Domain Name 101: What Do the Various Domain Extensions Mean?

Everyone knows .COM, the unrestricted domain extension for companies or commercial enterprises that is the most recognized TLD (top level domain) on the web. Most people in our country also recognize .CA, the ccTLD (country code Top Level Domain Name) that represents Canada.

But what about all the other domain extensions out there? .ORG, .NET, .MOBI, .TV, .TEL, .BIZ…, in fact there are over 280 different domain extensions delegated globally. What do they all mean and what’s their relative importance to Canadian small businesses? It’s important that a small business understand what its options are for developing and marketing their brand in the online arena.

According to the latest Domain Name Industry Brief (published by VeriSign), the first quarter of 2010 ended with more than 193 million domain names registered worldwide, an increase of 11 million registrations or 6% from 2009.

The following are the most popular domain extensions in the world ranked by number of total registrations (1st Quarter 2010) –  Source: VeriSign Domain Name Industry Brief

  1. .COM (“commerce”)
  2. .DE (Germany)
  3. .NET (originally “network” but most businesses secure this along with their .com)
  4. .CN (China)
  5. .UK (United Kingdom)
  6. .ORG (originally “organization” but most businesses secure this along with their .com)
  7. .INFO (originally “information” but most businesses secure this along with their .com)
  8. .NL (Netherlands)
  9. .EU (European Union)
  10. .RU (Russia)

According to data from Zooknic, Canada’s .CA ranks #15 as of March 31, 2010.

Domain names are divided into 2 main categories, gTLDs or “generic top-level domains” (some of which are sponsored by designated agencies and some are restricted by types of registrants) and ccTLDs or “country code top level domains” which represent a country designation.

There are currently 20 gTLDs (generic top-level domains) in the world. The following shows what each represents: 

  1. .aero (the air-transport industry),
  2. .asia (Asian Pacific Region)
  3. .biz (businesses but all uses),
  4. .cat (Catalan linguistic & cultural community)
  5. .com (commerce but unrestricted/all uses)
  6. .coop (cooperatives),
  7. .edu (post-secondary educational institutions)
  8. .gov (government of US)
  9. .info (informational sites but unrestricted/all uses),
  10. .int (international organizations established by treaty)
  11. .jobs (employment-related sites)
  12. .mil (US military)
  13. .mobi (mobile uses)
  14. .museum (museums),
  15. .name (individuals),
  16. .net (networks but unrestricuted/all uses)
  17. .org (organizations but unrestricted/all uses)
  18. .pro (professions like legal, medical)
  19. .tel (online directory or contact information; virtual business card)
  20. .travel (travel industry)

In 2008/2009, ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names & Numbers) started a new TLD naming policy to take a “significant step forward on the introduction of new generic top-level domains.” It is expected that the new rules could result in hundreds of new gTLDs to be approved.

There are currently over 250 ccTLDS (country code top-level domains):

.CA is of course the most important ccTLD for Canadian small business. An individual or business must meet Canadian Presence Requirements in order to register a .CA.

Aside from .CA, however, there are 252 ccTLDs in the world. I won’t review them here but have included a link to the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority ccTLD database which maintains a comprehensive list.

Many of the ccTLDs are unrestricted and don’t have presence requirements in order to register them. Many are also used for “vanity” purposes and marketed as something other than for their own country. Some examples include:

  • .CO (actually Columbia but associated globally with the words “company,” “corporation” and “commerce”)
  • .TV (actually Tuvalu but marketed as “television”)
  • .FM (actually Federated States of Micronesia but marketed as “radio”)
  • .LY (actually Libya but used for popular URL shorteners like or
  • .WS (actually Western Samoa but marketed as “.website”)
  • .ME (actually Montenegro but marketed for individuals)
  • .CC (actually Cocos Islands but used for “commercial companies”  “community colleges” “creative commons” and more)

Now that you have a background of what domain name options are available, stay tuned for future blog posts which will help you choose the appropriate domains for your business. You can find additional information on domain names, register a new domain or consolidate a domain portfolio online.

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