How much it costs to run a .tld

If we were to run a proper top level domain (eg, a .au or a .nz), I would need seven or eight computers located around the world. The proof is in the root.

dig au NS @ | grep ^au. | wc -l

The command above returns “8“, which means that the Australian top level domain has eight name servers that might be queried when you type in any website who’s domain name ends in .au

dig com NS @ | grep ^com. | wc -l

This command (notice how we are looking at the .com tld this time) returns “13“, which means that when you enter a domain name ending in .com, you could ask one of a possible 13 domain name servers around the planet for information about a domain in the .com TLD.

Interesting Internet Factoid!
47 out of the 264 active top level domains on the internet have either two or three nameservers set as being authoritative (that is, they are allowed to respond to requests for that top level domain, that they are seen as a master). That’s a nice 18% of all top level domains. (This information was correct 29th July 2008 … 1am).

To run a top level domain, we will assume that we need three machines! If you want to get in with the new TLD craze, where ICANN have opened up registration of TLD’s, you will need at least three servers to act as namerservers. This is a very safe bet.

How much does three servers cost? Well, before your start Googling for webhosts – wait. You will need either a dedicated machine or a VPS.

In my experience, a simple machine can very easily handle a load of 1,000 DNS queries a second, so, logically thinking, if you have three machines, your new top level domain would be able to handle around 2,500 queries a second!

A quick Google for dedicated hosts showed that to get three servers in three continents will cost me around $150 per server (in AUD) a month, which means, before you have even let one internet user access a website, you have paid $450. This is not counting the registration free for a new TLD that ICANN will probably ask you to pay them (early estimates are that a top level domain that is in the ICANN root will cost about $10,000 … I am guessing for $25,000 and $100,000 or more for “premium” top level domains like .blog).

The raw cost!

Now, think about that for a second. This means that for three years of operation at a minimum you would be looking at 10000+(450*12*3)+(40000*3) or $146,200.

That is, $10,000 for the registration free to get your new Top Level Domain into the ICANN’s roots, $450 a month for three years to pay for three name servers (you will need more as the top level domain gets more popular, as I said above, dot com has around thirteen servers. The price also pays for food and coffee for three administrators ($40,000)

Sounds like a lot, but if the registrar owner makes $4 on each domain, then only 36,550 domains need to be sold to customers.

Running a top level domain that is in the ICANN/IANA root is relatively easy. The biggest stumbling block will be the amount of money that is required.

In my next post, I will look at the software end. What software is required in order for customers to register domains? What is needed for you to serve clients with responses to a top level domain, and of course, it would not be me without explaining how you can put your top level domain live on the internet without paying a free to ICANN or IANA!

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