What Is The Annual Domain Industry Sales Volume?

What Is The Annual Domain Industry Aftermarket Sales Volume?

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In my opinion, domain sales is the lifeblood of the domain industry. Not only do large sales bring attention to domain names, but they also provide liquidity to companies operating in the space. My business is mostly reliant on the sale of domain names, most of which are acquired and re-sold in a short period of time.

I think it would be very interesting to know the approximate aftermarket sales volume for the domain industry, and I would guess this number would be in the $250-500 million range annually. Determining the total value of domain sales for the entire industry would be impossible due to the number of private sales and sales that are subject to NDA. Personally, I don’t report sales prices, so I can’t criticize others for wanting to keep their sales private.

I would be very curious to know an approximate number for the public annual domain sales at the major aftermarket companies, large portfolio owners (like Buy Domains, Name Administration, Domain Market, Reinvent, Marchex…etc.), and domain auction houses. These figures would make up the majority of annual sales, although there are one-offs that go totally unreported when end user companies privately sell domain names using an attorney or direct transaction.

If Afternic and Sedo clear about $1 million a week in domain sales, that’s over $100 million in volume annually. Auction houses like GoDaddy, NameJet, and SnapNames clear a hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of domain names a month individually. DomainMarket.com had reported over $500k in sales at the end of February, so that’s several million in sales right there. Frank Schilling’s Name Administration reports some sales, but I would wager that most are private. Same as Reinvent.

In my opinion, the majority of domain sales are subject to NDA. I think Escrow.com would be a good source of information, but I would imagine they would be reluctant to reveal their sales figures (they’re a private company) and they probably have a policy of not reporting private sales. The company recently reported $1 billion in total transactions and I would guess domain name sales is a significant chunk.

While some people may say a half billion in annual transactions is small potatoes for an “industry,” I would argue that this is a very solid number, especially considering the fact that there are probably fewer than 1,500 people making a full time living from the domain industry (not including employees of domain registrars). Compared to much larger industries, this is pretty good and I would say the income per full time investor is far, far superior when compared to real estate agents.

If you had to make a guess about the annual sales volume for the domain industry, what would you say? I posted a poll, so feel free to vote there.


About The Author: Elliot Silver is an Internet entrepreneur and publisher of DomainInvesting.com. Elliot is also the founder and President of Top Notch Domains, LLC, a company that has sold seven figures worth of domain names in the last five years. Please read the DomainInvesting.com Terms of Use page for additional information about the publisher, website comment policy, disclosures, and conflicts of interest.


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Comments (23)

    gene

    Just a guess, but the current annual turnover is probably 200M USD – 300M USD.

    Let’s say that the average annual sales volume since 1999 has been 100M USD — that translates into 1.3B USD in total, after-market sales…SO FAR.

    Even if there are 5,000 players, globally, who make some type of living churning names, that’s an average of $260K per seller in total revenue that’s been earned. [Of course, in reality, it’s a top-heavy market, so the mean figure really isn’t relevant].

    But it’s a safe bet that the value of the outstanding inventory in investors’ portfolios is 20x those amounts. So, theoretically, if every available name changed hands today, the market size is probably between 4B USD and 6B USD. That’s probably larger than one-third of all industries in existence.

    If we keep in mind that (a) this is still, for all intents and purposes, a brand new industry, (b) the ‘real’ after-market began around 1998/1999, and (c) many of the world’s most valuable dot-coms have NEVER come onto the market, it’s a pretty healthy industry.

    July 19th, 2012 at 2:13 pm

    john ferber

    I dont have the analysis handy but i did an informal one last year and basically came up with about 1 billion a year in aftermarket sales.. i took the publically reported numbers of sedo and ron jacksons annual data, and then assumed the 80 percent of all sales went UNREPORTED… you’ll be suprised that the number is close to what i am suggesting if not more…

    best, john

    July 19th, 2012 at 3:21 pm

      Elliot Silver

      @ John

      The one thing that leads me to believe that number is on the high side is that Escrow.com has done $1 billion in total transactions (not only domain names) since inception. I would imagine they handle quite a large % of private (unreported) sales, and I would think they would have hit $1 billion a while back if $1 billion in domain sales took place annually.

      July 19th, 2012 at 3:23 pm

    RH

    A billion seems high, I do agree with your Escrow.com analysis Elliot. I would say $400 million annual sales volume.

