What is a domain extension?

27 Feb 2017 / Aliesha Ellington


Domain extensions, also known as Top Level Domains or TLDs, are the suffixes or the last part of a domain name - the letters that come after the dot to the right of any domain name. For example, most URL addresses end with .com - this is an example of a domain extension or TLD.

New top-level domains are introduced by a body known as the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), which is also in charge of domain names and IP addresses. ICANN does this with the help ofInternet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA), which is in charge of assigning the operators of TLDs.

There are several different categories ofTop-Level-Domains

  • Generic Top-Level Domains (gTLDs)
    These are the most common domains and the ones most people are familiar with. For a long time, there were only a few to choose from, including .com, .org, and .net. However, since 2014, hundreds of more industry or niche focused gTLDs have been released, giving you many more options to choose from, for example .coffee, .design, .blog.
  • Generic-Restricted Top-Level Domains
    Although these are similar to generic top-level domains, they are intended to be more restricted, and require some extra information to be provided when you register them. Examples include .biz, .name, .pro. 
  • Sponsored Top-Level Domains (sTLD)
    Sponsored top-level domains are specialized TLDs, and are available only to specific groups. Although sTLDs are part of the gTLD group, they are intended for niche audiences with restrictions on who can register one, and the type of website that they can be used for. Examples include .aero. .edu. .gov, .travel, and so on.
  • Country Code Top-Level Domains (ccTLD)
    Each country has a set of country code domain extensions. Extensions such as .nz, .co.nz, .org.nz and .net.nz are all examples of New Zealand ccTLDs.

What You Need to Know About Domains and Domain Extensions

When you engage a web hosting service, the location of your website on the internet is numerically represented with an IP address. This is a string of numbers that help visitors to retrieve your website information when a search is carried out online. Considering that numbers can be difficult to remember,the DNS or Domain Name Systemwas invented. This system allows you to choose a domain name to be attached to the numeric IP address of your website, so that its online location can be identified by a name that is much easier to remember than an IP address.

The Most Common Domain Extensions

  • .com (commercial): This is the most popular extension that has grown to be synonymous with the internet. It was originally intended for commercial entities, but it is now unrestricted and can be registered for anything.
  • biz (business): This domain extension is meant for businesses. A lot of preferred domain names were taken up in the .com top-level domain, so .biz was created as an alternative.
  • .org (organization): This is a top-level domain just like .com. Initially, it was for non-profit organizations and charities but it can now be registered by anyone.
  • .net (network): .net has become an alternative to .com, although it was initially meant for network infrastructure use.
  • .gov (government): This domain extension is restricted to only government entities.
  • .mobi (mobile): This is meant for sites that are designed to be viewed on mobile devices.
  • Country specific extensions such as .nz: Some ccTLDs require you to prove that you have a business in that country or reside there, but others are open for anyone. A popular example is .co – this is actually the ccTLD for Colombia, but it is used for many businesses around the world as a shorted version of .com.

Choosing a Domain Extension

Considering the various options available to you, how do you pick the right domain extension?

Most businesses like to go with a .com domain name, as it is a very trusted and traditional domain extension. In fact, over 50% of all websites end in .com. However, you may find that the .com version of your preferred domain is unavailable – in which case you may want to consider .net, .co or even a country specific domain extension.

Be careful with some domain extensions. For example, customers visiting a website with a .info domain may be surprised to find that it is an online store, and not an informative site. Or similarly, a .org site is usually intended for non-profit or community based organisations, rather than corporations.

  • If you are targeting a specific geographical location, choosing a country specific TLD may be a good choice for you. On the other hand, this might be slightly problematic if you have plans to expand to international markets.
  • If you choose a generic TLD that is specific to your niche or industry such as .bikes, .design or .fitness, then be that it fits well with your brand and is easy to remember.
  • Some domain extensions are cheaper than others, but be wary of choosing purely based on price. Some cheaper ones may be associated with spammers, or have otherwise less credible reputations. 

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