Review of the ICU Domain Extension


Introduction

ICU
For some time I have planned to do a series with each post taking a deep dive into a single domain extension. I decided to start that with a recent extension that is still unfamiliar to many, ICU. When I first heard about the new global top level domain (ngTLD) ICU ("I see you"), I thought the extension was too gimmicky. However, upon a closer look, I changed my mind on the prospects for the extension. Let me share with you why I might see an ICU domain name in your future, whether you are a domain name investor or an end user.


What Does It Mean?

Officially the name stands for "I See You", although as many in the domain investing community have pointed out, ICU is the standard acronym for Intensive Care Unit, and I think the domain will see use with both meanings, and perhaps others. The domain name is meant to be location agnostic, use in any region, and while it is better suited to some potential applications than others, the extension is intended for a broad set of applications for businesses, organizations and individuals.

Some Stats

The ICU extension came into general availability on May 29, 2018. As I write this (late July), the number of registrations is closing in on 50,000 (you can get up to date statistics from the nTLDStats site. Although the initial growth of ICU registrations has been slower than the runaway success of the APP extension, ICU has nevertheless grown at an impressive rate over the first two months and ICU is already well into the top 100 of the more than 1000 ngTLDs. Registrations are an important, but alone not sufficient, requirement for familiarity with the domain name to grow.
ICUglobal

Whether you are a domain investor or an end user, it is important to have registrar choices. This is convenient in consolidating your domain portfolio to just a few registrars. Also, registrar competition helps keep registration and renewal costs competitive. Registrars are still being added, but as I write this 36 registrars handle the ICU extension. This includes a number of the most commonly used registrars such as Alpnames, Dynadot, Gandi, Namecheap, Namesilo, Porkbun, Uniregistry, Webnames, and many others.

While there are ICU extension domain owners from 71 countries, the global distribution is far from uniform. The largest number of registrations come from the United States, followed by the United Kingdom, Seychelles, Spain, China and Russia.  Familiarity with the new extension will probably grow fastest in these regions, although it also means that more terms related to these regions will already be registered and therefore not available. The graph below (from 
NameStat,) shows the global distribution and numbers.

website for most recent data.
Image courtesy of NameStat.org. Check 
Pricing
 

The majority of ngTLDs (there are exceptions, of course) have not handled pricing well in my opinion. Generally initial bargain basement prices (often around $1.00 or less) followed by renewal costs of $30.00 or more per year. However, the registry reserved many of the best names as premium offerings at much higher prices, often thousands of dollars. Confusion reigned as some of these premium offerings renew at standard rates, while others renew also at premium rates. This resulted in many of the best names never getting used, and domain name investors were shut out of the most desirable part of the market in the extension. Fortunately, ICU seems to have learned from these errors in previous ngTLD introductions, providing more transparent and reasonable premium pricing and clarity with renewal pricing.

In my opinion the ICU extension has done the right thing with respect to pricing, and I will call their system smart graduated premium initial pricing. Initial pricing in the majority of domain names in ICU is modest - with promotions sometimes as little as $2.50 or even less. For more desired premium domain names, ICU uses a graduated system of pricing with four different levels, but 85% of the premium domains are at the first level that is not much different than the cost to register many standard domains in other extensions (it is about $16 at 
Namecheap). A small number of premium domain names are at the three higher levels. The exact values vary with registrar, but currently at Namecheap they are $78, $780 and $7800. To give a sense of the names in each category, words like chemistry, HDTV and trend were all available at the $16 level when I checked. Especially HDTV strikes me as a great bargain and I suspect one of my readers may pick it up soon. At the $78 level were colours such as blue and high traffic keywords like trips. When one goes to $780 some highly desired words that have sold for high amounts in other extensions are available such as cruise and matrix. At the highest level I could only find a few words, including some of the world's great cities such as the word Toronto.

ICU on their website makes it absolutely clear that renewals even of premium names will be at standard rates. I wish this simple approach applied throughout the ngTLD space! The announced renewal rates for ICU are also modest - for example at 
NameCheap, one of my favourite registrars, the renewal price is $7.88, less than regular prices for .com, .net or .org.

You can find who has the least expensive current prices to register, transfer or renew any domain extension at sites such as 
TLD LIST. The data are updated every few hours, so check just before you make a registration or transfer.

Promotion

The co-founder of ICU, Kevin Kopas, is well known in the domain name industry. Read 
Ron Jackson's excellent story on Kevin and the ICU extension on DNJournal. Early indications are that the management of ICU will be proactive and smart in promotion and supervision of the extension, and Kevin's expertise will no doubt play a large part of that. While their Twitter feed does not yet have many followers, ICU are doing a good job highlighting both available domain names and newly registered names and websites, and milestones reached by the extension.

The ICU management are not alone among ngTLDs in highlighting some of the sites using the extension, but I think their pioneer program where you can apply to have your ICU website promoted is a good idea. 
Visit https://nic.icu/ to learn about the program and apply to have your site featured. In Kevin Kopas' words (from the interview with Ron Jackson) the  pioneer program "provides media expertise to new and evolving businesses who are looking to create, expand, or improve their online marketing strategies. The program includes exclusive access to a digital co-working space with help from others and learning resources like a  21-module online media program aimed at bringing businesses closer to their customers by driving strategic and consistent message delivery across online platforms."

