.Mobi Numbers Aren’t Pretty

I read the news yesterday about Affilias buying mTLD Top-Level Domain Ltd., the company that operates the .mobi domain extension. I don’t think I’ve owned more than a couple of non-premium .mobi domain names, so I haven’t followed the market, but according to an article appearing today in paidContent:UK, the .mobi numbers look fairly ugly to me.

The article references financial records for the mTLD company that were filed at Ireland’s Companies Registration Office, although there was no link to the source of those. If accurate, it’s a pretty bleak picture:

“In 2009 mTLD had a loss of €3.5 million on a turnover of €6.4 million, compared to a loss of €324,000 the year before on turnover of €9 million. Total assets less liabilities (eg money owed to creditors) in 2009 was €1.7 million.”

The article further states that there are just about one million registered .mobi domain names out of the 187 million registered domain names.

Thanks to George Kirikos for sharing the link to the article.

Elliot Silver
Elliot Silver
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 closed eight figures in deals. Please read the DomainInvesting.com Terms of Use page for additional information about the publisher, website comment policy, disclosures, and conflicts of interest. Reach out to Elliot: Twitter | Facebook | LinkedIn


  1. It’ll be interesting to see whether the lessons from dot-mobi kill the new TLD process at ICANN. ICANN’s “economic experts” will likely ignore these facts, though.

    This is almost a textbook case of how new TLDs would operate, lots of hype at the beginning, hopeful registrants being taken for a ride, and then a death spiral as reality sets in.

  2. .mobi is dead. iPhone helped with its Internet friendly Safari browser, so you don’t need to find mobile friendly website. You can easily use the standard one.
    .mobi creators just didn’t predict that there will be no mobile / standard browsing in the future. Just one web for all devices.

  3. Hello:

    I am writing you as a domainer who reads about twenty blogs a day and would like your opinion on something. You mentioned that .mobi numbers don’t look good, and I would agree with that.

    You probably haven’t noticed, but the .info extension doesn’t get a lot of write up’s by the bloggers. At least four thousand new registrations per day are registered under this extension; a figure that is consistently higher than .org, .biz, .us, .mobi and occasionally .net. I have been watching this for over 1 year at the following website.


    I have heard domainers say this is because the .info extensions sell for $1.00 per domain but they seem to omit the fact that these domains have an 80% renewal rate at the regular rate. I got this 80% renewal rate from the Afilias website. What is your take on this?


    Victor Gacheche

  4. This was a Nokia baby – their original solo application to ICANN to set up a .mobi domain was rejected, so they came back with a consortium and got ICANN to accept it.

    The killer question is why did Microsoft, Google, Visa and others invest each €600,000 to €1,800,000 in this company if they never intended to use .mobi? And why was the product launched knowing it would not be used?

    There are some legitimate questioins about whether this company has acted in good faith, particularly by selling domains with a “Trustmark” attached after the company had privately given up on that trustmark. A polite word for that is mis-selling, but stronger legal words might apply.

    Nokia could have bought out the partners, the total investment by all the partners was just €12,000,000. So Nokia gave up on their own baby. Nokia also got caught out by the popularity of smartphones and are playing catch-up in that market.

  5. Ok, mTLD is dead, but is dot.mobi? Has this extension ever been alive in the meaning of a strong base of developed websites with a lot of traffic?
    The last 18+ months have been hard for dot.mobi domainers. Shuttled between hope and failure. mTLDs numbers are kinda testament and I am sure that the so-called financial crises cannot be made responsible for them.
    But – a cat has seven lives. There still is a future for dot.mobi in a mobile niche market. I´ll bet you.

  6. .mobi got hyped like crazy to domainers. It never caught on with the public because there weren’t any significant .mobi site developments nor marketing. Domainers just sat on these domains.

    It also never made sense since any .com website can include a mobile version of it’s site on its main .com without the need for .mobi or any other extenseion for that matter.

  7. I was a fan of mobi in 2003, and am still a fan of mobi now. It’s funny to hear ya’ll talk about mobi as “dead” etc and pooh-pooh the ~1 million registrations … it’s a real TLD with real users, solid traffic and usage. Let’s not forget that MOBI is the most successful TLD from the sTLD round – by a huge margin.


