When you hear about domain names – facebook.com, ebay.com, sephone.com – most of the focus is usually on the part before the dot. But what do those few letters at the end of the domain mean?
The right-most portion of a domain name is called a TLD, or top-level domain. It is, in short, a category for domains. You’re probably used to hearing about a lot of domains that end in “.com”, a shortened version of “commercial”. But names on the web go far, far beyond that!
In the beginning… .com, .net, .org
The first batch of top-level domains were created in early 1985: .com, .net (for networks), .org (originally for non-profit organizations), .edu (for educational institutions), .gov (for government), and .mil (for military). Some top-level domains (including .edu, .gov, and .mil) are limited, and they can only be reserved with certain qualifications. The other three big TLDs are now unrestricted.
But what about the other top-level domains? In many cases, domains in use may be assigned to a certain country. Here are some of the common country code TLDs you may see on the sites you visit:
- .uk: United Kingdom
- .fr: France
- .de: Germany (Deutschland)
- .cn: China
- .in: India
- .ie: Ireland
Individual countries have different policies about how people can use their domains. Some require registrants to be a citizen. Other countries leave registration pretty open, which allows domain owners to be a bit creative with their names (for example, the original del.icio.us used the United States’s .us domain, and bit.ly uses Libya’s .ly).
The new frontier
As the use of domain names has grown, people continue to look for new ways to create easy-to-remember homes online. Much like the addition of new toll-free prefixes in addition to the original 800 numbers, new domains are added periodically as well (for example, .ws and .info).
In 2014 companies will be adding thousands of new options for top-level specialty domains – everything from .photos to .coffee to .community.
If you’d like to talk about the best choices for your business’s domain name, or if you’d like to register additional names for your company, we’d be happy to discuss your options!