It’s a safe bet that you’re online every day. But you probably don’t understand everything about it. Understanding the technical details behind even 50% would be a feat for most of us. Still, when it comes to a top-level domain (TLD), businesses need to know what they are and why they matter.
This article is your quick introduction to different types of top-level domains. We’ll cover generic TLDs, sponsored TLDs, and country-code TLDs, as well as the new types. Then, we’ll go over the TLD’s importance to small businesses when buying a domain name.
What’s in a Top-Level Domain?
Without domain names, we’d be trying to find things online by typing in strings of numbers. Can you imagine instead of going to nike.com, you had to remember to type in something like 22.214.171.1245? The domain name is a series of characters that helps us more easily navigate the world wide web.
The domain name system (DNS) started in the 1980s with just seven generic top-level domain options (gTLDs). These are still used today:
.com — commercial
.edu — education
.gov — government
.int — intergovernmental organizations
.mil — military
.net — networking technology
.org — organizations
But the desire to have online real estate boomed and, by 2000, seven more TLDs were introduced. Four (.biz, .info, .name, and .pro) are unsponsored. While (.aero, .coop, and .museum) are sponsored.
What does it mean to be a sponsored TLD (sTLD)? An sTLD is specialized and operates under policies established by a narrower community. An unsponsored TLD operates under the policies established by the Internet community. Both are still subsections of the generic TLD.
This leaves us with the TLDs with two letters such as .de, .mx, .ca, or .jp. These were established for over 250 countries and external territories worldwide. They are referred to as country-code TLDs (ccTLDs).
Evolving Top-Level Domains
Of course, that already sounds like a lot of TLDs. We mentioned over 260 options just in the previous section. Well, that still isn’t enough to handle the volume of Internet traffic. Or the need for people to differentiate their space online.
The new top-level domains cover hobbies, sports, types of profession, and more. There’s a .CPA and a .hair or a .rugby and a .brand. Plus, brands are getting creative in how they register domain names too. For instance, Papa John’s and its pj.pizza or Taco Bell’s ta.co.
There has also been rapid growth in the .brand domain. Just a few years ago, ICANN allowed companies to purchase their own .brand TLD. So, the iPhone, for instance, was for sale not at iPhone.com but, instead, at iPhone.apple.
According to Neustar, the top 10 sectors registering .brand TLDs were: insurance, automotive, IT, banking and financial, industrial, media, real estate, retail, manufacturing, and health.
All of which brings us to our discussion of why TLDs matter to a small business when buying domain names.
Why TLDs Matter in Buying a Domain Name
Getting your small business online starts with a domain name search. You need to determine if anyone already owns the name that you want to register. If so, you could run the risk of trademark infringement.
Looking into domain registration is also a good way for your business to gauge the competition. Maybe you were looking to register a domain name describing your product or service. If competitors already own multiple domains for similar offerings, you’ll know two things. First, you’re entering a competitive market. Second, you’ll have to be creative to come up with a domain registration that is memorable but not like the rest of your competition.
While you’re doing this brainstorming and research into the domain name marketplace, consider buying multiple top-level domains for brand protection. Owning multiple domain names accomplishes several things for your small business:
- Helps customers find your site, even if they misspell or mishear your domain address
- Avoids brand poaching where a competitor takes a similar domain name to undercut your sales
- Protects your business ideas; having the domain name doesn’t give you a trademark, but it can help prove when you originated an idea in legal proceedings
Plus, you want to think long term. If you’re opening a pet grooming service, for instance, you might want to register not only TerrierGrooming.com but also TerrierGrooming.care, and if you’re going to go international one day, you could purchase .ca, .mx, and .us too. Or start by adding the TLD for the city where you’re launching your business.
With over 1,000 TLDs to choose from, you could be managing multiple domains. It’s not necessary to lock down every single alternative and all extensions. Still, you’ll want to at least go to a domain name registrar to get the main ones that suit your business. Now that you understand TLDs take proactive steps to catch traffic and protect your brand online.