This guide about Types of Domain Names also includes amazing historical facts about Domain Names!
Before reading about types of domain names it will be better to first have an idea of what is a domain name and how does it work.
What is a Domain Name?
A domain name is the address of a website that helps an internet browser to navigate the user to that website.
Every device connected to the internet has a unique IP address. Servers of websites where their contents are stored for public access also have unique IP addresses. Since it is difficult for an internet user to remember and type the numerical IP address for every website, the numerical website addresses are replaced by unique beautiful names, which are easy to remember. Such humane language website names are known as domain names.
How does domain work?
A domain name works through the Domain Name System or DNS. It is a network of millions of servers throughout the world that are connected together to build a huge database of names and IP addresses. Each time a user input a website address in his internet browser or click on an address somewhere on the internet, his device connects to DNS Sever which searches in its database for the domain name the user is searching for. When found, his device is redirected to the matching IP address. This way the user easily gets access to the website without remembering IP addresses like 192.278.0.123.
A Brief History of Domain Names
Wait a minute.!
Don’t worry. If you do not like history, this is not that history, you hated in your school. It is simple and short, and you do not need to remember the names and dates mentioned here. You may also skip this section and dive into Types of Domain Names. But reading these few paragraphs will help you in learning how different types of domain names evolved over time and why are they so important.
The Story of the internet begins
in 1965 when Lawrence Roberts successfully communicated between two computers separated a distance apart.
The path for the revolution of the internet was paved by the US Defense Department with the establishment of the Advanced Research Projects Agency Network (ARPANET).
This was actually a limited network, used specifically for research purposes.
Later on, other networks were formed for sharing information. All these different networks were independent of each other and have no connection between them.
It happened on January 1, 1983, that Transfer Control Protocol (TCP) was developed and initiated. This was the birth of the worldwide internet. It provided a universal language of communication between different types of computer networks.
The story of websites began
with the foundation of the Domain Name System by some students of the University of Southern California in 1983. World Wide Web or www was established in 1989 while the first website on the internet www.info.cern.ch was launched at CERN by Berners-Lee on August 6, 1991.
Today the world of internet is growing rapidly.
According to internetlivestats.com, about 4818 million people have access to the internet and there are more than 1.834 million websites published online.
Who Does Regulate Domain Names?
The Internet Corporation of Assigned Names and Numbers, usually known by its acronym ICANN manages and maintains the functions of the Domain Name System. It is a non-profit organization. They oversee the implementation of the DNS protocol and all the matters related to domain registration, domain name extensions, and WHOIS guard.
Types of Domain Names
In domain name system all domain names are grouped in a hierarchical order in several levels.
DNS Hierarchy is like a directory and has an inverted tree structure. It is also called domain namespace.
This hierarchy structures from level 0 (or root domain) to level 3 (the subdomain).
- Root Level “.”
- Level 1 Top Level Domains TLDs
- country code Top Level Domains ccTLDs
- generic Top Level Domains gTLDs
- Level 2 Second Level Domains SDLs
- Level 3 Subdomains
DNS Root Zone
DNS Root Zone is on top of all domains in the tree. It is served by Root Name Servers. In the DNS Hierarchy, the root is represented by a period or dot “.”. This “.” is just analogous to the forward slash “/” in windows PCs or the backward slash “\” in Mac in the address bar.
There are 13 root name servers in total which are operated by 12 different organizations.
Top Level Domains (TLDs)
These are also known as domain name extensions or sometimes domain endings.
These refer to the category, field or geographic region to which the website is related or focused on.
As you can see these domains are often found as a suffix on the right side of a website name.
Generic Top Level Domains (gTLDs)
Generic Top Level Domains cover a thematic field. These are not specific to a country or any other geographical region. These are called generic because most of the websites have domain name extensions from one of these gTLDs.
The first time domains that were introduced by IANA in 1985, were gTLDs. The very first set included .com, .org., .net, .edu, .gov, .mil and .int.
Let us have a brief overview of the most common gTLDs out there.
The “com” refers to a commercial. Originally when the very first class of domains was introduced in the 1980s, it was aimed to be picked by websites built for commercial purposes, providing financial news, information, and services.
But since the rules for limiting the websites to commercial phenomena were not strict (and they could not be so), therefore most of the websites came out with “.com” and became popular.
Today “.com” is known as the most popular domain extension in the realm of the internet. Anyone can buy a domain name with the .com domain name extension.
As of February 2021 there are more than 169 million domain names registered with.com extension.