    • @ Ram

      I am looking forward to seeing some case studies featuring companies and people who are making money from their developed .mobi domain names. I see more .travel commercials (Utah.travel) than companies using .mobi. I would be willing to bet that if I stand in front of my building in NYC and ask the people who pass if they know what dot mobi is, most would have no idea… and it’s been public for over 5 years.

      BTW, I have not said anything about .mobi being dead. I also didn’t really offer any personal feedback about the extension in my article.

  8. Financials are not pretty as posted. Some look at the posted mTLD financials and decry .mobi as an extension itself a failure. It does give them fuel to add to their established dislike of the extension and the original registry. But they forget or ignore the fact that right now many companies they deem to be successful or whose products and services they use everyday are not profitable entities every year of their operation. Many businesses in the world including some that (non-self-employed) posters here work for might see similar financials if they looked in the mirror especially over the last 2 years.

    For dotMobi, the reliance on a group of competing entities (“backers”) for funds to support more than just selling domain names provided initial funds but put a collar on the company. Keep in mind that unlike any other registry company, dotMobi/mTLD spent a lot of effort and financial resources building and implementing the B2B and developer tool side of their plan to set a base for future growth of .mobi and to diversify their offerings. In hindsight they probably bit off more than they could chew. But you have to also consider that their business plan was conceived and launched during a normal, positive world economic cycle. Situations can change drastically.

    As the new “keepers of the mobi”, Afilias will likely maintain the profitable programs and sell off or scrap the unprofitable and labor-intensive initiatives if they don’t look like they will add to the bottom line. Especially in this current and recent economic environment it is difficult to support parts of any business that are not currently generating cash flow. There is life beyond Com-Net-Org-Info. Afilias can afford to profitably maintain all the minor country code extensions that have far, far fewer registrations than .mobi.

    With irritance to the dot-com-only and m.-only crowds, dot mobi as an extension will remain and will be part of the moble web landscape. Part of an ever growing pie. One can serve both mobile sized and full sized content on a .mobi domain website so monetization of a .mobi website will be possible just like on a “.anything-else” site.

    Dot mobi is a TLD with global reach (not just a small ccTLD), the number of registrations are slowly increasing even in the face of domainer cycle dumps and more criticism, ill-will, and bashing than any other extension. Frustration and discontent among domainers with a generally short term view and different focus does not equal cessation of acceptance, adoption and use of the .mobi by new end users going forward.

    Dot mobi will remain as a viable extension – and – as a point of contention among domainers.

    @Elliot – Public introduction or launch of .mobi was in late September 2006 so its been about 3-1/2 years not 5. Your article is neutral, thank you. But like any domaining blog, commentors often come out to comment negatively on .mobi and to proclaim it “dead” given the opportunity.

    • @ Will

      I saw Ram said “I was a fan of mobi in 2003” and wrote 5 years figuring it was a couple years after. Thanks for the correction.

      The bottom line question for me is this:

      Had I bought premium .mobi domain names in the aftermarket 1, 2, or 3 years ago and tried to re-sell them today, would I have made profitable investments? I know this is a general question, but in most cases, would I be in the black? Sure the market is down, but flipping domain names is my business, and I can assure you that it’s still very profitable with .com domain names.

  9. Ram wrote “Let’s not forget that MOBI is the most successful TLD from the sTLD round – by a huge margin.”

    Yes, a TLD that has increasing losses and whose revenues are imploding is “the most successful” of a sorry lot. What’s the lesson to be learned? New TLDS = FAIL.

    What would have a real impact on “competition” is not new TLDs, but a regular tender process for operation of .com/net/org, just like every other procurement contract. We’ll need to wait for the outcome of the CFIT lawsuit, though, or hope that the Department of Justice Anti-Trust people get involved, for that to happen. The ICANN insiders don’t want it to happen, lest they have to explain why .com prices are rising above $7/yr, whereas toll-free number costs are declining and are only 10.49 cents/month ($1.26/yr).

  10. If .mobi is to have any chance of success at this point, Afilias need to get rid of the entire management team at dotMobi and replace them with new talent.

    The current management team has failed, as proven by the figures Elliot provided. If they remain, expect .mobi to continue to fail.

  11. .mobi what a failure and what makes it worse is some top domainers in this industry hyped it up and basically told a load of bullshit.

    It would be intresteing to see a copy of those invoices for those inflated names that some of the socalled top domainers bought it was all bull.

    most domainers bought a couple each just to keep there hand into the pop just in case it was a winner thats that as far as it got the rest all hype.

