What is a domain? Despite this word being mentioned so frequently, it’s often unclear what the functions and structures of domains are. Knowing the hierarchical structure of the Domain Name System (DNS) is fundamental for anyone working in IT or in any online industry. We explain the difference between top-level, second-level, and third-level domains, and how you can benefit from subdomains that...The domain basics
What is a TLD (Top Level Domain)?
Since March 2013 it has been possible to register new top-level domains (nTLDs) such as .expert, .miami, .business or .guru on top of the classic extensions such as .com or .org. Originally there were available only generic domain names (.com, .net, .org) or country code domains (.de , .us, .es) and now the number of unique extensions covering different topics and regions has reached almost 1.000. Other available extensions cover areas such as sport, business, tourism and trade. The advantage is that shorter, more precise domain names are now available which are beneficial to the user as well as the search engine.
- Why introduce new domains?
- The introduction of new TLDs
- The role of ICANN
- The advantage of new TLDs
- The new top-level domains and SEO
- What are the new TLDs?
- Are there restrictions when making a choice?
- How can I secure a new TLD?
Why introduce new domains?
The internet is growing and growing and the increasing number of websites means that more and more internet addresses are being snapped up. Searching for an appropriate domain name with a .com or .org ending is becoming increasingly difficult. Not long ago when short, concise addresses were no longer available amongst the common TLDs (e.g. shoes.com), you had to look for alternatives.
Domain names started becoming longer and also more complicated (e.g. buyshoes.com). The alternatives began to get more ridiculous (e.g. buysupercheapshoes.com or supercheapshoeshop24.com). Since virtually all sensibly entitled domains were in use, ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) decided to introduce new extensions.
The following infographic shows why this step was necessary:
Click here to download the infographic on the popularity of the .com domain.
With over 127 million registrations, the .com domain ending is one of the most popular TLDs, followed by .cn for China and .de for Germany. A large number of these internet addresses will be reserved in the near future and therefore it is ICANN’s decision to introduce new top-level domains.
The introduction of new TLDs
The aim was to provide more choice by creating these new domain extensions. Many new generic TLDs were launched in 2000 and 2004, and in 2008 the general rules were loosened. Since this date almost every term has the possibility of becoming a TLD as long as it meets the ICANN requirements and is not too similar to an existing TLD. Companies now have numerous possibilities to choose concise and clear domains for their own websites thanks to these new options. Instead of Countrygolfclub.com it is now possible to have country.golf or country-golf.club which is more appealing to the user and the search engine.
The role of ICANN
ICANN coordinates the domain distribution of unique names and addresses online and is mainly responsible for implementing new domains. The nonprofit organization, located in California, introduced the first new generic TLDs in 2013. Since then new ones have been added weekly. It will be several years until all the planned domains have been released. Critics believe that ICANN is creating an unstable system by adding too many domain extensions. ICANN should actually be able to implement around 5,000 domains before the DNS (domain name server) is overloaded with options.
The advantage of new TLDs
The biggest advantage of nTLDs (new top-level domains) is the possibilities that they create: many names and shortened forms were snapped up years ago amongst the old TLDs. Instead of unclear abbreviations or a jumble of strung-together words, it is now possible to use concise extensions. The advantages of nTLDs at a glance:
- location revealed through domain extension (e.g. www.blue-hotel.berlin)
- reflects the topic of the site (e.g. www.women.shoes)
- be ahead of your competition with a differentiator domain
- be more visible online, get more prospects
- get a professional state of art domain name
- make it memorable , make it concrete and shorter
- stand for your activity a local identity: display it in your domain name
- give more info about who you are in your domain name
The new top-level domains and SEO
A question that often comes up is whether Google treats the new domains differently to the classic ones likes .org and .com and whether the domain choice has an influence on the ranking in the search results. The consensus is that it makes no difference to Google at the moment.
There are exceptions that affect the regional and country specific extensions. In the USA a .us domain will be ranked better than an .es domain. Conversely, an .es domain would be favored over a .us domain in Spain. According to SEO experts the choice of domain does not affect the search engine ranking. This is even the case when a relevant keyword is in the extension (e.g. .app or .shop).
What are the new TLDs?
The list of new domains is already long and is growing by the day. It is worth taking a look at the site of the provider to get an overview of which domains are already registered and which are yet to come. Not every domain provider allows just any address to be registered, and the rule to follow here is: “first come, first served”. There are new domains from the following areas:
Terms describing a topic or offer: New generic domains can include everyday terms like sport, business, social etc. Extensions that advertise the business area (.travel, .science, .photography, .club) or topics (.work, .help, .party) are especially popular.
Typical internet terms: Typical online terms such as .website, .site or .online are also requested often.
Regions or states: As well as the country specific domains like .us or .es there are also local domains such as .oh.us (Ohio) or .ca.us (California) which signify a specific state.
The most popular top-level domains are listed in the infographic below:
Are there restrictions when making a choice?
Although the selection is very big, there are restrictions, which means that a website owner cannot always buy or reserve their chosen domain. This principle also applies to classic TLDs. Website owners have to stick to the rules set by the respective domain registry. Every organization that allocates domains sets various rules and requirements that domain owners are obliged to adhere to. Domain extensions consisting of regional locations are normally only chosen when the company is based in that specific place.
Trademark law is also an important point to consider. Protected brands and official company names are only available to the respective company and the rights holder. Many large international companies like Apple, BMW, or Google will soon be able to use their own domains (.google, .apple, .bmw) thanks to the new top-level domains.
How can I secure a new TLD?
Not all of the new domains have been released yet. Many have already been given launch dates and conditions, and others will be released at an unknown date. Depending on the domain’s status, there are different possibilities to seize your desired name with one of the numerous extensions.
Pre-reservation (Non-binding pre-order)
If there is no information given about a domain’s release, you can first pre-order your desired name without any obligation to buy. This is offered by IONOS for free. As soon as dates and conditions for the start of the nTLD are determined, the provider gets in touch with the customer. The customer can then decide whether they want to reserve the domain (binding agreement) or forego the name.
Pre-registration (Binding reservation)
If the start date for a new domain has been specified, prices and conditions for the registration are set. Prices vary depending on the relevance, just as they do with classic TLDs. Customers can then reserve their desired domain which is binding. At this point in time many reserved domains are made available again if there is no longer any interest.
Neither a non-binding pre-order nor a binding reservation are a guarantee of the rights to a domain name. The decision depends on which registration request first arrived at the relevant registry.
Those shopping for domains can find a readily available selection of nTLDs on their provider’s site. After the extension has been released the nTLDs can be registered like normal. You can also carry out a domain check and register your desired domain if it is still available on the provider’s website: