Definition: A top-level domain (TLD), also referred to as a domain extension, is the suffix that follows the domain name in a web address; the most widely-used is ".com".
TLDs are managed by the Domain Name System of the Internet, which controls how domain names are translated into Internet Protocol, or IP, addresses.
Many ecommerce websites find success in using the .com TLD, particularly because it is the most familiar to the general public.
Though .com encompasses the majority of commercial entities that live on the Internet, some site owners utilize .net and .org TLDs. Yet, some parties may consider these uses to be inappropriate or illogical given that .net was originally intended for networks websites while .org TLDs were meant for non-profit organizations.
Still, given that all three options are open for public registration, the lines have blurred on what's acceptable; many non-profits, however, insist on using a .org domain extension.
Other common TLD examples include:
While .biz and .co, which stand for business and company respectively, are suitable alternatives to the .com TLD, many of these other types are not. The .gov and .mil TLDs, for example, are for government use only and are not available for public registration. Similarly, .edu extensions are typically reserved for educational institutes, while .me ones are primarily used for personal domains.
More than 1,000 new generic TLDs rolled out in 2014, taking the domain landscape well past its threshold at the time - approximately 20 TLDs. As reported by The Washington Post, representatives from the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, the nonprofit organization that oversees the Internet, claimed the mass release was necessary given the rapid digital expansion.
The domain growth introduced a new search logic to Internet users who were accustomed to the .com culture. Couples getting married now had the option to reserve a .wed domain; photographers set up .photography extensions; bloggers flocked to .blog. For ecommerce sites, .shop and .save serve as attractive alternatives.
Yet, as company decision-makers consider the implementation of a new domain extension, they should also keep a couple framework suggestions in mind. Though domains can occasionally improve user experience by decreasing the amount of characters individuals need to type in, they can also cause confusion if made too difficult. For this reason, its recommended that businesses set up a TLD that is clear, direct and memorable.