What is a TLD or top-level domain?
It is the last part of a domain, the element located after the last dot. Since it is located at the end, it is also known as a domain suffix.
Before continuing, you should know that a domain name is divided into three levels: the subdomain located at the front or left side, the second-level domain or tag located in the middle, and the top-level domain located at the end or right side of the domain name.
A domain name that has a second top-level domain constitutes a fully qualified domain name.
To make it clearer, let’s look at a domain name as an example: sub.example.com.
- sub: is the subdomain
- example: is the middle-level domain
- .com: is the top-level domain
- All these domain levels are separated with a “dot.”
As you can see, the top-level domain is .com: it shows that the site is commercial.
Aspects of domain names, especially TLDs, are coordinated by The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, or ICANN for short.
ICANN oversees all types of top-level domains according to what the website is associated with it. Since a website’s top-level domain must adhere to it, we can tell what a website is about by its TLD.
The different types of top-level domains
ICANN classifies TLDs into four main categories according to the purpose, owner, and geographic location of the website, namely:
1. Generic top-level domains: gTLDs; 2. gTLDs.
The gTLD is the most common type of domain registered by the full range of users. The most familiar examples of this type of top-level domain are:
- .com – for commercial sites
- .org – for organizations
- .net – for networks
- .xyz – for general use
- .name – for individuals
- .biz – for companies
- .info – for information platforms
However, some gTLDs are restricted to certain users: these are called sponsored top-level domains.
2. Sponsored Top-Level Domains: sTLDs
The sTLD is a type of generic top-level domain managed by private organizations. Users who wish to register their site in this domain must comply with certain rules. Some of the examples of TLDs are:
- .gov – for government sites
- .edu – for educational institutions
- .int – for international organizations with treaty-related purposes
- .mil – for the U.S. military.
- .mobi – for websites for mobile products and services
- .jobs – for businesses or legal organizations
- .tel – for internet communication services websites
- .post – for postal service websites
3. Country Code Top Level Domains: ccTLDs
The country code TLD follows the ISO code for location or territory. The ISO code is a two-letter code that represents the name of certain areas. Common examples of this type of TLD are:
- .es – Spain
- .ru – Russia
- .us – United States
- .ca – Canada
- .nl – Netherlands
- .de – Germany
- .fr – France
- .in – India
- .ch – Switzerland
- .jp – Japan
- .cn – China
- .br – Brazil
- .id – Indonesia
4. Infrastructure Top-Level Domain
The only infrastructure top-level domain available is ARPA. It stands for Address and Routing Parameter Area. IANA reserves it for IETF or Internet Engineering Task Force. Therefore, it is only used to solve technical infrastructure problems.
In addition to the examples of top-level domains mentioned above, the complete list of TLDs is available on the IANA (Internet Assigned Numbers Authority) website.
What is the purpose of top-level domains?
Because top-level domains are classified according to what the website is associated with, people can use them to identify the purpose, owner, or geographic location of the website, without even looking at the website’s content.
For example, the .edu top-level domain indicates that the website is used for educational purposes or is owned by educational institutions.
Several websites could share the same name but different top-level domains. Therefore, TLDs can say that ‘example.com’ is not the same as ‘example.edu.’
That being the case, you should note that ‘WordPress.org’ is different from ‘WordPress.com’ even though they share the same second-level domain name.
When registering a domain name, you should double-check the mid-level domain name to ensure its availability and make sure you choose an appropriate TLD for your website.
Summarizing what a TLD is, it is a top-level domain or the suffix of your domain name. A TLD can help identify the purpose of your site and even its geographic location.
There are four main categories of TLDs classified by ICANN, and each of the categories is defined by what is associated with the website. They are:
- Generic Top Level Domains (gTLDs).
- Sponsored Top Level Domains (TLDs)
- Country Code Top Level Domains (ccTLDs)
- Top-Level Domain Infrastructure (ARPA)
- It is very important that you know and understands what a TLD is to choose the most appropriate website.