    July 19th, 2012 at 3:34 pm

    Brad Mugford

    It is a lot higher than reported.

    Many sales are not subjected to NDA, they are just not reported.

    The vast majority of sales I make personally are direct.
    I only report sales if I am forced to (SEDO / Afternic / etc).

    I think the reported sales make up 10-20% of total sales at most. It might be even less than that as many of the top end sales are subject to NDA.

    Brad

    July 19th, 2012 at 4:03 pm

    Elliot Silver

    @ Brad

    Who facilitates those deals? If I don’t know the buyer, I almost always use Escrow.com (unless they are financing with Domain Capital or prefer Sedo/Afternic for escrow).

    July 19th, 2012 at 4:06 pm

    TIm Chen

    I swagged this last year at $500mm. I think if you get enough data points you will triangulate to a reasonable answer. Escrow.com runs a great business but I don’t know their market share on domain transactions. For example, I know of a mid 6 figure recent deal that was private and did not go through escrow.com. Aren’t a number of domain sales companies/brokers including their own escrow as part of their service? And I have no idea if we see high quality data on ccTLD deals to be honest, might be more of those done outside of the usual platforms. So John Ferber may not be too far off at the end of the day.

    July 19th, 2012 at 4:11 pm

    Elliot Silver

    @ Tim

    A number of brokers use Escrow.com above a certain dollar amount, and I believe GoDaddy uses Escrow.com as well.

    They’ve *only* (LOL) done a billion in business over many years, so even if 75% was domain sales that means a lot of transactions are done elsewhere.

    I’ve done 6 figures worth of deals this year without Escrow.com (to buyers I know), but it takes a whole lot of 6 figure deals to make $500 million :)

    July 19th, 2012 at 4:26 pm

    Adam

    It’s fun to now look at companies who are at the $1b level

    http://www.google.com/search?client=safari&rls=en&q=annual+sales+of+$1b&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8

    Red Hat
    Twitter

    July 19th, 2012 at 5:05 pm

    Todd

    Most of our sales are done at Escrow.com and go unreported.
    The only way you will have Escrow.com sales reported is when the buyer or seller (most likely the seller) sends it to DNJournal or some other outlet. I think you saw that with the recent co.za sales.

    July 19th, 2012 at 5:09 pm

    John Y.

    On a Global basis … $1,250,000,000 … give or take a few bucks.

    *** This guestimate encompases all domain transactions .. and not just via venues considered “Domain Industry” ,,, as I feet it is appropriate to view it from this perspective …. Separate from NDA deals,, I also agree that the majority of direct sales on a total dollar basis between buyer and seller are not reported,, but not sure about transaction volume based on just number of domains changing hands ……

    The majority of my domain sales also have been direct with purchasers… with no broker, intermediary or auction platform involved.. some used escrow services .. some did not.

    Escrow.com is very good…but still yet,,, many-many domain sales that close do not use some of the most prevelant domain escrow services such as Escrow.com, SEDO, 4.CN Moniker,..etc

    July 19th, 2012 at 5:09 pm

    Michael Cyger

    I did an analysis before I decided to launch DomainSherpa.com. Without finding the full analysis and looking at the assumptions, I came up with $3-4B per year for everything domain name related (e.g. new regs, aftermarket, analysis software, etc.) — and not including add-ons like hosting, DNS management, and the like.

    July 19th, 2012 at 5:42 pm

    Aggro

    Fking LOL

    The numbers get bigger & bigger when the clowns come out

    1 Billion+ ? Fking LOL

    Talking purely about aftermarket sales only

    If Sedo, Afternic didn’t report their sales you clowns would be speculating that sales were $10M-$20M per week.
    Now that the show they have Gross Sales avergaing $1-1.5M pw, clowns have to bump up fantasy figures elsewhere

    As for escrow.com figures…yah they also include website escrow.
    But then again domainers want to claim those as domain only sales, too.

    Hard facts:
    Sedo ~ 78M pa
    Afternic/Buydomains ~ 55M pa
    Schilling ~ 7M pa
    Reinvent ~ 7M pa
    Marchex ~ 8M pa
    Yummy, Berkens, Nokta etc etc total $20M pa, say

    Other fragmented small players combined – say $100M

    As you can see the total ain’t all that even assuming 100% of Schilling, Marchex & others small players (exc Sedo/Afternic) haven’t been double counted within Sedo/Afternic.
    Even assuming anything outside Sedo/Afternic are all NDA

    Even with a generous leeway of say $100M combined for countless fragmented onesy-two-sy domainers, odd $1M sale, small players, hobbyists & Marginal domainers like Mugford who think they are bigger than they are but insignificant who don’t even have Gross Sales of $100,000 pa, the TOTAL is still $275Million

    And that’s generous

    So where the fuck does $1+ BN come from?

