What are the different types of domain names?

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You are in the process of creating a website or starting an online business, but all of this domain stuff is confusing you a bit. There seem to be so many different types of domain names, and what in the world is a gTLD, a DNS server or a premium domain? As a non-techy person, how are you ever going to figure this out?

Worry no more! At Openprovider, we are here to help you with this clear overview of different domain types. Domains are not as complicated as they seem, and you can even have fun with them. Now, let’s go on a journey into the wonderful world of domains!

What exactly is a domain?

If you take a look at the address bar of your browser, the domain is what you see below:

“Openprovider” is the domain name, and .com is the domain extension.

Computers, however, can only recognize numbers, not names. The true “names” of websites are therefore their IP addresses, not their domain names. The domain name system (also called DNS) was invented to make browsing the Internet much easier. After all, you likely can’t remember “185.87.187.6”, but you can remember openprovider.com!

The DNS works like the phone book of the internet. All IP addresses on the internet are connected to a unique domain, just like addresses in the real world are connected to particular houses or buildings. After you type in a domain name in your browser and hit Enter, your computer will connect to the DNS to retrieve the IP address of the website you want to visit. Your browser will then lead you to this website. If you want to learn more about the technical side of DNS, check this blog post here!

Domains only consist of a name and an extension, as in the example of openprovider.com. Anything that comes before, such as http://, https:// or www, does not form a part of the domain.

A common synonym for domains is TLDs. TLD stands for top-level domain. Yes, there are also second- and third-level domains, but we will get to that in a bit.

A brief history of domains

Openprovider offers more than 2,300 TLDs, but there were not always as many in existence. In fact, domains as we know them have only been in existence for less than 40 years. 

The first domains appeared on the Internet in 1983, and they would only become available for public use until 24 February 1986. On that historic date (at least in Internet history), a total of six TLDs were released to the public: .com, .net, .org, .gov, .edu, and .mil

The first three domains will sound familiar to most Internet users. .com and .net are common domains for businesses, while .org is a popular choice for NGOs and nonprofits. Anyone can register these domains. However, the latter three extensions are only for restricted use. .gov is intended for governmental organizations, .edu for schools and universities, and .mil for the American military.

The first domain name that was ever registered in the history of the Internet was www.symbolics.com. This website is still up, and it now serves as an online museum dedicated to the history of the Internet. If you have ever wanted to know when the first spam email was sent or where the Keyboard Cat meme came from, this is the place to go.

Types of domain names: gTLDs and ccTLDs

Nowadays, you can find many more extensions online than just .com and .net. Let’s take a look at the different types of domains you can encounter.

For example, your country has a particular country-specific domain name that may be used much more often than .com. There are many of such country-specific domains in use, with .us being the first one, found all the way back in 1985. 

Country-specific domain extensions are also called ccTLDs (Country Code Top-Level Domains). All other domain extensions, which do not apply to a particular country or geographic area, are called gTLDs (Generic Top-Level Domains). An important difference between ccTLDs and gTLDs is that the former always consist of two characters, while the latter consist of three or more.

As of June 2022, there are 308 different ccTLDs in use. In some countries, however, they are in wider use than in others. .cn (China), .nl (Netherlands) and .de (Germany) are some examples of domains that are very popular in their countries of origin, often much more so than generic TLDs like .com.

While ccTLDs are all connected to a particular country, you usually do not necessarily need to live here to register one. And some of these ccTLDs are particularly well-suited for an offbeat website name! 

For example, .tv is a well-used ccTLD in the media industry, while originally it was the country code for the small island of Tuvalu! A similar thing happened to .nu, which corresponds to the island of Niue. Meanwhile, .co started out life as the extension for Colombia, but gained popularity as an alternative to .com. And many other companies have gotten creative with .me (Montenegro), .ai (Anguilla, and Artificial Intelligence) and .io (British Indian Ocean Territory, and also shorthand for the term “input output”, which is used in the computer industry). 

ICANN and new types of domains

All domain extensions in use need to be approved by ICANN, the “overseeing authority” in the world of domains. Openprovider is ICANN-certified. That means that as a company, we comply with ICANN ‘s strict rules and regulations, and we are therefore allowed to sell domain names.

For a long time, the amount of TLDs on the Internet was pretty limited. Yet in the past decade a lot of new gTLDs have been popping up. In 2011, ICANN launched the “New gTLD program” in order to diversify the number of domain extensions. After all, the Internet is only growing, and the number of websites online will likely continue to expand.

The “New gTLD program” has received over 1900 applications for new extensions. Out of these, ICANN approved over 1200, and they are now all open for registrations. Some examples of these new gTLDs are .shop, .business, .earth and .love, but there are many more! You can consult a full list of all of our currently available gTLDs in our Knowledge Base. Scroll down to All active gTLDs at a glance>Currently in General Availability to see them all. 

Also among the new types of domain names that have been popping up are geographical ones, associated with particular cities. From .abudhabi to .yokohama, more and more large cities around the world have their own domain extension, which make great options for local businesses and entrepreneurs.

Second- and third-level domains and premium domains

Two more types of domains to go! Besides TLDs, you may remember that we also briefly mentioned second- and third-level domains before. A second-level domain is located directly “below” the top-level domain. That means that it looks like an extra bit of text that comes before the TLD, but after the domain name. For example, many British addresses end in .co.uk rather than in just .uk. