What Are Domain Extensions? (And How to Choose One)

Domain extensions are the letters after the last period in a URL. Most websites on the internet end with .com, but it is not the only ending to a URL.

Jan 11, 2022

Hamza Khalid

Building and maintaining a website has become a common task for people all over the world. Business owners, artists, research agencies, and more all need websites to compete in the digital era. One important aspect of a website is its domain, specifically its domain extension.

But what are they? Why are they important? How do you choose one? How do you register a domain extension? Continue reading to find out the answers to these questions and more.

What Are Domain Extensions?

Domain extensions are the letters after the last period in a URL. Most websites on the internet end with .com, but it is not the only ending to a URL. Other common ones include .gov, .org, and .net.

Domain extensions are also known as top-level domains because they come at the end of a full domain name.

Originally, domain extensions were supposed to classify websites by type. For example, .com would designate commercial use, .de would designate the site as German, .gov would designate governmental use, etc.

However, domain extensions are not always used this way. While some domain extensions like .gov still designate a specific use, most are not used to categorize websites. Most websites use .com, even if they aren’t for commercial use.

Domain extensions are more typically used to inform visitors about the website. A .org extension gives the reader a different impression than .com or .gov. A .church extension informs the reader that it’s a site related to a church. Using the proper domain extension can give visitors a good impression and make the site appear more trustworthy.

Types of Domain Extensions

Domain extensions are broken down into three types: country-code TLDs, generic TLDs, and sponsored TLDs.

Country-code TLDs are used to designate a specific country, like .de for Germany. Each of these extensions has their own rules. Common ones include .jp (Japan), .ru (Russia), and .ca (Canada).

Generic TLDs are some of the most common domain extensions, such as .com, .org, and .net. These were the earliest domain extensions registered and have since become the most popular. Most sites on the internet use a generic domain extension.

Sponsored TLDs are used by a specific entity, like a business or government. These domain extensions are more controlled and not available to the general public. Some examples include .gov (US government), .edu (accredited colleges and universities in the US), and .jobs (websites with job listings).

What Domain Extensions Are Available?

According to the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA), there are about 1,500 possible domain extensions. From .meme to .horse, there is a huge variety of domain extensions available.

Not everyone can use every domain extension. Many are privately registered and managed, such as .Samsung. Most, however, are available for public use.

The most common domain extension is .com, which makes up almost half of all websites. Some of the other most popular domain extensions are .net, .org, .edu, .gov, .mil (US military), country codes like .jp (Japan), and .io (input/output).

How to Choose the Best One for You

When it comes to choosing a domain extension, it’s easy to get overwhelmed because of how many options there are. But it does not have to be difficult if you avoid overthinking it.

.Com is generally the best domain extension. Domains with .Com are seen as more trustworthy by visitors, and they are also more memorable. If people forget the domain, they are likely to assume it ends in .Com. But what if yourbusiness.com has already been taken?

The next best options are other common generic domains such as .net. These domains are still fairly common and trusted, so they serve as an acceptable alternative to .com.

If your website fits into a specific category, that domain extension should be used. A non-profit should use .org, and American universities should use .edu.

However, there are reasons to use less conventional domains as well. For example, if your business is a pizza shop, a domain like yourname.pizza might be more memorable than yourname.com.

Just be careful using these domain extensions. If the name is not catchy or memorable, people could easily forget the URL and not find your site.

But what if you want to invent your own domain extension? That is an option, though most would recommend against it.

First, you have to apply with ICANN, but they do not accept applications all the time. This means you have to wait until they are accepting applications, which could be weeks, months, or years.

If you can handle the wait, there is a $185,000 fee for the application. That alone makes this option off the table for most.

If time and money are of no concern, the only boundary is choosing a name that complies with the ICANN rules. For example, a domain extension cannot be so similar that it could be confused with another.

So chances are, sticking to .com is your best bet.

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