Resale Market

It is too early to have statistics on after market sales at this time. My expectation is that we will see resales, perhaps many, in the extension, but that the prices will be moderate. I think the initial pricing structure from the registry will tend to, at least for the first few years, keep prices in the range from $100 to $300 for most domain names. That is not to say that a few prime names will not go for much more, or that prices for a longer time frame may well be significantly more if the extension comes into widespread respected use. One positive sign for those investing in the extension is that it is already possible to 
list ICU domain names at Sedo, the world's largest domain market. I notice that a number of premium ICU domain names are listed on Undeveloped as well.

Abuse

In this series I plan to briefly look at abuse statistics for each domain name. I find that some legacy domain name investors repeat claims that new extensions are disproportionately associated with malware. These claims are not supported by evidence. Among the new extensions some are better and some are worse than extensions such as .com and .net for spam. The 
vast majority of phishing attempts come from .com and a handful of country code extensions (this is not surprising since in phishing they are trying to emulate an established country, most of which use .com). In terms of spam, the professionals at Spamhaus are the world experts, protecting billions of individual email accounts from spam. They define a badness index which is based on a ratio of the number of sites associated with spam to the total number of active sites in that domain extension. It is scaled by a logarithmic measure of the total number of domains, since the same percentage in a heavily used domain name poses more of a problem.

You can use a form 
at this link to look up the badness index for any domain extension. Use the pull down box at the top left to select the extension (or type it in) and it will give you the badness index. These values change continuously with new data. As a new extension the long term abuse characteristics are difficult to know for ICU. On the day I wrote this, the badness index for ICU was 1.17. This made it somewhat worse (lower is better) than com (0.60), xyz (0.56) and online (0.64), similar to net (1.00) and club (1.34), and much better than info (2.16), biz (4.67) and top (4.99), and hugely better than the worst extensions that are the 'free' country code extensions.


Actual Use

We are not quite two months into general availability of ICU, and normally it takes many months of a  new domain extension before we see much in the way of actual use. The early signs are encouraging for the extension, however. For a domain not yet two months in general availability, the number of actually operating websites is more than decent for a ngTLD. It is 5th in growth trend as I write this. As of today 
ICU has 49 sites in the Alexa 1M, or one per about 970 registrations. By comparison the APP extension is 1 in about 2675, TOP is 1 in 2500, the much older XYZ is about 1 in 940, and ONLINE, that promotes being highly used and is much older, is only slightly better at 1 in 580.

While there are critics of how well Alexa 1M (the one million most used websites according to their methodology) represents actual use, the fact that such a new extension already has any sites at all in the top million is impressive. For reference, there are 
about 1.9 billion websites in the world currently, so getting in the top million is something only 1 website in about 1900 achieves.

I highlight a few websites that are already operational on the ICU extension below. These are chosen not because they necessarily reflect the highest traffic sites, or the most elegant, but as different areas of application. There are also some adult sites making use of the extension which I did not include. I have no association with any of the sites listed below, and listing here should not be considered an endorsement of their products and services.

rajkumaragrocom
Rajkumar Agro Engineers
An agro-engineering firm based in India, Rajkumar Agro Engineers Pvt Ltd. uses the extension for their product line, sales and customer service. is a leading manufacturer, exporter and supplier of specialized equipment such as cutters, oil expellers, wood splitters, brick making equipment, small mill equipment, pulverisers, post hole diggers, etc. Their website is fully functional with lots of equipment views, allowing their potential customers to "see" the equipment. If the use of "see you" in the sense of catalog offerings takes off, we could see a lot of demand for the ICU extension.

HairstyleGallery
Hairstyle Gallery
There is already a fair amount of use of ICU in sites promoting fashion, jewelry, etc. Some of these are information aggregator sites seeking ad revenue, while others offer original content. Some use the information to indirectly promote a business. One example is hairstyle.icu site that shows images from a huge array of hairstyles, for both women and men. Literally everything from wedding hairstyles to styles well suited to frizzy hair. It appears that the site was operational for a couple of years, but have now adopted the ICU extension that fits their function perfectly.

UltimateCrypto
UltimateCrypto
Not surprisingly, there are already ICU sites operational in the crypto currencies field. One that I briefly examined is CryptoMarketCap.icu, that provides up to the second valuations on a large number of different cryptocurrencies. On the date I checked there were 2024 different currencies being tracked by the online site. As well as the value, change, volume, etc. for each currency, at the top of the page it provides the total amount of funds in cryptocurrencies.


travel.icu
Travel

A site using the premium name 
travel.icu offers an easy way to find flight and hotel options in cities around the world. You enter a city, for example I tried Toronto, and it lists both the major and minor airports for the city. Then select one from the list, and,at least for the cities I tried, it goes to another ICU website but this time with the code for that airpor - e.g. Pearson airport in Toronto the site was YYZ.icu. From there you can find flight, or airport, options.


