Did you ever wonder what a top level domain means? You know what the HTTP and the WWW mean but what about the .com or .org? It is a common question and there are actually a lot of options to choose from. Which one you pick can determine how much a website can cost and what will need to be on that website, so today we take a brief examination of the common top level domains so you know what yours means or which one is the right one for you.

Top Level Domains

The domain naming system was designed in 1985 with two different sets of top level domains, country specific and a separate set of generic domains. Of the generic group there are 7 original top level domains: .com, .org, .net, .edu, .int, .gov and .mil. This divides domains into DNS root zones and every web address needs a domain. The domain is part of the hostname (ie. www.nicelydonesites.com) which is attached to an IP address that allows for navigation on the Internet.

Country specific domains cover nearly every nation of Earth. It covers the Ascension Island (.ac) and Andorra (.ad) to Zambia (.zm) and Zimbabwe (.zw). Even Antarctica has a domain (.aq) as does Palestine (.ps). In most cases they are used by companies and citizens in those countries the same way we use .com and .org and some countries are more restrictive of their domains then others.

US Top Level Domains

The domains that we have access to here in the US for the most part are relatively simple. A .com domain can be had by any person or entity though it was originally intended to be used for for-profit companies. The .org domain is also open to any person or entity though it is intended for use by non-profit organizations. Another domain open to any person or entity is the .net domain, which was intended to be used for domains pointing to a distributed network of computers that act as a portal to smaller websites.

Not all domains are available to the average web user. The .int domain is only available to organizations, offices and programs endorsed by a treaty involving two or more nations. A .edu domain is intended for institutions of higher learning like colleges or universities though it is not limited to just those. The .gov domain is used for US government entities and agencies as well as some local and state agencies. Last the .mil is only used by the US military.

Second Level Domains

There can also be a second and third level domains used as well. These are intended to differentiate different places within a company or entity. For example BBC News website is bbc.co.uk. UK is the top level domain pointing to a UK based entity and .co indicated the entity is a commercial or general account. A little closer to home the Pennsylvania Utility Commission uses www.puc.state.pa.us. The primary domain is .us, indicating that the entity is based in the US and .pa is the second level domain indicating that it is an organization based in Pennsylvania while the .state domain indicates that it is a state government organization.

Domains, Domains and More Domains

There are a lot more domains out there. In fact there are somewhere around 1,500 different domains available. It is possible for a domain to be retired and new ones fill the void. Domains exist for specific companies like .ford, .walmart or .comcast and there are other categories as well. Cities can also have their own like .london or .istanbul or even an entire region like .asia.

It may all seem so complicated like it is done by magic but it isn’t. When you realize that you or your business only have access to certain domains it makes the process much easier and clearer. Which one do you use for your business or which one will you use? If you are looking to build a website for yourself or your business this is something that you need to take into consideration and Nicely Done Sites can help. Fill out our contact form to get started!

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