Domains in a nutshell: gTLDs, ccTLDs, nTLDs, and brand extensions
CHOOSING the right domain for your website is a significant task for brands in the digital age.
A domain is your “address” on the internet. It helps your new customers find you and ensures existing customers can get in touch with you quickly and easily. It’s also the “gateway” to your digital presence on the internet.
The evolution of domain extensions
Initially, people could only register a domain with a .com, .net, or a .org extension which made the market pretty competitive. The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), the body that is responsible for these domain extensions, called these the gTLDs or general top level domains.
ICANN also created the .mil, .gov, and .edu extensions, but reserved them for credible military, government, and educational institutions.
Soon, with the “expansion” of the internet and the evolution of its users, the ICANN also evolved.
It created the ccTLDs or the country code top level domains, which were simply domain extensions that represented the country that a website (supposedly) belonged to. Prominent examples include .us, .uk, and .eu – however, each of these two-letter extensions were created over time, as and when the need arose.
For users, this meant that a domain of choice became increasingly accessible. For example, if www.mybrand.com is taken, you can go and buy www.mybrand.eu if you expect to operate in or serve customers in the European Union.
However, it seemed as though the original TLDs, the .com, .net, and .org held on to their top-spots in the minds of users and forced upcoming brands to amend their “name” if a .com wasn’t available instead of picking another domain extension.
The ICANN had a great vision into the growth of the internet and how different organizations would use the cyberspace. Therefore, it created something known as sTLDs or sponsored top level domains as well. These are extensions that were “intended” for use by members of certain organizations only.
What sTLDs proposed to do was in spirit if nothing else, try to build the trust (and comfort) that people had with .mil, .gov, and .edu extensions. So, for example, when the Société Internationale de Télécommunications Aéronautiques sponsored the .aero TLD, it limited registrations to members of the air-transport industry. So, anyone visiting say a .aero site would immediately know they could trust the site a little more than they could trust any of the other “freely available” domain extensions.
However, some experts feel that the vision for sTLDs haven’t been fully realized. Some sTLDs, such as .asia and .mobi are available on the internet without any limitation or restriction whatsoever, which makes people surfing the internet question other extensions in this category as well.
Now, we come to two of the most interesting domain extension categories. The nTLDs and the .brand extensions.
ICANN announced plans for nTLDs, or new top level domains in June 2012. As of last year, there were 500 nTLDs created, including .ai, .co, .ninja, and .club. It opens up a vast number of possibilities for brands going forward. However, it also makes life a little bit more complicated for the user because remembering a new domain with its correct extension isn’t easy – especially if you’re not going to use it on a daily basis.
Fortunately, for (big) brands, ICANN also made .brand extensions available – which means, .apple, .ibm, and .google are now real. Although reserved for those who can afford the US$200,000 application fee, these extensions are the gold-standard of credibility on the internet – at least for brands we’re familiar with. The credibility of something like .bitcoin might still be a bit debatable.
Why your domain extension matters
Your domain extension is a critical part of your website and a part of your brand identity.
If you look at the website addresses of a lot of modern startups, you’ll see something like .co, .ai, and .io extensions being used. Most of them carry those extensions with pride as they feel it’s a part of who they are.
However, talk to any domain registrar and they’ll tell you that the .com domain extension is still one of the most prized possessions for a business entity today.
In fact, there are professionals out there that register .com (among other) domain names and hold on to them hoping that someone will pay a premium to buy them at a later date. A standard domain costs about US$10 but head over to GoDaddy’s auction site for example and you’ll see domains being sold for US$2000 and more.
At Tech Wire Asia, we’re always curious to find out more about how the world around us works. So, we polled people across different age groups to find out if they really think a traditional .com, .net, or .org extension is more credible than a .ai or .co extension. Here’s what we found:
On an average, 73 percent of people feel that a .com, .net, or .org is more credible than a .ai or a .co extension.
No matter how we slice the data, old or young, people seem to feel strongly about this. It explains why companies still make the effort with the .com extension.