In the January 2015 survey we received responses from 876,812,666 sites and 5,061,365 web-facing computers.
This is the lowest website count since last January, and the third month in a row which has seen a significant drop in the total number of websites. As was the case in the last two months, the loss was heavily concentrated at just a few hosting companies, and a single IP address that was previously hosting parked websites was responsible for over 50% of the drop.
Microsoft continues to be impacted most by the decline. Having overtaken Apache in the July 2014 survey their market share now stands at just 27.5%, giving Apache a lead of more than 12 percentage points.
Microsoft's decline seems far less dramatic when looking at the number of web-facing computers that use its server software. A net loss of 6,200 computers this month resulted in its computer share falling by only 0.28 percentage points, while Apache's went up by 0.18 to 47.5%.
These losses included many sites running on Microsoft IIS 6.0, which along with Windows Server 2003, will reach the end of its Extended Support period in July. Further abandonment of these platforms is therefore expected in the first half of this year, although Microsoft does offer custom support relationships which go beyond the Extended Support period.
Apache made an impressive gain of 22,000 web-facing computers this month. Half of this net growth can be attributed to the Russian social networking company V Kontakte, which hosts nearly 13,000 computers. Almost all of these were running nginx last month, but 11,000 have since defected to Apache, leaving less than 2,000 of V Kontakte's computers still using nginx.
OVH is still the second largest hosting company in terms of web-facing computers (although DigitalOcean is hot on its heels), but demand for its own relatively new .ovh top-level domain appears to be waning. Last month, we reported that the number of sites using the new .ovh TLD had shot up from 6,000 to 63,000. These sites were spread across just under 50,000 unique .ovh domains, and the number of domains grew by only 2,000 this month.
Only the first 50,000 .ovh domains were given away for free, while subsequent ones were charged at EUR 0.99. Despite being less than a third of the planned usual price of EUR 2.99, this shows how even a tiny cost can have a dramatic impact on slowing down the uptake in domain registrations.
Other new top-level domains which have shown early signs of strong hostname growth include .click, .restaurant, .help, .property, .top, .gifts, .quebec, .market and .ooo, each of which were almost non-existent last month but now number in their thousands.
The proliferation of new top level domains is evidently generating a lot of money for registrars and ICANN, but for some parties it has caused expenditure that was previously unnecessary. Take the new .hosting TLD for example: you would expect this domain to only be of interest to hosting companies, but US bank Wells Fargo has also registered some .hosting domains, including wellsfargo.hosting, wellsfargoadvisors.hosting and wellsfargohomemortgage.hosting. These domains are not used to serve any content, and instead redirect customers to Wells Fargo's main site at wellsfargo.com. The sole purpose of registering these domains appears to be to stop any other party from doing so, which protects the bank's brand and prevents the domains being used to host phishing sites.
In a similar move, Microsoft has also registered several .hosting domains including xbox.hosting, bing.hosting, windows.hosting, skype.hosting, kinect.hosting and dynamics.hosting. Browsing to any of these domains causes the user to be redirected to bing.com, which displays search results for the second-level string (i.e. "xbox", "windows", etc.).
Of course, with many other new TLDs continually popping up, brand protection becomes an increasingly costly exercise. Microsoft has also recently registered hundreds of other nonsensical domains which are used to redirect browsers to bing.com, such as lumia.ninja, lync.lawyer, xboxone.guitars, windowsphone.futbol, microsoft.airforce, azure.luxury, yammer.singles, xboxlive.codes, halo.tattoo, internetexplorer.fishing, and so on.
However, the race to register domain names is not always won by Microsoft — bing.click is a prime example of a domain that someone else got to first. This domain is currently offered for sale, highlighting the fact that it's not just ICANN and the registrars that stand to gain money from the influx of new TLDs.
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