If you have been in or around the domain industry for a long time, you’re likely aware that there has been an explosive increase of new TLDs fairly recently. What began as 9 TLDs total in 1985 evolved into well over one thousand unique domain extensions to this day and that expansion is still on-going. With this high number of domain extensions, it’s easy to get confused with the various TLD types that come with the sheer quantity of TLDs now available. In this article we’ll cover common TLD questions such as how many TLDs there are and go over the various types of TLDs. Let’s jump into it!
How many TLDs are there?
As of June 2020, there are 1,514 top-level domains (TLDs) currently in use according to the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), the non-profit that regulates and coordinates the internet domain namespace. Despite there being such a large number, a vast majority of those have been launched within the last decade. The dramatic increase in new TLDs started in 2011 when ICANN launched the ‘New gTLD Program’ to expand the number of gTLDs available by allowing organizations and companies to apply for their own unique TLD. This program alone has received over 1,900 applications, with 1,238 new gTLDs delegated through the program since its launch which has greatly diversified the options available for end-users and domain investors alike.
TYPES OF TLDs
What is a ccTLD?
A country code top-level domain (ccTLD) is a domain extension that is tied to or reserved for a country, sovereign state, or territory in the world. ccTLDs have the advantage of assisting with regional targeting in search engines, meaning the likelihood of a ccTLD showing up for users in that location increases directly due to ccTLD usage. Many ccTLDs have use restrictions, such as limited registration to only residents or companies in that country, for example. A good way to recognize a ccTLD is by the number of characters - all two-character TLDs are ccTLDs.
Some ccTLDs have open restriction policies – which allows any user worldwide to register a domain from that country. The ccTLDs that are more frequently used for general, non-country specific use are referred to as gccTLDs (generic country code top-level domains). For example, .io is the ccTLD for the British Indian Ocean Territory but is frequently used in the tech and tech startup industry, making it a gccTLD. gccTLDs are excluded from the regional targeting search engine bonus found with standard ccTLDs. Besides indicating geographical location, many ccTLDs can also be used as domain hacks to shorten long names, spell out a word, or to complete a sentence. For example, the domain nyti.ms uses the ccTLD of Montserrat for a more concise version of “The New York Times”.
What is a gTLD?
Generic top-level domains (gTLD) are defined by not being tied to a specific country or region and have a wide variety of uses and associations. The most recognizable gTLDs have been .com, .org and .net and a good way to spot a gTLD is that they are always three or more characters in length. Living up to their name of being generic, these extensions that fall under the gTLD category have a large range of uses and can be associated with broad or niche industries. They can even indicate the type of content found on the domain’s website depending on the gTLD used.
What is an IDN TLD?
Internationalized top-level domains (IDN TLD) are TLDs that contain characters that are outside of the roman English alphabet, primarily used for other languages that contain symbols such as Chinese characters or the Arabic alphabet. An example would include .닷컴 which is Korea’s equivalent of .com.
What is a geoTLD?
Geographical top-level domains (geoTLDs) are domain extensions that target a region or geographical area, primarily for locations that don’t fall under a ccTLD which could be a specific city or area in a country. geoTLDs are considered gTLDs instead of being a subset of ccTLDs (meaning they follow the rules of a gTLD such as being three or more characters and having no search engine regional targeting). An example of a geoTLD would be .QUEBEC for the province/city of Quebec in Canada or .WALES for the region of Wales.
What is a sTLD?
An sTLD is a sponsored top-level domain. Much like the name implies, it is a TLD sponsored by an organization, specific community, or professional group. The sponsor of the TLD typically has additional responsibilities attached to it regarding providing accountability and transparency with its management, highlighting policies and representing the best interest of the public/internet community. sTLDs are uncommon and not frequently used.
What is a second-level domain and third-level domain?
Second-level domains (SLD), in a majority of cases, refers to your actual domain name that was registered. It is the characters located just the left of the dot found beside the domain extension. For example, the SLD for abcde.com is ‘abcde’. Some domain extensions have an SLD already attached to them, typically to indicate usage of the domain. The most common example of this is .UK, where they use SLDs such as .CO.UK, .ORG.UK and .ME.UK to separate who is using the website and the type of content that may be found on it.
Third-level domains are referring to the characters found beyond the second dot, which is often the domain name when SLDs are used. For example, the third-level domain for abcde.org.uk would be ‘abcde’. Occasionally, third-level domains are tied to a website that uses a subdomain. If the website uses ‘oranges.apples.com’, ‘oranges’ (the subdomain in this scenario) can be referred to as the third-level domain.
GENERAL TLD QUESTIONS
What is the purpose of all these different types of TLDs?
TLDs have a wide variety of applications, from length and memorability to association with a country or industry. Many times, choosing a TLD for a website comes down to that association - having your website with a specific tag (TLD) loosely represents the site’s industry, region, or the use of the domain. Since every TLD has its own unique context and association, the meaning between TLDs will vary heavily. An example would be .com, which has a very general, wide use versus a domain extension like .xyz which represents innovation and creativity. Locational use also plays a huge factor – while some countries have low ccTLD usage, others such as .de for Germany have embraced it and made it integral to the location's culture. Outside of ccTLDs, as the internet domain space becomes more saturated and certain extensions availability becomes more limited, other extensions will become more popular.
Why are some domain's premium? Is that TLD related?
Premium domains refer to certain memorable domains that have high marketing potential typically with existing website traffic. These domains can be either previously existing domains that are sold through domain aftermarket platforms or domains set aside by a domain registry that are listed for registration at a premium price point. While TLDs can play a factor in the price of a premium domain, premium domains are common across many TLDs and are commonly set aside by registries when new TLDs are launched.
How many TLDs does Dynadot support?
Dynadot currently supports over 500 TLDs and we’re constantly adding new TLDs to our repertoire. You can visit our full list of domain extensions to see what domains are available for registration.