  12. I own some prime .mobi’s . I could have sold them for a nice profit 1 yr. after the introduction. Today, I have my doubts.

    I really wanted .mobi to do well but .mobi’s future success is questionable. Other than domainers and IP lawyers, no one knows what a .mobi is.

    As George implied, I believe the future gTLDS will flounder just like .mobi. The only entity that will make a profit from future gTLDs is Icann.

  13. There are two ways to look at this. IMO new gTLDs will be successful for the first two years to speculators and registrars only. There IS money to be made. I personally do not deal is these speculative markets because they are short term and really do nothing for the virtual future on the developed internet.

    We have been developingthe dotcom space for the last 15 years and only now, after billions of advertising dollars and years of dynamic building among many people and businesses, are we finally reaching a threshold. How can any new c pass that test? There may be niche markets that are local for new gTLDs that have staying power like nyc.com but these are not global brands and only a few will develop them to build on that public perception.

    If ICANN proceeds with gTLDs then the short term speculators will be in full profit mode early but had better sell quickly to make a profit or stand to lose big money down the line.

    Long term developers will stay in the land of the dotcom

  14. “…Had I bought premium .mobi domain names in the aftermarket 1, 2, or 3 years ago and tried to re-sell them today, would I have made profitable investments?…”

    As the owner of a number of premium .mobi domains, the answer to your question is, frankly, no – not at this time.

    Trading .mobi domains, as a domainer – especially undeveloped domains – is not a viable business model for .mobi domains…

    However, great Keyword domains – including .mobi names – have every bit as much chance to be successful businesses, as .com, or any other extension. Google doesn’t care what the extension is.

    So, the opportunity for .mobi domains is now the same as any other….Get great keyword(s) – develop a genuine business – have top-flight SEO – promote the business…

    The ‘.mobi’ won’t give you an advantage – but, it won’t hold you back, either…

    • @ DTalk

      “However, great Keyword domains – including .mobi names – have every bit as much chance to be successful businesses, as .com, or any other extension. Google doesn’t care what the extension is.”

      Please share a few keywords I can search in Google where the developed .mobi ranks higher than the .com.

  15. I’ve never seen a .mobi rank in the top 30 (my default settings in Google are 30 results) for all the personal searches I’ve done since .mobi launched.

    One of the “elite” .mobi sites was supposedly weather.mobi, with a RFP process and everything. It isn’t even in the top 1 million sites worldwide, according to Alexa. Quantcast.com and Compete.com say the same, traffic that is negligible.

    I visited their “showcase” at mobithinking.com, and working backwards, I found sites that dropped. (e.g. poppa.mobi) or that go straight to a parked page (dogobedience.mobi). In time, that showcase will become a graveyard of tombstones.

  16. @ Ram
    There is nothing good left in .mobi apart from the extension of course. If Afilias is retaining those people who have been responsible for the downfall and loss making decisions then its shear stupidity. Dot mobi failed to keep mobi as mobile, dot mobi failed to impress the mobile market. Dot com, dot info they may be universal, dot mobi stood for its uniqueness, it stood for mobility but sadly it lost its ground. We are not saying that dot mobi is dead, it wont die, but you are failing to gauge and understand the big mistakes executed by the entire management of dot mobi. If even one person out of them is retained then its a shame not just for dot Mobi, Afilias but also for something called management system. If Afilias plans to keep mobi as a premium domain then they should start viewing mobi through the eyes of .mobi domain owners and not through the presentation of Trey Harvin or any other ex-management personnel. Go to mobility.mobi maybe then you will understand the real situation and how flat the promises of dot mobi fell.

  17. @Eliot you asked “Had I bought premium .mobi domain names in the aftermarket 1, 2, or 3 years ago and tried to re-sell them today, would I have made profitable investments? I know this is a general question, but in most cases, would I be in the black?”

    That’s a key question and the answer is a big NO. Look at the long ists of premium mobi domains sold at the Sedo – MTLD auctions, then see if those names sold for more later. Looks like none did, and some probably changed hands later for less than the auction price – anyone got examples? Maybe gold.mobi and pizza.mobi? There was one massive great bubble around mobi domain prices and when it popped some people took a bath.

    @Eliot you asked “Please share a few keywords I can search in Google where the developed .mobi ranks higher than the .com.”

