Top-level domains (TLDs) can have a dramatic impact on peoples’ perceptions of the websites they visit. For example, many people have a different opinion of a .com domain versus a .org domain. That’s why you should consider the popularity of a top-level extension before you pick and register your new domain. Read on to learn more about the differences between the available names!
What is a TLD?
Before we dive in, let’s define what a top-level domain is. First, you need to know what a domain name is. A domain name is the address people fill in the browser bar, otherwise known as a URL. For example, the domain name for Bluehost is bluehost.com.
A top-level domain is what comes after your business or brand name. This could be .com or .org or .us. And much more!
What TLD do most people use?
As of April 2023, the top five top-level extensions are .com (48.4%), .org (4.7%), .ru (3.8%), .net (2.9%), and .de (2.5%). These five domains, as well as the vast majority of all other domains, can be approximately divided into two categories: generic and country code.
While there are pros and cons to both, one may be a better fit to improve your site’s online presence over another. So, let’s look at what generic and country code TLDs are!
What are generic TLDs (gTLDs)?
Let’s start with the basics: Generic top-level domains are popular with sites with an international target audience. Since there are a lot of global businesses, that’s part of the reason why .com is the most popular domain extension.
However, .com (as well as .org and .net) have been available for registration by the general populace for far longer than the other TLDs! Why? Simple. There were only seven generic top-level domains available in the early days of the internet: .com, .net, .org, .edu, .gov, .mil, and .int. And only the first three were available for public registration. The remaining four were restricted to certain organizations, such as accredited educational institutions, government agencies, and military organizations.
Fun fact: The .int domain is reserved for organizations created by international treaty. For example, NATO uses the .int domain.
What are country code TLDs (ccTLDs)?
So, what is a country code TLD? Very simple! It’s a two letter code specifically used for a particular country. For the U.S., this would be (shocker!) .us, while .de is for citizens from Germany for example.
Do you have to be a U.S. citizen in order to register a .us domain? Yes. Registration of .us domains is administered by Neustar, Inc. on behalf of the U.S. Department of Commerce. They say that registration of .us domains is permissible to “any U.S. citizen or resident, as well as any business or organization, including federal, state, and local government with a bona fide presence in the United States.”
So be sure to check that you’re eligible before you register a ccTLD! Your registration could be revoked if you are deemed ineligible.
Are country code TLDs popular?
You might be thinking that with so many people using .com, you shouldn’t bother with a country code TLD. But that’s not true. In many regions, country code top-level domains are just as popular for a web address. In fact, some country code domains are even considered generic. At least, as far as search engine optimization is concerned.
Generic Country Code TLDs (gccTLDs)
As we mentioned before, some country code TLDs gain such widespread usage that they take on the characteristics of a generic TLD. But what does this mean? It means that they’re not restricted in terms of eligible registrants. Everyone can use them!
For example, a few of the most popular gccTLDs are .co, .io, .me, .tv, and .cc; the official country codes of Columbia, British Indian Ocean Territory, Montenegro, Tuvalu, and Cocos Islands, respectively. These domains are typically associated with something else than a country. For example, many English speakers are more likely to associate “T.V.” with “television” rather than “Tuvalu.”
Popular new TLDs
As of October 2019, there are over fifteen hundred top-level domains available, with more being added every year. But which ones are the most popular? nTLDStats tracks the popularity of new TLDs. Currently, the most popular new TLDs are .xyz, .online, and .top. Other popular options released to the public include .shop, .site, and .store.
Generic TLDs vs. country code TLDs
In conclusion, the original three domains available for general registration (.com, .org, and .net) remain among the world’s most popular. The .com TLD reigns supreme with nearly 50% of total registrations. Other TLDs don’t even come close, as is apparent by the second most popular TLD (.org) which has less than five percent of total registrations. This is further underlined when you look at the TLDs of the global web traffic: Nine of the top ten spots are a .com site. And this statistic isn’t any different in the United States.
However, the most popular top-level domains may vary by country. In some countries, country code top-level domains are more popular than in others. In Russia, for example, there are more .ru sites than .com sites in the top ten. And in Germany, the difference between .com and .de sites isn’t that great.
Which TLD should you choose?
So, which should you choose? First, it’s important to keep in mind that popularity is a factor you should consider. For example, people who aren’t tech savvy will generally only know .com as the website TLD. They might not trust other domains.
However, a domain name is an essential characteristic of your website. So the safest option isn’t always the best. Make sure you pick a TLD that’s consistent with your brand and your vision.