ICU
ICU
Of course the ICU people themselves have a great website operating with the extension. On it you can see what is new with respect to the extension, learn about (or apply to) their pioneer program, see some options for available ICU domain names, or find a registrar that handles the extension. Go check them out at nic.icu!

Want to promote some other operational ICU sites? Why not leave a comment on this blog with a link to the site?

Additional Ideas

The sites listed above are all actual in-use websites built on the ICU extension. To complement these I wanted to highlight some other ways I see the extension being used effectively. This is done through some of the domain names I hold personally. All are available for sale currently. Simply enter the domain name in a browser, or click on the link provided, to go to a sales lander with additional information and a purchase option.

ultrasound
ultrasound.icu
Ultrasound is best known as a safe medical imaging technique, but it also finds use in certain therapies, structural testing, quality control, etc. This domain name, with the new ICU extension is a perfect match to an imaging technology, and could be used with a company, distributor, clinic, reference site, etc. This application also works if we regard ICU as an abbreviation for intensive care unit. Get registration dates, price, automated worth estimates and purchase option(s) at the link.  

SeeMeICUlet
SeeMe.icu
This domain name would be a great fit for an app, website, club, career coach, therapist, or a plethora of other potential uses that encompass the idea of "seeing me". Use the link or enter the name in a browser to get more information or to see purchase options.

happinessICU
happiness.icu
While not as direct, perhaps, as the other examples in this section, I think one really powerful use of the ICU extension is in senses such as "I see you" happiness. The highly desired word happiness is taken in most popular extensions. Coupled with the new ICU extension, various uses are possible for this memorable domain name. The domain name would be ideal for a therapist, psychologist, researcher, business, or organization that worked in the field of positive psychology. It also is a perfect fir for sites that more generally promote a happy life, for children or adults. The name happiness is high searched on Google (more than 600 million searches!). Why not be one of the first to put this new extension to work in promoting a healthy, happy lifestyle?

patternsICU
patterns.icu
Whether it is quilt or craft patterns, or patterns in big data, this domain name is short and memorable. It couples really well with the ICU (I see you) domain extension. Get registration dates, price, automated worth estimates and purchase option(s) at the domain name link.

macroICU
macro.icu
The short, memorable, high value versatile word macro coupled with the ICU extension makes a great domain name. The word macro can refer to macro photography, macro economics, macro management, as well as other technical terms. The 'I see you' works especially well with macro photography. The name macro is high searched on Google (more than 16 million SERP SLD). We are offering great value in this valuable (domains including 'macro' have sold37 times) keyword - why not pick it up today? Enter the domain name in a browser, or use the link, to obtain additional information, price and purchase links.

e-sports.icu
esportsICU
I think one of the most obvious fits for the extension relates to television shows and events, and one of the names I have in that category is e-sports. The growth in electronic sports (esports or e-sports) is phenomenal, both among participants and viewers. The most recent League of Legends Championships were watched by more than 80 million unique viewers. The name e-sports is congruent with the ICU (I See You) extension for a site that provides viewing opportunities, the latest news, etc. on e-sports. Use the link or enter the name in a browser to get more information or to see purchase options.


Closing Thoughts

Whether an end user looking for an innovative domain name for a new website, a company looking to rebrand, or a domain name investor, you should consider ICU as an option. It is cost efficient both to register and to renew, and early indications are that the domain extension will be effectively promoted and based on early trends may well find wide adoption. Costs are very reasonable to pick up a highly desired single word domain in the extension. An extension worth considering? I see you!

Original post July 28, 2018
Minor format changes Aug 3, 2018

Some Links:
Home of ICU
nTLD-Stats for ICUNameStat Statistics for ICU
Permanent Link to this Blog Post
TLD-LIST (best prices)
Explore domain registrations at Namecheap
Link to 
NamesThat.win
This is the first in a series of posts each taking a deep dive into a single domain extensions. Stay tuned to the blog for others in the series (you can sign up to receive all new posts by email if you prefer - see box in the right hand column). I will also announce them on 
my Twitter account. The next in the series will be on the SPACE domain extension, but that will be at least a few days more in preparation.

Fine Print This post is offered for informational and educational purposes only, and should not be considered domain name investment advice. While an attempt has been made to be accurate, there is no implied or explicit warranty, and you are responsible for verifying any information of importance to you. In a few cases there will be affiliate links will on this blog. This means I receive a small amount if users visit or make purchases via the link. You do not pay any additional charge due to using an affiliate link, and in some cases below the normal price. I receive no identifying information about who clicks, or does not click, any link. I never accept compensation to provide favourable coverage of any particular service or product. In the case of ICU I have no formal affiliation with the owners, registry or anyone else associated with the extension, and obviously do not speak for them. I do own a modest number of ICU extension domains, some of which were covered in this article. The text of this posting is ©R.L. Hawkes, rights reserved. However, you may, without permission, use reasonable length portions of the post as long as a link to this post is also provided. If you wish to use the complete contents, please request permission. I am normally open to reprinting, but will consider each request individually. The images used are either those associated with a product or service, or Pixabay images believed to be available for use without attribution. If you see any image that you believe is problematic, please let us know and we will immediately correct the situation.