25 years of DENIC: .de domains in great demand again

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The administration office of the top-level domain .de celebrates its 25th birthday on Friday. On December 17, 1996, the German Network Information Center (DENIC) was founded as a cooperative. This was followed by the gradual takeover of .de administration from the University of Karlsruhe up to the official takeover on January 1, 1999. Since then, DENIC has been responsible for ensuring that .de domains can be accessed and that they are only assigned once worldwide. The millionth .de domain was registered in October of the same year; there are now 17.1 million.

37 German Internet service providers were founding members 25 years ago (see iX 2/1997, p. 21 “The name server stays on”). The number of cooperative members has now grown to almost 300, with foreign companies also taking part.

The DENIC infrastructure ensures that Internet offers can be reached with .de domains. Therefore, their technical systems are among the Critical Infrastructures (KRITIS) of the Federal Republic. DENIC operates its redundant name servers on five continents in order to be able to answer DNS queries quickly worldwide.

DENIC is not geared towards profit and, according to its own information, tries to find consensus among its members for decisions. In addition to the core task of technical administration of the top-level domain (TLD) .de, the organization actively participates in coordination and standardization organizations such as ICANN, RIPE or the IETF.

She uses part of her income to support educational initiatives such as Jugend hackt or the European Summer School of Internet Governance (EuroSSIG). In addition, a “DENIC forest” with 1,000 oaks is being planted in the Rhine-Main region. This is intended to symbolize DENIC’s “deep roots in the German and international Internet community”. Donations from DENIC also go to the association Help for children with cancer as well as for gift wishes from children of the Arche Frankfurt. DENIC has its headquarters in the Mainstadt.

The 17.1 million .de domains make the German TLD the third largest in the world. Only .com and the Chinese .cn have more registrations. According to DENIC, every sixth German citizen has secured a .de domain. There are a total of more than 1,900 TLDs, including those with non-Latin characters. For a few years the market was characterized by a run on the many young generic TLDs.

Curve chart

Curve chart

Number of Internet domains registered under .de from December 30, 1993 to November 29, 2021

(Image: DENIC)

But .de has been in vogue again since 2020: In the previous year, DENIC counted around three times as many new registrations as in 2019. That was the highest percentage growth since 2012 – at that time there were 15 million .de domains for the first time. Also in the current anniversary year, the registry and its registrars are looking forward to a large number of visitors. On Thursday alone, the number of .de domains grew by a net 2,278.

With its cooperative structure, DENIC is alone in the German-speaking area. The Austrian nic.at as well as the Swiss nic.ch and the Liechtenstein nic.li belong to foundations that are supposed to ensure the independence of domain allocation. Such foundation structures are also established in the Netherlands, Denmark and Sweden, for example. In Austria this is the Internet Privatstiftung Austria (IPA), which is known to the general public for its annual, low-threshold Netidee funding program known, but also finances the Austrian Computer Emergency Response Team CERT.at.

By the way, the first .de domain names were uni-dortmund.de, uni-paderborn.de and uka.de (for the University of Karlsruhe) on November 5th, 1986. From 1988 the .de zone in Germany was administered, initially by the University of Dortmund and later by the University of Karlsruhe.

In Austria, the University of Vienna also issued .at domains from 1988 onwards, but at some point that became too much for the university. In 1998, the ISPA provider association founded nic.at, based in Salzburg, which was incorporated into the new Internet Private Foundation Austria two years later. Today the Austrians support more than twenty other TLDs behind the scenes with anycast DNS and other registry services.

In Switzerland, the SWITCH foundation has been the registry for .ch domain names since 1990, albeit on behalf of the Swiss Federal Office of Communications (OFCOM). The contract is regularly put out to tender, so that the domain administration in the country is less independent. The most recent order runs until the end of 2026. SWITCH is primarily the ICT service provider for the University of Liechtenstein and the universities of Switzerland. The foundation has also managed .li domain names since 1993, on behalf of the Office for Communication (AK) of the Principality of Liechtenstein.


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