Top-level domains (TLDs) can have a dramatic impact on peoples’ perceptions of the websites they visit. Justified or not, many people will have a different opinion of a .com domain versus a .org domain. When registering a new domain with your web hosting services, you should consider the popularity of its top-level extension. While there are pros and cons of all the different names and numbers, one TLD may be better to help improve your site’s online presence over another. Before you continue with your domain registration, read our blog below to learn about the differences between the names available.
W3Techs maintains a list of the number of websites using various top-level domains. As of October 2019, the top five top-level extensions were .com (47%), .org (4.9%), .ru (4.9%), .net (3.5%), and .de (3.0%). These five domains, as well as the vast majority of all other domains, can be approximately divided into two categories: generic and country code.
Generic top-level domains are popular for sites with an international target audience. Two of the most popular domain extensions overall, .com and .org, are generic top-level domain extensions. In many regions, country code top-level domains are just about as popular for a web address. Some country code domains are considered generic as far as search engine optimization is concerned.
Generic TLDs (gTLDs)
In the early days of the Internet, seven generic top-level domains were available: .com, .net, .org, .edu, .gov, .mil, and .int. The first three were made available for public registration, and the remaining four were restricted to certain organizations. Accredited educational institutions, government agencies, and military organizations are exclusively able to register .edu, .gov, and .mil domains, respectively. The .int domain is reserved for organizations created by international treaty. For example, NATO uses the .int domain.
Given that .com, .org, and .net have been available for registration by the general populace longer than any other top-level domains, it stands to reason that those domains represent three of the current top four most popular TLDs.
Country Code TLDs (ccTLDs)
Aside from gTLDs, the other main category of top-level domains is country code. The International Standards Organization (ISO) maintains a list of “internationally recognized codes of letters and/or numbers that we can use when we refer to countries and subdivisions” in ISO 3166. These codes are then automatically eligible to be registered as new top-level domains with the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA), as outlined in RFC 1591, “Domain Name System Structure and Delegation.” From the memo: “The IANA is not in the business of deciding what is and what is not a country.”
Once a new ccTLD has been registered with the IANA, regional authorities are responsible for what if any restrictions are placed on who can register new domains under that TLD. For example, registration of .us domains is administered by Neustar, Inc. on behalf of the U.S. Department of Commerce. 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.”
Other ccTLDs may have similar restrictions regarding who is eligible for domain name registration. Be sure to check that you are eligible before you register a ccTLD. Your registration could be revoked if you are deemed ineligible.
Generic Country Code TLDs (gccTLDs)
Certain ccTLDs gain such widespread usage that they take on characteristics of gTLDs. Like gTLDs, gccTLDs are not restricted in terms of eligible registrants. As reported by Search Engine Roundtable, Google maintains a list of 20 country code top-level domains which it treats as generic top-level domains for search engine ranking purposes. Around 2018, Google removed this list from their official documentation, yet Google’s John Meuller reported that the removal was due to changes in documentation and not changes in the way Google treated these TLD’s.
Some 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 top-level domains are typically associated with something other than these countries. For example, many English-speakers are more likely to associate the abbreviation “T.V.” with “television” rather than “Tuvalu.”
Published in March of 1994, the author of RFC 1591 did not anticipate the extraordinary growth of the Internet in the years that would follow. The memo explicitly states, “It is extremely unlikely that any other TLDs will be created.” New generic TLDs were released as early as 2001, and over one hundred new gTLDs were released in 2014″. As of October 2019, there are over fifteen hundred top-level domains available, with more being added every year.
nTLDStats tracks the popularity of new top-level domains. Going back to 2014, the most popular new TLDs are .top, .icu, and .xyz. Other popular options released to the public during or after 2014 include .site, .shop, and .app. Many of these new TLDs are industry-specific such as .attorney, .property, and .technology.
All Domains Considered
The .com TLD reigns supreme internationally with nearly 50% of total domain registrations. The second most popular TLD, .org, has less than five percent of the same, which is about the same as .ru. Global web traffic by TLD portrays .com as even more dominant, with .com taking nine of the top ten spots. The only site that is not in the top ten by global traffic without a .com TLD is Wikipedia.org. In the United States, we see the same nine .com and one .org domains represented in the top ten.
When we look at web traffic by TLD outside of the United States, we see increased popularity in ccTLDs. In Russia, there are more .ru sites than .com sites in the top ten. In Columbia, there are three .co sites in the top ten, one .org, and six .com.
When the Internet was first invented, there was no list of TLDs like there is today. The original three domains available for general domain name registration, .com, .org, and .net remain among the world’s most popular. The .com domain extension will certainly remain the most popular for years to come, and it could remain the king of domain extensions for coming decades or longer. The most popular top-level domains vary by country. In some countries, country code top-level domains are more popular than in others.
When choosing a domain TLD for your web address, popularity is a factor you should consider. For some less technically-inclined people, the .com extension is, for all intents and purposes, synonymous with websites. These web users may not trust domains that do not have an extension that they recognize. Domain names are an essential characteristic of all websites. Be sure to pick a TLD consistent with your brand and your vision that way you will have no problems in establishing your online presence.