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Top Level Domains (TLDs)

This article has information on top level domains (TLDs), Country TLDs, Generic TLDs, Special TLDs, and categories within the Generic top level domains (gTLDs) including sponsored TLDs and Unsponsored TLDs. Keep reading for more on top level domains.

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Occasionally you might run into the term “top level domain”. A TLD is a way to organize Web site addresses into categories and make them more manageable. With spread and commercialization of the Internet, it became obvious that some sort of organization and regulation would be needed. For the most part, the Internet is largely unregulated; however, the way domains are named is actually quite heavily supervised.

Top Level Domains (TLDs)

For the purposes of supervising the name of domains, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) came up with different designations for addresses. In the Web address www.yourname.com, the top level domain is the very last thing, the .com. The second level domain is the next to last thing, the yourname. A top level domain is divided into certain categories:

  • Country TLDs: These are domains that are assigned to countries. There are more than 250 assignments for countries. These are designations like .ca for Canada or .jp for Japan. These ccTLDs are designed to be administered by the codes and policies of the country in question.
  • Generic TLDs: A generic TLD is one that is used for a number of purposes. These are the commonly seen top level domains, such as .com and .org. These have different policies, and will be discussed below.
  • Special TLD: There is also the TLD .arpa, which is meant for the technical community involved with Internet infrastructure. Only certain developers can use the .arpa, and that usage is guided by the Internet Architecture Board.

Generic Top Level Domains (gTLDs)

The most common type of TLD is the generic TLD. This is what most people use when they set up Web addresses. Originally, in the 1980s, ICANN came up with seven gTLDs. These were .com, .org, .net, .edu, .int, .gov, and .mil. It is possible to use .com, .org, and .net without restriction. All you have to do is find a domain name that has not been taken and register it. It used to be that .org was only for non-profit organizations, but that is not a requirement anymore. As you might guess, the .gov, .int, .mil, and .edu top level domains were for specific purposes, and only certain institutions can use them today.

It is also worth noting that there are other categories in the gTLD designation:

  • Sponsored TLDs are those that have a specific purpose. They are subject to interested parties and policies are developed by communities that have a direct interest in their usage. These types of sponsored TLDs are things like .museum, .mobi, .travel, .asia, .coop and .aero. These sponsored top level domains require that registrants meet the criteria set by the concerned communities. A sponsor operates under ICANN, and does its best to take responsibility for the community.
  • Unsponsored TLDs are general and do not require oversight beyond what is considered the norm for the global Internet community. The rules established by ICANN are sufficient; no further rules are needed in order to police these top level domains. Some examples of newer unsponsored gTLDs include .biz, .name, .info and .pro.

The most popular top level domain is still .com, although .net and .biz are becoming more popular as the .com world becomes rather crowded. It is important to carefully consider what top level domain is most suitable for your business. Chances are, though, that a generic, unsponsored domain name with few restrictions will be just fine. It is what people expect, and they will be more likely to remember it and find their way to you Web address.

Related Article: Domain Registrar vs. Registry >>

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