When creating a new website, a lot of thought is put into choosing the right domain name. You typically need to select an easy-to-remember name without misspellings, numbers or dashes. When thinking about the domain name, many people forget to think about the domain name extension — that is, the set of characters that follow the period at the end of your domain.
For example, the domain “google.com” has a “.com” extension or top-level domain (TLD). There are many more possible extensions that you could choose from for your website. In this article, we will explore some of the most popular options.
Popular Domain Name Extensions (TLDs)
The most popular domain name extension by far is the .com. One of the original six extensions, .com was first intended for use by commercial organizations. Despite those intentions, there are no restrictions on who can register a .com domain or what it can be used for.
.com has now become synonymous with the internet, and many web users will automatically assume a website ends with .com when searching for a name or a brand. This makes the extension highly sought after, and the first choice for most webmasters. However, the popularity of .com means that your first few name choices will likely be taken, and if you want to obtain a meaningful and/or a short .com domain, you will probably have to pay a premium price for it.
.net is the second most popular domain name extension, derived from the word “network” as it was intended to be used by organizations involved in networking technologies. Like .com, this intention was never enforced and .net has grown to become a highly used extension for many different purposes.
Although popular, it is not used as frequently as .com, meaning that it is easier to find the ideal domain name with a .net extension. It is usually the first choice as a substitute for a .com domain when the latter isn’t available.
The third most popular extension is .org. Also one of the original six extensions, .org was created as a .com alternative for non-profit organizations. While this constraint is not enforced, .org still finds popularity with non-profit organizations as well as open-source projects, communities, and educational institutes. The most well-known website using this extension is Wikipedia; the 13th most popular website in the world according to Alexa’s rankings.
Unlike the three extensions discussed above, .co is not a generic TLD but rather a country code TLD (ccTLD) that is assigned to Colombia. However, unlike most other ccTLDs, .co is used globally and it is treated more like a generic TLD. Google also treats the .co extension like it treats .com and other generic extensions, so your website’s rankings in search results won’t be geographically restricted. Much like .net, .co is commonly considered as a second choice when .com isn’t available.
Newly Released Domain Name Extensions
In the past 10 years, many more domain name extensions have been introduced to appeal to different markets, businesses, and communities. These include .blog for blogs, .help for help websites, .photo for photography and photo-sharing, .shop and .store for e-commerce sites, .tech for technology sites, and many others. There are now over 1200 generic extensions, known as generic top-level domains (gTLDs) to choose from.
Although they are not yet as intuitive for users as the traditional extensions, many are rapidly growing in popularity because these new gTLDs can often be bought for a fraction of the price, and there are plenty of great names still available for registration. Since they are relatively new to the market, it can be easier for businesses to get a short and memorable domain name with one of these extensions.
Country Domain Name Extensions
Country extensions, more commonly known as country code top-level domains (ccTLDs), are great alternatives for local or regional websites. If you are targeting a specific location with your website, then a ccTLD can improve user confidence as well as attract local consumers.
When internet users are searching for products or services, search engines such as Google will oftentimes prioritize websites that are local to the user. For example, someone searching for flower shops in France will see more .fr websites in search results than someone searching for flower shops in England, who will instead see more .co.uk websites. When targeting customers in one country, this search engine boost can be massive for a business. However, it can make expanding into other countries more difficult without buying and operating additional domain names.
The most popular ccTLDs are .cn (China), .de (Germany), and .uk (United Kingdom). Do not worry if you are not targeting any of these countries, as there are specific ccTLDs for most countries and regions on the planet!
It is worth noting that there are certain ccTLDs that Google treats as generic TLDs when ranking websites in search results. We mentioned .co above as an example of these. Other ccTLDs that are practically considered generic include .bz, .cc, .cd, .fm, .io, .me, .tv, .ws, and a few others.
Which Extension Should You Choose?
There are thousands of different domain name extensions to choose from, and the perfect extension depends on your specific circumstances and requirements. A .com is great for user familiarity and quickly building a reputable website, but often at a higher price.
Other extensions such as .net, .org, and .co are traditional alternatives to .com, however, there are now many more choices including niche-specific TLDs such as .photo, .bio, .tech, .money, etc. If you are targeting a specific area with your website, you may want to consider ccTLDs such as .de and .co.uk as they make it easier to draw in local customers. With so many different options, the important thing to remember is that the perfect name and extension are almost certainly out there waiting for you.