TLD stands for Top-Level Domain.

Essentially, a top-level domain – also known as a domain extension – is what follows the domain name in a web address. For instance, the .com in google.com is the top-level domain. These extensions were created to further categorize and distinguish domains.

When you are creating your website, choosing the right web address is a major decision that should not be taken lightly.

This is a name that’s going to represent your brand online.

While most people concentrate on finding the right name, the domain extension holds just as much importance.

Known as a top-level domain (TLD), it is the suffix or extension that follows the domain name in a web address. The most common TLDs are .com, .org, .net, and more. However, new TLDs have become available in the recent years – in fact, there are over 1,000 TLDs today!

In this article, we will go over what a top-level domain is, its purpose, the different types of TLDs, and more.

Top-level domains ( TLD ) help to identify certain features of a website, such as its owner, its purpose, the country of origin, the type of business, whether it’s a school website, government site, and more.

In the early days of the internet, the guidelines for a domain TLD were very strict; however, in 2010, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) relaxed their guidelines when it comes to company trademarks and generic top-level domains.

What is the Purpose of a TLD?
Since top-level domains are categorized based on what the website is all about, it can be used to identify the website’s owner, purpose, or geographical location – without even seeing the website’s content.

For instance, the top-level domain .edu indicates that the website is owned by educational institutions or is used for educational purposes.

However, one thing that should be noted is that some websites may share the same name but different top-level domains.

So, it can be said that samplewebsite.com is not the same as samplewebsite.edu.

The Different Types of Top-Level Domains
There are different types and groups of top-level domains that have been created by Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) in order to categorize various organizational structures and functions on the internet.

Though the list continues to grow, we will take a look at each of the most common top-level domains that are in use today.

  1. Generic Top-Level Domains (gTLDs)
    Generic Top-Level Domains (gTLDs) contain the most recognizable list of TLDs. The first generic TLDs consisted of .com, .org, .net, .gov, .edu, and .int. Additional generic TLDs have been added, including some that you might recognize:
  • .info (used to provide information)
  • .app (used for apps)
  • .biz (used by businesses)
  • .host (for networking companies)
  • .tel (used by internet and telecom companies)
  • .estate (used by real estate companies)
  • .global (with an obvious global association)

    The list of generic top-level domains registered by IANA is quite long. It is in a state of continuous growth as businesses and organizations look for innovative ways to compete in the global marketplace and work to create the most memorable and recognizable domain names possible.
  1. Country Code Top-Level Domains (ccTLDs)
    Of the original groups of top-level domains that were created, country code top-level domains (ccTLDs) still exist. They were created as a two-letter code based on their ISO 3166 code, which was established to identify different countries and the subdivisions within them.

    Country code top-level domains (ccTLDs) have also been internationalized so that individuals in countries that don’t use Latin characters can easily recognize the country codes in the TLDs.

    For instance, country codes can include Chinese, Hebrew, or Arabic characters instead of the common Latin characters more identifiable to English speakers.

    Here are some common country code top-level domains (ccTLDs):
  • .us (USA)
  • .uk (United Kingdom)
  • .fr (France)
  • .ca (Canada)
  • .cn (China)
  • .br (Brazil)
  • .jp (Japan)
  • .i0 (British Indian Ocean Territory but .io domains are widely used by tech companies )
  • .pn (is the Internet country code top-level domain (ccTLD) for the Pitcairn Islands. Match with a very popular keyword “IT”, it becomes “pn” domain which will best represent an Information Technology company specialized in Private Network services.)
  • .ms (is the Internet country code top-level domain (ccTLD) for Montserrat, a British Overseas Territory but has several usage when creatively matched with very popular niche products or services.
  1. Geographic Top-Level Domains
    Slightly different to country code TLDs, the geographic TLDs focus on geographical areas of the globe rather than specific countries. Some examples include:
  • Asia (.asia, .dubai, .tokyo, etc.)
  • Europe (.paris, .moscow, .lond, etc.)
  • North America (.boston, .vegas, .miami, etc.)
  • Africa (.africa, .capetown, .joburg, etc.)
  1. Sponsored Top-Level Domains
    Typically, sponsored top-level domains tend to generic TLDs that are sponsored and proposed by a specific community. Each sponsored TLD is specialized to involve individuals or organizations that are based on professional, geographic, technical, ethnic, or other themed concepts. Oftentimes, they are proposed by private agencies or organizations which also establish usage rules regarding who can use their TLD.
    The most common sponsored TLDs include:
  • .gov (for government websites)
  • .edu (for educational institutions)
  • .mil (for the U.S. military)
  • .mobi (for mobile product and service websites)
  • .post (for postal service sites)
  1. Restricted Top-Level Domains
    Restricted top-level domains are another distinctive group of TLDs. Some examples of restricted TLDs include:
  • .test (reserved for testing purposes)
  • .invalid (reserved to indicate that a domain name is invalid)
  • .example (reserved so that it can be used in examples)
  • .local (reserved by RFC 6762 for solving link-local hostnames in DNS protocols)
  • .onion (reserved by RFC 7686 as a self-authenticating hostname used by Tor)
  1. Infrastructure Top-Level Domain
    The one and only infrastructure top-level domain is ARPA (Address and Routing Parameter Area). It is reserved by IANA for Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF); it is only used to solve technical infrastructure issues.

    Conclusion
    As you can see, a top-level domain (TLD) is the suffix of your domain name. A TLD can help to identify your website’s owner, purpose, and even its geographic location.

    There are different types and groups of top-level domains that have been created by IANA in order to categorize various organizational structures and functions on the internet. They include:
  • Generic Top-level Domains (gTLD)
  • Country Code Top-Level Domains (ccTLDs)
  • Geographic Top-Level Domains
  • Sponsored Top-Level Domains
  • Restricted Top-Level Domains
  • Infrastructure Top-Level Domain

    It is really important that you know and understand what a TLD is, so that you can choose the most appropriate one for your website.

    Hopefully, you can be more mindful about your website’s domain name – particularly your top-level domain!