, R, S, T. Consequently, they represent: 13x13x13 = 2,197 domains…”
Do we know what these type sof names have sold for low end/high end?
Great work.
QCK says
July 19, 2016 at 3:04 am
This study is really interesting, especially after reading it three times! As someone who has been trying to sell a Chinese Premium domain for a few months, I can now understand better why the price rises and falls with the general market – more so than with a Western Premium domain. says
August 5, 2016 at 4:49 am
Thank You Mike for such detailed info.
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