Top-Level Domain Explained

by Andrew Shih
top-level domain name

Last Updated on December 20, 2022 by Andrew Shih

If you are doing research on the domain name, you will likely run into “TLD”.

What is Top-Level Domain?

A top-level domain (TLD) is the part of the domain name located at the end of the dot (” . “). For example, the TLD for is ‘.com’.

A more technical explanation of TLD according to Wikipedia:

“A top-level domain (TLD) is one of the domains at the highest level in the hierarchical Domain Name System of the Internet. The top-level domain names are installed in the root zone of the namespace.”

During your domain name research, you will likely come across similar terminologies such as generic top-level domains (gTLD), restricted generic top-level domains (grTLD), country code top-level domains (ccTLD), and other variations.  

Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) maintains the official list of all the TLD and oversees the approval process.

Generic top-level domains (gTLD) and restricted generic top-level domains (grTLD)

There are seven generic top-level domains (.com, .org, .net, .int, .edu, .gov, .mil) that were created early in the development of the Internet, and pre-date the creation of ICANN in 1998.

‘.com’ is an open TLD which stands for commercial/company so any person or entity is permitted to register. It is originally intended for use by commercial business entities, however for a number of reasons it became the most common TLD used by all types of entities including nonprofits, schools, and private individuals.

‘.org’ is an open TLD which stands for an organization so any person or entity is permitted to register. It was originally intended for use by non-profit organizations, and it is still the primary TLD for non-profit organizations.

‘.net’ is an open TLD which stands for a network so any person or entity is permitted to register. It is originally intended to use as parent web sites to access smaller sites.  In many cases, a company simply registers .com TLD and has several smaller sites under subdomains.

.int, .edu, .gov, .mil are restricted TLD restricted to international organization, educational institution, US government agency, and US military.

Country-code TLDs (ccTLDs)

Country-code TLDs (ccTLDs) represent specific geographic locations.

For example: .tv represents Tuvalu (not Television!!), .fr represents France, and .eu represents the European Union. Each geographical location can have different usage requirement and some may have residency restrictions.  The rule of thumb is that if you are looking into getting a ccTLD, the person who registers the domain name should reside in the country and conduct business primarily within the country.

New TLDs

Over the recent years, new industry specific TLDs appears to have gaining popularity.  For example, there are .accountant, agency, .care, .coach, and .consulting, .education, .fish, .fitness, .fashion, .finance, .realtor, .tech and the list goes on.  Some companies even created their own TLD such as Barclays with ‘.barclays’ TLD.

New TLD(s) are constantly emerging and you should refer to the official  Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) site if you are eager to research into TLD.  Wikipedia also offers a very useful summarized listing.

Overall, if you are looking to obtain a domain name for business or establish web presence within the US, you should try to find a domain name in ‘.com’ first and there are tools and tips to help you find a good ‘.com’ domain name.  

If ‘.com’ doesn’t work for you, the emerging industry-specific domain name seems like a viable option so there is no need to feel restricted to ‘.com’.  

If you reside in another country and conduct business within the country, you should certainly look into ccTLD.  No matter what TLD or domain name you use, the key is to convey credibility and help you connect with your target audience.

What’s Next

If you are ready to take the plunge and get a domain name, check out the 6 creative domain name ideas for blogs.

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