One of the first set of domain name extensions, “.org” was introduced for non-profit organizations. Just like with the “.com” extension, the rules for keeping this TLD restricted to just organizations were incapable of limiting its use to only true organizations. The reason was that any three persons can claim to have an organization and hence need a domain name with “.org” domain name extension.
This is why “.org” is also a popular TLD and often many businesses use them as a second domain name along with the .com extension.
People normally trust websites with “.org” domain names.
As of February 2021 there are more than 12.58 million websites registered with .org extension.
“.net” stands for network. It was introduced for websites that used to provide networking services for other websites. With the formation of worldwide web www and development of DNS under ICANN, “.net” websites just left to provide updates, information on the internet, and other related services.
This helped in the registration of new .net domains for similar websites. Since there is no restriction or limits on purchasing .net domains, the number of websites with this domain is also growing high. The majority of internet users are quite familiar with it.
“.net” is mistaken by some people for internet.
As of February 2021 there are about 16.6 million websites registered with “.net” domain extension.
The “.edu” stands for education.
Unlike the above three TLDs, .edu is not open to all for registration. It is assigned for websites launched by universities and other academic institutions.
To be specific, “.edu” is specified for educational institutions in the United States only. Other countries will have to add their two-character country code Top Level Domain with .edu
e.g. www.yale.edu (United States) but www.anu.edu.as (Australia)
“.gov” stands for government.
These are also not-for-all domains. Only governmental bodies, offices, and agencies can use “.gov” TLDs. Like “.edu”, ” .gov” domain extensions are also reserved for only government websites of the United States. In other countries, the corresponding ccTLDs must also be added.
The above four gTLDs are part of the first ever released set of seven top level domains. Two of these (.gov and.edu) are reserved and restricted. The other three (.com, .org and .net) are open to all. Anyone can register one if found available.
The remaining two non-popular (because of less use and restrictions on registration) gTLDs of the original set are .mil (for military) and .int (for internet).
The second set of seven gTLDs was introduced during 2001 and 2002. These include four open and three restricted gTLDs.
1- .info:– stands for information
It is open to all.
It is used for various general purposes.
2- .name:– obviously, means NAME.
It is open to all.
It was introduced for individuals to launch their personal websites.
Less used by individuals, because almost everyone is fascinated by the charm of .com.
3- .pro:– stands for professional
It is restricted to professionals, licensed by government.
4- .biz:– represents business
It is open to commercial entities only.
5- .aero:- stands for aero plane
It is restricted domain name, used by aviation community
Aerospace related companies, agencies and associations may opt for .aero domain names
6- .coop:- stands for cooperatives
It is a restricted domain name
It is used by cooperative organizations around the world.
7- .museum:– Obviously this domain was introduced for museums and related persons and hence is also a restricted TLD.
In the third release of domains in 2003, ICANN provided a set of six new domains for registration by specific groups. These were .asia, .mobi, .cat, .jobs, .tel and .travel.
New Generic Top Level Domains (new gTLDs)
Later on ICANN extended the program, making a policy which would allow the registration of custom top level domains on request by groups or individuals.
This led to the release of a large number of top level domains on continuous basis. These later TLDs , though come in the orbit of generic TLDs, are usually referred to as “new generic TLDs” for the sake of distinguishing from the former group which compresses the vast majority of all gTLDs. This major group includes a total of 21 gTLDs.
Country Code Top Level Domains (ccTLDs)
Country code top level domains or ccTLDs are restricted for countries, autonomous regions and other geographic entities.
Unlike gTLDs these are composed of two letters.
Similarly in contrast to gTLDs, these are regulated by their authority of their respective country or region to which these are assigned.
The first ccTLD was .no for Norway which registered www.nta.no as its first website in 1983.
ccTLDs are used by businesses to target people of a specific country or region, building a trust among them and thereby increasing their conversions.
Approximately 40% of all domains names are registered with ccTLDs with “.cn” (for China) on the top.
The number of ccTLDs raised to 316 in June 2020. This number also includes the internationalized generic TLDs.
Registration and use of each ccTLDs overseen by its corresponding country. Some countries like Australia, Bangladesh and Japan do not allow foreigners to register their ccTLDs.
Others allow under some rules and conditions like India and Mongolia. ccTLDs of some countries and regions like Mali, Tokelau and Gabon are even available for free registration with no fee.
Internationalized Domain Names (IDNs)
Native speakers of languages such as Chinese, Arabic, Russian, Japanese and Indian languages that use writing scripts other than Roman were facing troubles in suing internet because domain name system provided only domain names in Latin alphabets and Arabic numbers. To resolve this problem, Internationalized gTLDs and geographical TLDs of these languages were introduced. This helped the users of these languages to enter a domain name in their device browser in the script they are familiar with.
