Imagine starting a website to sell your handmade dog clothes to doting pet parents. You have the inventory, the target audience in mind, and you’ve already dreamed up the perfect business name: Fairy DogMother Fashions. So, you start shopping around for your domain name only to find you’re faced with many options: fairydogmother.com, fairydogmother.biz, and even fairydogmother.dog.
You may know that those short collections of letters that follow the last dot of a web address are what’s known as a top-level domain, or TLD.
In this article, we’ll cover everything to know about TLDs—what those not-so-simple extensions mean and what they can do for your website.
What is a top-level domain (TLD)?
A top-level domain is the set of letters that tags along at the end of a web address. Its purpose is to categorize websites in the hierarchical Domain Name System (DNS) that organizes the internet. Think of TLDs as the main categories at the top of this hierarchy—hence, the top level.
What is a domain extension like a TLD’s purpose? TLDs help classify and communicate the purpose of a website. Every TLD tells something about the domain that precedes it. For example:
- .edu is for educational institutions
- .gov is for US government entities
- .uk is for domains from the United Kingdom
The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) has authority over all TLDs used on the internet, and it delegates the responsibility of these TLDs to various organizations.
Types of top-level domains
TLDs are classified into several categories, including:
- Generic top-level domains (gTLDs)
- Country-code top-level domains (ccTLDs)
- Sponsored top-level domains (sTLDs)
- Brand top-level domains (brand TLDs)
- Alternative TLDs
We’ll dig into each type of TLD and their benefits next.
Generic top-level domains (gTLDs)
gTLDs were the first TLDs designated when the internet was originally created. They include the most common domain names seen on the web, such as .com, .net, and .org. Unlike sponsored, country code, and brand TLDs which often have restrictions on their use, anyone can register a new gTLD.
Examples of popular gTLDs
Some of the most popular gTLDs are:
- .com, the most widely used TLD for commercial purposes
- .org, originally intended for nonprofit organizations, but now open for general use
- .net, originally intended for network providers, but now open for general use
- .info, used for informational websites
- .biz, used for business or commercial websites
- .name, used for personal websites, portfolios, sole proprietors, etc.
Benefits of using gTLDs
- Some gTLDs (like .com, .net, and .org) are widely recognized and trusted by both users and search engines
- They offer more availability and choice than other types of TLDs
- They are open for anyone to register
- They can help convey your website’s purpose or niche
Browse a list of all gTLDs available.
Country code top-level domains (ccTLDs)
Country code top-level domains (ccTLDs) are reserved for use by countries and territories. The Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) is in charge of picking appropriate organizations in each location to manage ccTLDs. Some ccTLDs have requirements for registering a domain, such as residence permit, official institution documents, or citizenship.
Examples of popular ccTLDs
Some of the most widely used ccTLDs are:
- .tk (Tokelau), 27.14 million domains
- .cn (China), 26.57 million domains
- .de (Germany), 23.59 million domains
- .uk (United Kingdom), 20.67 million domains
- .ru (Russian Federation), 11.14 million domains
- .ga (Gabon), 9.46 million domains
- .cf (Central African Republic), 7.71 million domains
- .ml (Mali), 7.48 million domains
- .nl (Netherlands), 6.91 million domains
- .br (Brazil), 6.16 million domains
Advantages of using ccTLDs
ccTLDs can have a few advantages over more general TLDs:
- They can help target your website to a specific country or region
- They can boost your local SEO and search engine rankings
- They can increase your credibility and trust among local users
- They can reflect your cultural identity and language preferences
Sponsored top-level domains (sTLDs)
sTLDs are a type of top-level domain that are sponsored by a specific organization or community. Unlike generic TLDs that are available to anyone, sTLDs are only available to individuals or groups who meet certain criteria established by the sponsoring organization.
Examples of sTLDs
Some examples of sTLDs include:
- .gov, sponsored by the United States government
- .edu, sponsored by educational institutions
- .mil, sponsored by the United States military
- .aero, sponsored by the air transport industry
Purpose of sTLDs
sTLDs are useful for creating an online community for a specific group of people or organization. Think of it like a clubhouse on the internet. By having certain requirements to join the club, the sponsoring organization can ensure that every site using that domain extension meets certain standards. This helps to make the community more trustworthy and respected.
Brand top-level domains (brand TLDs)
Brand TLDs allow corporations to use their corporate name as their TLD instead of using a more traditional domain space. For example, Mattel may use barbie.mattel instead of barbie.com.
Brand TLDs were introduced in 2014 when ICANN implemented its new gTLD program that relaxed the rules on domain extensions.
Examples of brand TLDs
There are hundreds of registered brand TLDs, but a few notable examples include:
- .apple, Apple Inc.
- .google, Google LLC
- .amazon, Amazon.com, Inc.
- .mcdonalds, McDonald’s Corporation
- .netflix, Netflix, Inc.
