A Beginner’s Guide to Top-Level Domains (TLDs)

Choosing the right domain name for your website is important. Ultimately, it’s how your audience will find and remember you on the web. While finding a domain is already a challenge, another important factor is figuring out which top-level domain you want to match with your domain name. If you’re planning to create an online business or want to create a website, then this beginner’s guide to top-level domains (TLDs) is the right place to start. We will provide you with all you need to know in order to identify the best TLD for your website.

What Is a TLD?

A TLD, or domain extension, is the last part of a domain name that comes after the dot (.), such as .com, .org, or .net. They were first introduced in the early days of the internet to categorize and organize websites.

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) is responsible for the creation and management of TLDs. ICANN also maintains the internet’s domain name system (DNS).

Initially, there was a small set of TLDs. However, as the demand increased, ICANN expanded the DNS to create additional TLDs, which include specific areas of interest and industries. As a result, the standard three-letter TLD expanded to inspire more creativity and branding.

There are also unofficial TLDs managed by private companies. These TLDs aren’t recognized or administered by ICANN and are typically used in private networks.

The Different Types of TLDs

ICANN manages several types of TLDs, which are:

  • Generic Top-Level Domains
  • Sponsored Top-Level Domains
  • Country Code Top-Level Domains
  • Infrastructure Top-Level Domains
  • Test Top-Level Domains

Generic Top-Level Domains

Most people are familiar with generic top-level domains (gTLDs), which are open and available for registration by anyone, no matter their country or territory. Their purpose is to provide a generic category or classification of websites.

Individuals, businesses, and organizations worldwide often use a gTLD with their domain name. As a result, gTLDs are more common in usage across the internet.

Some examples of gTLDs are:

  • .com – originally intended for commercial sites but used for various purposes
  • .org – primarily used by non-profit organizations
  • .net – originally intended for network websites but used for other purposes
  • .info – intended for informational websites
  • .biz – used by some businesses
  • .name – created for individual or personal websites

In recent years, ICANN introduced New gTLDs, which expanded gTLD options beyond the original ones. As a result, numerous New gTLDs were created, such as .photography, .technology, .food, .london, .nyc, and many more.

Sponsored Top-Level Domains

Private organizations or industry-specific groups manage and operate Sponsored Top-Level Domains (sTLDs). Their purpose is to serve a specific community or industry that has a vested interest or expertise in a respective field.

Unlike gTLDs, sTLDs aren’t open to anyone. They have specific eligibility requirements for domain registration, which ensures those attempting to register belong to the sponsored community or meet certain industry-associated criteria.

Some examples of sTLDs are:

  • .aero – for the aviation industry
  • .coop – for cooperative enterprises
  • .museum – for museums
  • .gov – for U.S. government entities
  • .edu – for higher educational institutions
  • .mil – for U.S. military entities

Country Code Top-Level Domains

Country Code Top-Level Domains (ccTLDs) are associated with individual countries or territories. Each ccTLD has a two-letter country code, which represents the country or territory. They are typically used to designate and categorize websites and online resources associated with a particular country or territory.

Registration requirements for ccTLDs are dependent upon the national registry or organization managing the TLD. These requirements may include restrictions on eligibility, documentation, and other specific conditions based on the policies set by the country.

Some examples of ccTLDs are:

  • .us – United States
  • .uk – United Kingdom
  • .de – Germany
  • .jp – Japan
  • .br – Brazil
  • .in – India
  • .fr – France

It’s not uncommon for local businesses, individuals, and large organizations to register and use these cTLDs for various purposes. For example, some websites related to TV and media use .tv (Tuvalu), and individuals use .me (Montenegro) for personal sites.

Infrastructure Top-Level Domain

The Infrastructure Top-Level Domain (TLD) is a specialized TLD that serves specific infrastructure-related purposes. It contains only one TLD – .arpa. It’s associated with the Address and Routing Parameter Area, and it’s not available for general registration for the public.

The ARPA TLD was initially used to support the operation of the ARPANET (Advanced Research Projects Agency Network), a precursor to the modern internet. Eventually, its usage expanded to serve various technical infrastructure operations.

Test Top-Level Domains

Test top-level domains (tTLDs) are used specifically for documentation and testing purposes. They can’t be installed into the root zone of the domain name system (DNS) and aren’t intended for use in production environments.

Some tTLD examples include:

  • .example – for place holding
  • .test – for testing purposes
  • .invalid – for invalid domains
  • .localhost – for usage in local networks

tTLDs aren’t recognized in the public DNS system and aren’t intended for public registration or use.

Unofficial TLDs

Unofficial top-level domains (TLDs) are typically used in private networks, specialized applications, or alternative DNS systems. This type of TLD is sold and administered by private companies and can only be used within a certain network or using a private DNS.

Examples of unofficial TLDs include the following:

  • .onion– for websites on the Tor network
  • .local – for local network environments for internal domain naming purposes
  • .gnu – for GNU projects and free software
  • .exit – for Tor exit nodes, which is the exit point of the Tor network

How Do Top-Level Domains Affect SEO?

The impact of TLDs on SEO is rather small compared to more important factors such as content, user experience, backlinks, and overall site quality. However, some TLDs have more trust and credibility than others, which instills a positive perception of your website among your visitors. So be sure to choose wisely.

Now that we’ve provided a detailed look at TLDs in this beginner’s guide to top-level domains, you should have a better understanding of their background and usage. TLDs are important for organizing the internet and building trust with visitors. The information we’ve provided will help you as you decide upon the perfect domain name for your website.

Remember, when choosing a TLD, focus on creating quality content and user experience, and be sure to pick one that fits your target audience.


Codeberry is a small web design studio based in Florida. We build premium HTML templates to help other creative professionals, entrepreneurs, and startups get their projects online quickly.