    Pure fantasy numbers pulled out of their ass…
    NDA…MBA…NBA….blabla

    LOL

    (NOTE: DomainNameSales.com sold $100,000 worth of domains that were NOT Schilling’s in June so you do an annual projection which ain’t much in the grand scheme)

    July 19th, 2012 at 7:15 pm

    Aggro

    Gross Sales of $275M pa

    I’ve been saying this is a COTTAGE INDUSTRY

    What part of cottage industry don’t you understand?

    Here is a SINGLE property that recently sold for $188 M (GBP 120M) in London

    Puts it in perspective

    July 19th, 2012 at 7:26 pm

    Aggro

    Gross Sales of $275M pa

    I’ve been saying this is a COTTAGE INDUSTRY

    What part of cottage industry don’t you understand?

    Here is a SINGLE property that recently sold for $188 M (GBP 120M) in London:
    http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/articles/308135/20120302/expensive-house-uk-britain-120m-hanover-lodge.htm

    Puts it in perspective

    July 19th, 2012 at 7:28 pm

    Elliot Silver

    @ Aggro

    There are hundreds of thousands of people involved in the real estate industry worldwide. There are hundreds of, or maybe a couple thousand people who make a living like me in the domain business.

    July 19th, 2012 at 7:30 pm

    Leonard Britt

    In addition to the Escrow.com sales which aren’t directly reported, don’t forget about Godaddy Premium listings. I believe Godaddy is providing some basic reporting of its Godaddy Auctions sales though I wish it were in a format similar to what SEDO reports. Lastly, there continue to be some small-dollar forum sales via Paypal.

    July 19th, 2012 at 7:44 pm

    Brad Mugford

    @ Elliot

    “There are hundreds of thousands of people involved in the real estate industry worldwide. There are hundreds of, or maybe a couple thousand people who make a living like me in the domain business.”

    Good point. There are hundreds of thousands of real estate agents in the .US alone. NAR has a membership of 1.2M.

    Of course the real estate market is larger than the domain market – everyone needs a place to live.

    According to stats I could find, the average agent makes $42,680 per year. Obviously on the top end some make much more, and on the bottom end some actually lose money. Just like domains.

    Brad

    July 19th, 2012 at 9:34 pm

    Adam

    Something worth mentioning both Sedo and Afternic mention when they issue their releases that their numbers of sales are x,xxx,xxx but the report they send never totals that number so one can assume that it includes non-disclosed sales.

    For example the most recent one I saw “Total domain sales for the week, including confidential sales and sales under $1000, summed to $817,414.”

    July 19th, 2012 at 10:23 pm

    Elliot Silver

    Interestingly, Sedo’s second quarter sales report showed $17.5 million in quarterly sales: http://www.domaininvesting.com/sedo-q2-market-report-published-9833

    Q1 sales were $19 million.

    July 30th, 2012 at 9:34 am

    todd

    “There are hundreds of, or maybe a couple thousand people who make a living like me in the domain business.”

    I just saw this post Elliot for the first time. Do you really think there are that many that truly are making a living off domains. Thousands I think is a major stretch. Yes I believe there are many domain investors that are making extra income but not that many that are actually making a real living from it.

    If you only took into account the domains you sell for a profit and don’t count your websites and the blog do you think you are generating enough to live off.

    March 14th, 2014 at 4:55 pm

      Elliot Silver

      “Thousands I think is a major stretch”

      You’re probably right about that. I do think there are many people who would say they are full time domain investors, but they have a lot more going on than just domain sales. I am a domain investor, but I have also built additional revenue streams because domain sales tend to be unpredictable. I don’t want to be in a position where I feel like I have to sell a domain name.

      “If you only took into account the domains you sell for a profit and don’t count your websites and the blog do you think you are generating enough to live off.”

      Yes, for sure. The majority of my income is derived from domain sales. Can I predict the future? Of course not.

      There are ebbs and flows in this business, so the steady income from my websites allows me to be more patient with my domain sales.

      In reply to todd | March 14th, 2014 at 4:57 pm

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