The suffix at the end of each domain name is usually referred to as the domain extension. The most recognised domain extensions on the net are com, net, and org; however the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) lists over 1,200 domain extensions.
It is no surprise that com, net, and org, are so recognisable, since they were part of the original extensions created when the Domain Name System (DNS) was launched on January 1985. The other extensions being edu, gov, mil, and arpa.
The official name for a domain extension is a Top-Level Domain (TLD) since it refers to the highest level in the Domain Name System (DNS). Most Top-Level Domains are managed by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN)
IANA initially divided Top-Level Domains into three main groups: Countries, Categories, and Multiorganizations.
Today IANA group TLDs into the following groups:
- Infrastructure top-level domain (ARPA):
- Generic top-level domains (gTLD)
- Restricted generic top-level domains (grTLD)
- Sponsored top-level domains (sTLD)
- Country-code top-level domains (ccTLD)
- Internationalized country code top-level domains (IDN ccTLD)
- Test top-level domains (tTLD)
You need not worry about how IANA categorises domain extensions. What you do need to be aware of is that there are over 1,200 domain extensions available to you and they are all governed by different organisations.
For example, in the UK the country-code domain extension that is popular is .co.uk. The uk TLD is governed by Nominet. They manage the following domain extensions: .uk, .co.uk, .org.uk, and .me.uk. They govern the rules of these domains and handle any domain name disputes.
Likewise, the .com domain extension is governed by the USA based company Verisign. They therefore handle all disputes and decide on the rules by which owners of .com domains need to follow.
Spoiled for Choice
When I registered my first domain name is early 2000, there was not many domain extensions available. Times have changed. The situation is very different today.
Registrars such as GoDaddy present a wide variety of TLDs to customers. Being spoiled for choice can make choosing a domain name difficult; particularly for those who have never registered a domain name before.
Website owners are frequently faced with the decision as to whether they should register a shorter domain name with a less known domain extension or opting for longer less brandable domain name with an extension such as a .com or .net.
It can be a difficult decision to make.
I was lucky enough to register this domain, KevinMuldoon.com, back in 2002; but for the sake of argument let's say I hadn't and someone else had registered the domain.
If I attempted to register a domain for a blog today, I may be forced with the decision of choosing a .com such as kmuldoon.com or kevinmuldoonblog.com, or opting for a better name with a worse extension such as kevinmuldoon.eu or kevinmuldoon.co.
My preference has always been to go with the better domain extension where possible. That is why most of the domain names I own are .com. However, there are times when a shorter domain name with a lesser known extension is better.
The Quality of a Domain Extension
The quality of your domain name's extension is very important. It can be the difference between visitors thinking you run a professional service or whether you are labelled as a spammer.
Without doubt, COM remains king. It is the most popular domain extension by far and the one used by most large companies and brands instead of localised TLDs such as .US and .CO.UK. You need to bear this in mind when you are searching for a domain name.
Many companies choose to register less popular domain extensions in the beginning as they want to keep costs low. It is, however, sometimes cheaper in the long run to purchase the domain name you want from a reseller before you launch of your company, since the other domain extensions will increase in value if you develop a website.
For example, let's say you wanted to register the domain name BrandXYZ.com but it was taken. You may decide to register BrandXYZ.biz in the mean time and then once your company or website is making money, make an offer for BrandXYZ.com. The problem is that the value of the .COM version of your domain name increases as your own website BrandXYZ.biz becomes more popular. It can therefore be cheaper in the long run to purchase the domain name you want from the beginning.
The act of finding a suitable domain name can hold a project back from launching so it can be tempting to register a less than suitable domain so that the project can progress. Although it can be a pain, it is normally worthwhile to wait in order to get domain name you need.