    Try googling “safe toy” or “safe toys”.

    Also try seeing how mobi names do in mobile searches and you may be surprised. Mobi domains were supposed to be whitelisted by carriers and so they would have a real advantage in mobile search, but how that played out is anyone’s guess.

    Full marks to Afilias for joining the conversation. I think with cross-promotion of mobi with your other domains you could do well, but you need to get rid of the entire Dotmobi management asap on cost, quality and reputation grounds. Don’t give them the benefit of the doubt – everyone who did got hurt. And that also means people will look very closely at the finances, management and strategy of Afilias, and discuss them in public. Welcome to the arena. Why not start by coming up with some meaningful stats about mobi domain usage – no one has so far.

    New TLDs? Beware, think like an equity investor and really check out the company. If huge corps like this are happy to fail and walk away from it, anyone can.

  18. I would think Affilias would need to strip all the expenses out of .mobi and run it as a very lean operation. I very much doubt many of the current staff will still be there in 12 months, regardless of what is said now.

  19. “Looks like none did, and some probably changed hands later for less than the auction price – anyone got examples?”


    cruises.mobi $5,060.00 (Oct. 2007)
    cruises.mobi sold $900 (Sep 2008)

    Europe.mobi sold at Traffic April 2007 for $11,500
    Europe.mobi – sold for $3000 (sep 2008)

    Jokes.mobi sold for $24,100 in December 2007,
    Jokes.mobi sold for $5,099 on Sedo-had been developed, (Aug 2009)

    I have also heard of a couple of instances over the last 12 months of some of names sold for 6 figures at Traffic being offered for sale at around 10% of what was paid. (I don’t think they sold). The names weren’t being offered publically.

  20. @Elliot
    I agree that you’ve not said mobi is dead, etc – your post is informative and obviously has sparked good discussion.

    If you stood in front of your NYC building and ask people who pass about any TLD other than .com or maybe .org, you’d get mostly blank stares. For each new TLD that comes out, that is _by far_ the biggest challenge in their existence.

    I respectfully disagree that new TLDs = FAIL. It’s not easy to grow to a million name TLD … ask any of those who are not there yet 🙂

    @all others
    Please keep the advice and your perspective on .mobi coming – I’m finding your perspectives useful and informative even as we learn more about the mobi business!


  21. “If you stood in front of your NYC building and ask people who pass about any TLD other than .com or maybe .org, you’d get mostly blank stares. ”

    @ Ram

    I bet they would know about .co.uk, .it, .de…etc. Lots of tourists (especially British tourists) in my neighborhood.

    I do agree that they would all know .com and .org, and probably .net.

  22. @ Elliot

    ccTLDs are kind of a special case – citizens of some countries have both patriotic and historical reasons to recognize names. Example: India, in 2005, was all .com … much more .IN now.

    My point was focused more on the challenge of any “new” gTLD being recognized by a man on the street – if we use that as the barometer of success, then we’ll never get beyond com/org/net.

  23. @Eliot you asked about other TLDs”If companies aren’t using them enough, evidenced by the lack of consumer awareness, what is the point of even having them?”

    Let’s put the shoe on the other foot and ask: given a page of search results, which domain extension will consumers NOT click on in results? Possibly .ru for people outside Russia, but mostly the consumer does not care. But the search engine may.

    SEO advice often tells people to use the CC of the country they want to reach, and possibly even to use a server in that country. This is what is missing from this discussion, is how .mobi domains do in mobile search – whatever the pros, cons, ups and downs, the original point (abandoned by Dotmobi) was that the .mobi domain made mobile content findable and the domain would give a competitive advantage in mobile search. So while mobi domains can have both mobile and non-mobile content, it would be a very interesting metric to see what % of mobi domains carry mobi content as opposed to what % of com domains carry mobile content.

  24. @ Elliot
    You’re making a case for why we should worry about the viability for new TLDs. This is of course the elephant in the room as far as all new TLDs are concerned.

  25. @Ram Mohan

    Does Afilias have any plans to replace the dotMobi Management Team?

    A lot of people don’t think the current management can turn the company around since their previous strategy has proven a failure.

  26. If you ask me, history is about to repeat itself. A year and a half later, dotmobi has continued to go down. It seems the next overhyped tld without a real market is the dotxxx stld.

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