What is a Top-Level Domain? — Your Guide to TLDs

Even if you’re not familiar with the term, you’ve definitely encountered a top-level domain (the part of a web address that comes after the last dot, such as “.com”). Also known as a “domain extension” or “TLD,” a top-level domain is an essential part of your domain name.

That’s because TLDs aren’t just random letters—they’re like digital tags that help categorize websites on the internet and show their purpose or origin. Commercial ventures often use .com, organizations can get a boost from .org, networks may showcase .net, and so on.

Surprisingly, there are more than 1,500 top-level domains today! This includes country-specific domains, sponsored domains, and a whole gamut of new and unconventional options from .agency to .zone (.wtf, even!).

Back in the day, .com was seen as the only serious domain option for businesses, but as the internet continues to evolve, new TLDs are introduced on a regular basis to create more digital real estate for website owners. This makes choosing a TLD more than just snagging a web address — it’s about defining your website’s identity and purpose.

Now let’s dive in to the main types of TLDs and why it’s important to choose a domain that aligns with your goals.


Main types of TLDs

In the realm of top-level domains, there are 3 major types, and each serves a distinct purpose. Understanding how they work and what they signify can help you choose the most fitting TLD for your digital presence.

Generic Top-Level Domain (gTLD)

These popular and familiar domains make up the majority of all registered domain names. This category includes the classic TLDs we’ve mentioned: .com, .net, and .org. These are 3 of the original 7 gTLDs introduced in the 1980’s, when domains were only categorized differently by geographical location.

All other TLDs were simply “generic.” gTLDs can be registered by anyone, and are not restricted to specific organizations or interests. This category also includes .info, which was introduced in 2001.

These are four of the most widely popular gTLDs:


The most popular TLD across the globe, .com was originally intended for commercial businesses but is now widely adopted by various entities. Learn more


Originally designated for network-related organizations, .net is commonly used by internet service providers, infrastructure companies, and networking technologies. Learn more


Initially intended for non-profit organizations, .org is now used by a diverse group of entities, including non-profits, educational institutions, and community groups. Learn more


Short for “information,” .info is commonly used for websites that provide informative content or serve as informational resources. Learn more

Other popular gTLDs include: .biz, .co, .me, .store, .tech, .blog, and .tv.

New Generic Top-Level Domains (New gTLDs)

While finding a unique and available domain name using common gTLDs like .com or .net can be challenging, New gTLDs can provide more creative and hyper-specific alternatives.

These domains are often used by website owners to set their sites apart from competitors. To name just a few, a pizza shop might use the New gTLD .pizza to convey its identity and target its audience. A master of their craft might opt for a .ninja extension to show expertise, and a blog site for funny memes may choose a .lol domain ending to connect with its audience.

As you explore domain options, know that search engines like Google treat all TLDs the same. That means a .com domain does not inherently rank higher than a .wow domain, or any other TLD for that matter. What will ultimately have the greatest impact on your site’s SEO is the quality of your content and your marketing strategies. So, if that .cool domain feels like a good fit, don’t rule it out!

Learn more: What Are the Best .Com Alternatives for Your Brand?

Country Code Top-Level Domain (ccTLDs)

These two-letter domains are specific to a country or geographic region and show search engines and users which country or region you’re based in. There are now more than 300 delegated ccTLDs, and they make up about 40% of the domain name industry.

Unlike gTLDs which must obey international regulations, each country’s domain name regulation corporation determines its own requirements for registration. To register a .us ccTLD, for example, registrants must be a United States citizen, resident, or organization, or a foreign entity with a presence in the US. The .us ccTLD can help show your American stripes, emphasize American craftsmanship, or simply highlight your location.

ccTLDs can be advantageous for a number of reasons, particularly if your personal or business goals align with your region.

Sponsored Top-Level Domains (sTLDs)

These specialized domains are sponsored by specific organizations or communities and are typically only available for registration to eligible organizations. Private agencies or orgs establish and enforce the rules restricting the eligibility of registrants to use sTLDs, while non-sponsored TLDs (like .com) operate under the policies set by the global internet community through the Internet Community for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN).

Sponsored TLDs generally have a sponsor that represents the community that is most affected by the TLD. For example, the .gov TLD is sponsored by the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), an independent agency of the US government.

Other notable sTLDs include .edu for US institutions of higher education, and .mil which limits eligibility to US Military entities.

Remember, you will need to meet certain eligibility requirements if you plan to register your website with a sTLD or ccTLD.

Why TLDs Matter

Why TLDs Matter

Choosing the right TLD for your website is important for branding and how your audience perceives you. And while your TLD doesn’t directly impact your SEO, it can affect user trust and indirectly impact your search rankings.

Take the .ninja domain, for example. It may be a fun choice for your local a/c repair expert, but it wouldn’t necessarily be a fitting choice for a respected neurosurgeon. Similarly, a golf apparel shop might score big with a .golf TLD, but that domain ending wouldn’t serve a bike shop well.

Choosing the right TLD for your website can be an asset to your success. To find your best match, be sure to consider your target audience, the purpose of your website, and how the domain aligns with your brand identity.

Stay tuned at DomainRegistry.com as we expand our offering to include 300+ more TLDs in 2024!

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