What Is A TLD And Why Should You Care

By Mike Maddaloni on Monday, April 13, 2009 at 04:00 AM with 1 comments

What is a TLD and why should you care? If you have anything to do with the Internet or are a businessperson, you should know what it is.

TLD stands for “top-level domain” and is the last part of a domain name. For example, in the domain name thehotiron.com, the TLD is “com.” Where those who register and manage domain names use the acronym frequently, many others do not. As I plan on using it in many future blog posts on domain names, I wanted to define it ahead of time.

The acronym is sometimes used by itself or it can be prefixed by other letters to further quality a type of TLD. A gTLD is a “generic” top-level domain, and generic means anyone can register a domain name with a gTLD. Examples are .com, .net and .org. A ccTLD is a “country-code” TLD, and are ideally for entities which reside in a specific country. Examples are .us, .au (for Australia) and .dk (for Denmark). An sTLD is a “sponsored” TLD and they are only available to certain groups or classifications. Examples are .aero (for the air transport industry), .coop (for cooperative associations) and .museum (for museums). For a complete list of TLDs, view the list from the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) for all global TLDs.

Knowing about other TLDs is helpful in choosing domain names to register or in analysis of a URL with a TLD you may not be familiar with. Each TLD is managed by an organization which sets the rules for registrations. For example, some ccTLDs require the registrant to be based in that country, and others do not. If you are a business and have operations or sales in a country, it may be of interest to register the name of your business or brand with a specific ccTLD or sTLD as appropriate.

TLDs of all forms are approved and assigned by Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN). There have been cases where a TLD was requested but not approved, and a notable example is .xxx and .sex. Some TLDs have been retired, such as .cs (for Czechoslovakia), which were replaced by .cz (for Czech Republic) and .sk (for Slovak Republic).

Of interest to many is a move by ICANN to open the floodgates on any gTLD. For example, .pizza, .beer or .gum. This has been met with much controversy, as it would require an effort for a company to register its name and brands with all new gTLDs, and the opportunity for violation of trademarks by entities who may register domain names with their brand for some random gTLD. The International Olympic Committee (IOC), which is a staunch defender of its brand for the word “Olympics” globally, has already contacted ICANN with its concern over open gTLDs and to “take action” as required. My guess is the IOC would have an issue with a name like olympics.beer?

In the future, I will reference this document on TLDs in other posts here at The Hot Iron as well as follow-up on news and activities surrounding TLDs, especially the opening of gTLDs.

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