Which top-level domain should you use?

A top-level domain is the last part of a website’s URL — for example, on this site, ‘com’ is the top-level domain. Some top-level domains are better known than others, but over 1500 exist in total. With that in mind, if you’re planning on starting your own website, which top-level domain is right for you?

To help you figure it out, let’s take a look at the list of open top-level domains and break them up into a few categories.

Original top-level domains

Once upon a time, only a few options existed — .com, .org, and .net. A few other top-level domains have existed since the early in the Internet’s history, but they’re not available for public use. For example, .mil is limited to United States military sites and .edu is limited to institutions of higher learning.

Because of their age, .com, .org, and .net are the best-known TLDs. They’re also the most difficult to find an available name because of their popularity.

Country code top-level domains

Country code TLDs are two-letter codes originally designed to designate a website for a specific country. For example, .fr designates a French website and .uk denotes the United Kingdom. Some TLDs, however, have seen wide usage outside their native country. Several of these have become popular. Montenegro’s country code, for instance, is ‘me,’ which has become popular for personal websites — i.e. a site about me. Lybia’s country code, ‘ly,’ is also used in conjunction with a domain name to form an adverb, such as the email service provider mad.ly. Tuvalu’s country code, ‘tv,’ has become synonymous with television websites.

Some country code TLDs are easier to secure than others. Some require local residency while others are available to anyone.

A country-code TLD can also be a good choice if it completes a word or phrase. For example, .is, .am, .in, or .no could all be used in this fashion.

Generic top-level domains

The most recent addition to the top-level domain repository, generic top-level domains are designed to be used in a particular industry. For example, .auto was created with car companies and dealerships in mind and .photography was created for — you guessed it — photographers. The list of generic top-level domains is expansive.

Which top-level domain is right for you?

With these options in mind, consider a few things when making your selection. First, .com is the best-known TLD and many people automatically assume a website is a .com site. If you choose something else, will your site’s visitors mistakenly visit the .com site instead? A generic top-level domain might alleviate this confusion, but a potential visitor to your site might get confused and add a .com anyway. If you’re considering another TLD simply because the .com isn’t available, it might be best to select a different domain name altogether instead.

Second, will your social media usernames match your website? If possible, this is a good idea so people who wish to find you online don’t have to remember two (or more) different names. If your name is available on a generic or country-code TLD but the username is taken on social media sites you plan to use, you might confuse your customers.

If you’re considering a generic or country-code TLD, it’s a good idea to check on availability and pricing. Many generic TLDs are only distributed by one particular country, and as a result, pricing is much higher than a basic TLD like a .com domain. Other TLDs are limited to certain professions or geographical areas.

Namech_k is a service designed to check a domain’s availability on a few common TLDs and social media networks. However, many generic TLDs are not listed but the website of the TLD’s distributor can likely check availability.

Overall, .com is the best choice because of instant recognition, but in certain circumstances, a country-code or generic TLD can be a good option.