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What is a Top Level Domain?

Domain TLDs

Posted on November 16th, 2016 by David Taplin

A top level domain name is a domain name at the highest level in the hierarchy of the Domain Name System on the Internet. For example www.mycompany.com the top level domain would be the ‘.com’ part of it.

There is a specific body called the ‘Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers’ (ICANN) that are tasked with delegating the management of top level domains to certain organisations. ICANN also helps coordinate the Domain Name System (DNS), often referred to as “the phone book of the Internet” because it matches domain names with appropriate IP address numbers.

Originally top level domains were organised into three main groups: Countries, Categories, and Multi-organisations, however today the increase and variety of top level domains is vast.

There are however 4 overriding categories of TLD’s and they are as follows:

  • Country-code top-level domains – the Country Code Top Level Domains (ccTLD) domains identify certain countries, for example the UK (.uk) or the US (.us).
  • Infrastructure top-level domain – There is only one top level domain in this category and that is (.arpa) which stands for Address and Routing Parameter Area.
  • Sponsored top-level domains – Sponsored Top Level Domain Names (sTLD) are privately owned by organisations. The names are usually based on either geographical, technical, professional, ethnic or themed concepts. These are very exclusive names.
  • Generic top-level domains – General Top Level Domains (gTLD) are the common TLD’s and are open for registration by anyone. These TLD’s have grown dramatically over the past few years to many hundreds representing various sectors or industries such as .com, .org, .net, .gov etc.

Over the past few years there has been a release of many more generic TLD’s to cover over 700 different names, categories and sectors from .clothing, .plumbing, .business, .flowers, .golf, .love.. The list really does go on and on.

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