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What is a Top Level Domain?

Last Updated on 

March 3, 2024


Ryan T. M. Reiffenberger

A TLD, or top-level domain, is the part of a website’s URL that comes after the “dot” (e.g. “.com,” “.org,” “.edu”). TLDs are a way to categorize websites and indicate the purpose or intended audience of the website.

There are many different TLDs, including generic TLDs (gTLDs) such as “.com” or “.org,” which are intended for general use, and country-code TLDs (ccTLDs) such as “.uk” or “.de,” which are specific to a particular country.

The use of TLDs allows for a hierarchical structure for organizing websites, with the TLD indicating the highest level of organization. For example, a website with a “.com” TLD is typically intended for commercial use, while a website with a “.org” TLD is typically associated with a non-profit organization.

In addition to indicating the purpose or intended audience of a website, TLDs can also be used to improve the readability and rememberability of a website’s URL. For example, a website with a “.com” TLD is typically easier to remember and more recognizable than a website with a less common TLD.

Overall, TLDs are an important part of a website’s URL, as they help to categorize websites and make them easier to remember and recognize..

What are the different types of TLDs?

  • Generic TLDs: Generic TLDs (gTLDs) encompass some of the more common domain names seen on the web, such as ‘.com’, ‘.net’, and ‘.org’. The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) used to heavily restrict the creation of new gTLDs, but in 2010 these restrictions were relaxed. Now there are hundreds of lesser-known gTLDs, such as ‘.top’, ‘.xyz’, and ‘.loan’.
  • Country-code TLDs: Country-code TLDs (ccTLDs) are reserved for use by countries, sovereign states, and territories. Some examples are ‘.uk’, ‘.au’ (Australia), and ‘.jp’ (Japan). The Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA), which is run by ICANN, is in charge of picking appropriate organizations in each location to manage ccTLDs.
  • Sponsored TLDs: These TLDs typically represent professional, ethnic, or geographical communities. Each sponsored TLD (sTLD) has a delegated sponsor that represents that community. For example, ‘.app’ is a TLD intended for the developer community, and it is sponsored by Google. Similarly, ‘.gov’ is intended for use by the U.S. government, and is sponsored by the General Services Administration.
  • Infrastructural TLDs: This category only contains a single TLD: ‘.arpa’. Named for DARPA, the U.S. military research organization that helped pioneer the modern Internet, ‘.arpa’ was the first TLD ever created and is now reserved for infrastructural duties, such as facilitating reverse DNS lookups.
  • Reserved TLDs: Some TLDs are on a reserved list, which means they are permanently unavailable for use. For example, ‘.localhost’ is reserved for local computer environments, and ‘.example’ is reserved for use in example demonstrations.

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