Top-level domain (TLD) is the generic part of a domain name and is also known as domain extension. To be more specific, it starts right after the symbol “dot” (.com, .org, .net). For example, the full domain name of this website is rankapage.com, and the TLD is .com.
My personal advice for choosing TLD: If you want to go globally, consider choosing .com. If you target local market, go for country TLD. Officially, TLD doesn’t impact search results, BUT customers like and trust websites with .com or co.uk rather new gTLD’s like .me or .buzz.
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Beware that domain name is also organized at different levels. It can be recognized by the attached dot and the following label, such as .co.uk, .gov, etc.
Generally speaking, there is a DNS hierarchy which can be roughly separated into three categories — top level (TLD), second – level (SLD) and third — level domains. After all, top-level domains are managed by Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) which maintains Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA).
Brief history of TLDs
The first TLDs were distinguished by country, multi-organizations or category. In 1984, RFC 920 launched 7 TLDs including .com, which is the most desired one nowadays. Others were .org, .net, .aero, .biz, .coop, .info, .name, .museum, .pro.
An interesting fact is that the very first .com TLD was used for symbolics.com website.
Speaking of registries, VeriSign, Inc. is one of the most important players here. Network Solutions, a company that has been controlling the domain name registry from the very beginning of the whole conception, has been acquired by VeriSign in 2000.
VeriSign holds the registry for .com, and .net, two most prevalent gTLDs. VersiSign also holds two of 12 Internet root servers, while every other company owns only one server. In 2018, .com coupled with .net. registrations reached 153.0 million.
Before 2013, it was possible to buy a top level domain, but only from 22 available options. ICANN noticed that the internet gets more and more crowded. This problem made it hard to find available domains. However, the issue was soon solved.
ICANN now allows choosing from a lot of new generic top-level domains for example yourdomain.page, yourdomain.buzz.
List of Top-Level Domain Extensions
IANA divides all TLDs into six groups which we provide below. The full list is available on the organization’s official website.
- Generic (gTLD);
- Restricted generic (grTLD);
- Sponsored (sTLD);
- Country code (ccTLD);
- Reserved domains.
In order to better understand why such classification is needed, we have prepared a detailed explanation for each of these below.
Generic Top Level Domains (gTLD)
Generic top-level domains (gTLD) overall are the most popular in the global network, here is a list of them:
- .COM (Commercial businesses);
- .NET (Network organizations);
- .ORG (Non-profit organizations);
- .CO (Companies).
Generic-Restricted Top Level Domains
Generic-restricted TLDs are slightly different from gTLDs as their eligibility is controlled more strictly. There are only three top level domain expansions:
- .BIZ (Restricted for Business);
- .NAME (Reserved for personal sites of individuals);
- .PRO (Restricted to business use by qualified professionals).
Sponsored Top Level Domains (sTLD)
Each Sponsored Top Level Domain has a sponsor for specific purposes. Particularly, it could be a specific ethnic community, professional group or a geographical location. Obviously these TLD’s can’t be used by anyone. Here is a list of current sTLDs:
- .AERO (Reserved for air-transport industry);
- .ASIA (only Pan-Asia and Asia Pacific community members can use it);
- .CAT (Reserved for the Catalan cultural community);
- .COOP (Only cooperative associations can use it);
- .GOV (Reserved for USA government);
- .EDU (Reserved for educational institutions);
- .INT (Only for registering organizations founded by
international treaties between governments);
- .JOBS (Human resource managers only);
- .MIL (Reserved for USA military);
- .MOBI (Consumers and providers of mobile services and products can use it);
- .POST (Reserved for post offices);
- .MUSEUM (Reserved for museums);
- .TEL (Business and individuals to share their contact data);
- .TRAVEL (For companies in travel industry).
Country Code Top Level Domains (ccTLD)
All countries also have a top-level domain name. Generally, it consists of two letters that represent the country code. Here is a list of some popular top-level country domains (TLD’s):
- .UK (United Kingdom);
- .US (United States);
- .RU (Russia);
- .GR (Germany);
- .FR (France);
- .CN (China);
- .IN (India).
Strict rules apply if you want to register Australian TLD .com.au or .net.au. You should be Australian or have a local company number or business number.
Reserved Top-Level Domains
IANA keeps some TLDs in reserve for specific situations, for instance, examples in documentation, testing or supporting international organizatioms. Here are some examples of reserved TLDs:
- .TEST (Used for testing current or new DNS code);
- .EXAMPLE (Used in documentation or for examples);
- .LOCALHOST (Kept in order to avoid conflicts with typical usage of localhost);
- .ARPA (Reserved for operationally-critical infrastructural identifier spaces).
Second Level Domains
Top level domains are on the top of TLD hierarchy then goes the second-level and third-level domains which are accessible for reservation to end-users. Especially, they are useful to connect local networks to the internet, develop other freely accessible internet resources or create a website.
Directly below is a second level TLD in the DNS hierarchy, e.g., — .com.au, co.uk.
Third Level Domains
For example — ebay.com.au is the second level domain in the DNS hierarchy. The difference between the second and third level can be a little confusing. To point out — .com is TLD. Google.com is considered as a second level domain, but google.co.uk would be classed as a third level.
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Globally of all registered TLD’s in first place is .com — with 43,56% market share. In second place goes .tk — 6,64%, and third .net — 4,66%.
First of all, it depends on your needs. If you target global audience, then I strongly recommended choosing .com. In case you want to work with the local market, go for country TLD like .de, co.uk.
No, it does not. Google officially announced on July 21, 2015, that all new gTLD’s would be ranked in search results like old (.com, .net).
Yes, it will. Domain name changes will make lose position in the search results of your website as many redirects will be caused. Given that, it is very important to choose the right domain name that will fit your long-term expectations.
In order to register a new and custom TLD, you have to submit a specific application to ICANN and pay a fee of around $200,000. Once the application is submitted, ICANN starts the application evaluation process. If your request is approved, you can begin to launch your TLD with registrars.