- .sony, Sony Corporation
- .starbucks, Starbucks Corporation
Benefits of owning a brand TLD
Owning a brand TLD is too cost-prohibitive for most small brands, but for large corporations they offer several benefits, such as:
- Enhanced brand awareness and recognition among users and customers
- More security and control over the domain name space
- Shorter and more memorable domain names
- New opportunities for marketing and innovation
Alternative TLDs are a type of TLD that are not part of the traditional categories of gTLDs, ccTLDs, or sTLDs. They’re useful for creative or niche purposes, such as expressing a personal or professional identity, creating a memorable domain name, or targeting a narrow audience.
Examples of alternative TLDs
There are too many alternative TLDs to list here, but here are a few unique extensions you might see in the wild, along with their meanings:
- .io, originally a ccTLD for the British Indian Ocean Territory, but widely used by tech startups and online platforms
- .pro, used by professionals and experts in various fields
- .dog, used by dog lovers, breeders, trainers, and owners
- .wtf, used for humorous or shocking websites
- .social, used for social media platforms and communities
- .world, used for global or international websites
- .codes, used by programmers and developers
- .media, used by media outlets and content creators
Benefits of alternative TLDs
Alternative TLDs aren’t for everyone, but for the right business they can offer several advantages. They can:
- Help you differentiate your website
- Convey your personality, passion, or expertise
- Establish credibility with a specific audience
- Offer more availability and affordability than more common TLDs
Factors to consider when choosing a TLD
Choosing a TLD for your website isn’t a trivial decision. It can have a significant impact on your online presence, reputation, and performance. Consider these factors when choosing your TLD:
- Your target audience and geographical location – If you’re aiming for a global audience, you may want to go with a widely recognized TLD. But if you intend to target a specific country or region, a ccTLD could be a wise choice. Search engines use ccTLDs to display your site to people in your region, and using a ccTLD can also build trust and authority with local users.
- Your industry and niche – Alternative TLDs can be a powerful way to communicate your purpose. Say you’ve decided that fairydogmother.dog doesn’t sound classy enough for your dog fashion website. Instead, you might consider fairydogmother.boutique. This gives customers a much better sense of what your business is about before they even click the link.
- Branding and memorability – A good domain name should be memorable and easy to say and type. Think about how your TLD impacts the overall usability of your domain name. Let’s revisit fairydogmother.boutique. That .boutique TLD is fun, memorable, and hints at your industry—but it’s also a long word to type. In general, shorter domain names are better.
- SEO and search engine rankings – TLDs are one factor that search engines use to understand what a site is about and who the target audience is. For example, .org might mean that your site is non-profit and mission-driven, .biz can indicate that your website is commercial and business-oriented. Choosing a TLD that’s both relevant and trustworthy can help your site rank higher for your keywords.
Be sure to weigh the pros and cons of your domain extension carefully, since changing the domain name down the road will impact your SEO.
Registering a domain name with a TLD
Once you’ve settled on your catchy, memorable, and user-friendly name, the next step is registering it with a trustworthy domain registrar.
Using Name.com for domain registration
Name.com is one of the most trusted and reliable domain registrars in the industry, and we make the difficult task of choosing your domain name as easy as possible:
- Our intuitive search tool lets you see which TLDs are available with your chosen domain name
- We’ll provide suggestions and recommendations to help you get inspired if your first choice isn’t available
- Browse our full list of TLDs to see every TLD available, or sort by featured, new, ccTLDs, and legacy options like .com and .net
Find the perfect TLD with Name.com
Settling on a domain name and choosing the right TLD is a key decision when you’re building a business. Take the time to consider your brand, your audience, and your goals before making your choice.
And if you’re still searching for that just-right domain, turn to Name.com.
Whether you want a classic .com or .net, a trendy .io or .co, or a niche-specific .shop or .fitness, our domain search tool will show you all the choices, so you can buy a domain name that’s right for you. We even offer 44 free domain options and the best web hosting services. So don’t settle for just any domain name—let Name.com help you find the perfect TLD for your website today.
Business Wire. Verisign Reports internet has 351.5 million domain name registrations at the end of the second quarter of 2022. https://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20220920006035/en/Verisign-Reports-Internet-Has-351.5-Million-Domain-Name-Registrations-at-the-End-of-the-Second-Quarter-of-2022
CNET. Say hello to .google and other branded internet addresses. https://www.cnet.com/tech/services-and-software/google-internet-address-gtld-trademark-brand-nike-hbo-apple-icann/
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TechCrunch. ICANN to expand top-level domain names, applications start Jan 12, 2012. https://techcrunch.com/2011/06/20/icann-to-expand-top-level-domain-names-applications-start-jan-12-2012/
Verisign. Domain name industry brief. https://www.verisign.com/en_US/domain-names/dnib/index.xhtml?section=tlds