If you’re setting up your online identity, one of the first and the most important decisions you’ll have to make involves choosing the right web address. Your web address is something that you’ll have to carry with you for a pretty long time, so it better be good!

When it comes to choosing a web address, most people apply their creative thoughts into settling on the right domain name itself, but the extension (also called a top-level domain or TLD) holds just as much weight. So, today, we’re going to look at some of the most popular TLDs to help you decide which one is right for you. Do you go with the classic .com or .co? Perhaps a descriptive word that aligns with your brand? Let’s find out!

TLDs – Quick Overview

TLDs are quite literally the extension of your domain name; they are the letters that appear to the right side of the domain name, right after the dot. For example, 101domain has a .com TLD (i.e. 101domain.com) and NASA has a .gov TLD (nasa.gov).

Back in 1985, the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) released six TLDs that represented the highest level in the Domain Name System (DNS) hierarchy. They included: .com, .net, .org, .edu, .mil and .gov. Not surprisingly, these original extensions are also the most recognizable today!

Generic Top-Level Domains (gTLDs)

  • .com: You must be familiar with .com (Who isn’t?) Shorthand for commercial, .com was the first domain extension in common use. While .com was initially created for use by organizations, by the mid-90s, it became the most popular TLD in use for entities and individuals alike.
  • .net: Shorthand for a network, .net was created exclusively for businesses directly involved with the basic framework of the Internet. However, the restrictions on its usage were never upheld; any person or entity is allowed to register a .net extension today.
  • .org: Shorthand for an organization, .org is supposed to refer to a non-profit institution. Notice we say “supposed to” because .org sites were initially meant to be the domain of non-profit organizations, but today, anyone can use this extension.

Sponsored TLDs

While .com, .net and .org can be used for general purposes and by anyone, the other three of the original six (.edu, .mil and .gov) are sponsored TLDs that can only be used by businesses explicitly involved with that industry.

  • .edu: Shorthand for education, .edu was initially intended for educational institutions worldwide. However, today, it’s exclusively used by post-secondary institutions that are accredited by an agency recognized by the U.S. Department of Education.
  • .mil: Shorthand for military, .mil was created exclusively for U.S. military branches.
  • .gov: Shorthand for government, .gov is restricted for federal governmental agencies and personnel use.

Additional gTLDs You May Recognize

Even though the .com is the most recognizable gTLD, you can consider using these as well:

  • .biz: Shorthand for business, .biz was created to provide an alternative to businesses that didn’t want to go with the standard ‘.com.’
  • .info: Shorthand for information, .info is intended for informative websites. That being said, its use is not restricted (anyone can obtain this extension). The .info was yet another extension that was meant to take the pressure off the congested .com domain.
  • .mobi: Shorthand for mobile, .mobi extension is dedicated to delivering the Internet to mobile devices.

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New gTLDs

In the last few years, many new TLDs have been made available to buy, offering businesses more opportunities to find an affordable alternative if the extension they want is already registered. For example, if abc.com isn’t available, you can get creative with a different extension like abc.xyz. Other new TLDs include .tech, .shop, .club, .cards, .bike, .ink and .music, among many others. Many Country-code top-level domains (ccTLDs) have also skyrocketed in popularity as businesses – especially tech companies – are using the .io domain (used for British Indian Ocean Territory) as IO can refer to Input/output, .co domain (used for Colombia) as CO can refer to corporation and .ai domain as AI can refer to artificial intelligence. You can see a full list of ccTLDS here on 101domain’s website.

So Which Of These Common Domain Extensions Is Right For Your Website?

That all depends! While most people prefer the popular .com extension, at least if it’s available, it’s perfectly fine to use alternatives as well. Just make sure that when telling people about your website that you remember to include the extension. Even though the use of other TLDs is growing as the number of sites on the web grows, it’s still a habit for many to simply assume the extension will be .com.

You Have Got To Protect Your Domain Name And Secure Your Online Brand!

You also need to protect your domain name from “Traffic Robbers.” As soon as your website becomes popular and you gain more and more traffic, some dishonest (and lazy) people may try to “borrow” some of your traffic for themselves. These Traffic Thieves buy a domain with the same name as yours, but with a different extension.

This gives them two advantages: Firstly when someone searches for your website via a search engine, there is a very good chance that their website would also appear in the search results. This is a shortcut for them to instantly have better search rankings.

Secondly, someone who wants to visit your website might accidentally type in the wrong extension and land on the Traffic Robber’s website instead. Imagine all the work that goes into getting your website popular and, at last, having a high traffic volume – and then someone coming along and “sharing” your hard work’s reward, just by buying a similar domain name!

There can’t be identical domains, but there can certainly be more than one version of the same with different extensions. For example, abc.com may be taken, but abc.biz could be available.

This is why you should consider getting multiple extensions of your domain (if your wallet allows!). This would secure your online brand and protect your domain name. You can then set up redirects on these so that if visitors go to one of the other domains that you own, it will redirect them to your main website.

Final Thoughts

Choosing the right domain extension, and by extension, your domain (pun intended), can be critical to the success of your website. Hopefully, after reviewing the options you have, it will be easier for you to make a choice!