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Connecting the Dots

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In the nineties, a large percentage of online companies trying to make millions on the Internet went out of business, and a lot of investors lost a lot of money. That time in business history is referred to as the "dotcom" bust. Why? Because their domain name suffix ended with the suffix ".com"—like webvan.com, an online grocery ordering and delivery system.

That's one way a domain names type was introduced to the everyday computer users like us.

In the middle of 2012, there were more than 2.5 billion Internet users in the world, along with about 233 million registered domains—websites—of all kinds. And even though there's not one group, country or business running the Internet, there's a very logical order to website classification. The Domain Name System is at the heart of defining the organization, which starts with large, logical groupings, which are called domains. (The word "domain" means a specific and well-defined territory or region.)

If anyone can, ICANN

It's odd, but we're used to referring to a company's or organization's website name as its address. (The place where you type in "whatismyIPaddress.com" on your browser is called the "address bar" not the "name bar.")

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) is a non-profit corporation that handles the assigning of Internet addresses. Their domain-labeling strategy will sound pretty familiar to you.

The last part of an organization's Internet represents one of several top-level domain names, or TLD. When you see amazon.com, for instance, ".com" is a TLD. There are two types of TLD: generic and country code. The gTLD domains have generic organization descriptors. By far the one we're most familiar with is the dotcom (.com)...still.

A look at gTLDs.

Chances are you've seen most of these generic TLD suffixes:

    .com — a commercial or business entity
    .net — a network service
    .org — organization
    .edu — educational institution
    .gov — U.S government
    .mil — military service
    .aero — air transportation
    .biz — business
    .info — unrestricted
    .museum — museum
    .pro — a doctor or other professional

If you want to see what the G-Men are up to, go to FBI.gov. Want to enroll at an Ivy League school? Try Harvard.edu. Interested in the museum scene in the borough of Brooklyn? Visit brooklyn.art.museum.

A look at ccTLDs

A country code top-level domain name (ccTLD) ends with a two-character country code specified by the International Standards Organization (ISO). There are about 300 or so country code TLDs. Here are a few:

    .ac — Ascension Island
    .ca — Canada
    .cz — Czech Republic
    .uk — United Kingdom
    .uz — Uzbekistan

If you're ordering online from a company in Australia, its domain might be a combination of a generic and country code TLD. For example, if you wanted to order special dog supplies from Australia for your Australian Shepard, you might want to visit "pawsforlife.com.au."

From bust to boom.

The most recent statistics show that there are more than 100 million .com TLDs today. That's 40% of the 233 million TLDs (both generic and country-code!). How many .nets are there? Just 14.7 million, and there are only 10 million .org TLDs. Three out of every four generic TLDs is a .com.

Data Sources: Verisign Domain Name Industry Brief, RegistrarStats, DENIC

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