Currently IDNs are registered with Arabic, Chinese, Cyrillic, Devanagari, Katakana, Hangul and Hebrew scripts.
These are special use domains which are owned by ICANN and cannot be brought to Domain Name System. Engineers and IT experts use them on test basis on their limited networks.
TDNs include .test, .example, .invalid, .onion, .local and .localhost.
Generic Country Code Top Level Domains (Generic ccTLDs)
This is not in fact a separate class of TLDs. Rather it is an informal category of those ccTLDs which are available for all and irrespective of geographical boundaries.
The main feature of Generic ccTLDs is their “gifted” letters and order that make them possible to express other keywords and meanings rather than the target country.
.tv, .co, and .in are among the top of g-ccTLDs.
.co is country code TLD for Colombia. Since there are no conditions of residence and presence for a person to register a .co domain extension, therefore it attracted new businesses worldwide, because “.co” can also express company, corporation or commercial, etc.
As of February 2021 there are about 3.1 million .co domain names registered.
.in is country code TLD for India.
It was first introduced in 1985.
In 2005 registration with .in domain extension was made open to all under the liberalization policy which resulted in thousands of new registrations in the country and from outside.
By registering “.in” domain overseas registrants may aim at expressing themes like internet, international, income, information, inn, innovation, inventions, input, inquiry, intelligence.
As of February 2021 there are about 2.6 .in domains registered.
.tv is the country code TLD for Tuvalu, a small Pacific island nation.
Obviously, its use by television websites seems their “legitimate right”. Original prices of .tv domains were enough high due to the rich television and electronic media industry. That resulted in a coincidence of want, as one of the great income resources for Tuvalu was the very domain name extensions.
Other generic ccTLDs include .io, .me, .biz, .cc, and .ad.
Second Level Domains (SLDs)
A second level domain is the actual name of the website.
Second level domains are generally chosen to represent the business that registers it. When we speak of buying or registering a domain name, we actually refer to second level domains. In a website address SLDs are placed to the left of TLDs.
Most countries reserve certain second level domains together with their respective ccTLDs to make them available to registration with a third level domain for a specific field.
For example, in United Kingdom third level domains are available with “.ac.uk” to academic institutions. (“ac” for academic)
Third Level Domains
A third level domain is just a separate section or part of a website.
These are commonly known as subdomains.
These are often used by big websites of large companies to distinguish between different departments or categories. It may also be used to separate pages in different languages. Big websites also create a subdomain for their blog, resource section, web-based app, forum or online store.
In a url third level domains can be found to the left of second level domains.
Parked Domain and Addon Domain
These are not exclusively separate domain levels in the DNS hierarchy. Rather actually these terms are used for specific states of certain registered domain names (more specifically SLD.TLD)
A parked domain is just a domain name pointed to a non-native website or specific dedicated webpage on another website.
A domain is parked generally for two purposes.
Either a domain investor buys some domains in bulk and keeps them to sell later at a higher price when others search for it. He points such domains to some pages on another website (or even the entire website).
Also big websites with thousands of traffic register the same domain names with other related domain extensions or similar names which users may likely be typing by spelling mistakes in web browsers. In this way, websites do not miss the traffic that otherwise might have lost.
The term addon domain is used in web hosting context, where a web hosting company offers hosting of additional domains in the same hosting plan.
This simply means having a choice of building and launching other websites with the same hosting plan. Thus at a low cost, more than one website are published.
It is worth noting that different web hosting companies offer different number of addon domain hosting in a single plan. Usually, as the price of the plan increases, number of permissible addon domains also rises and even may be unlimited. At low level plans, a company may charge for the use of another addon domain.
If you have read this post completely, you will clearly be aware that paying for an addon domain to a web hosting company just means, getting a hosting space for a new domain is still to be purchased from a domain name broker.
- ICANN is the non-profit organization that oversees the domain name system.
- Domain names are categorized in a multi-level tree called DNS hierarchy.
- Top Level Domains or TLDs are actually what we call domain extensions. A TLD is one of about 1300 fixed name parts for which we have to opt for our website name as a suffix.
- Second Level Domains or SLDs are actual website names that we can register for our website subject to availability.
- Third Level Domains are actually subdomains, a separate section of our website.
- A domain name temporarily pointing to a page or website is called a parked domain.
- An Additional domain allowed for hosting under a single web hosting plan is known as an addon domain.
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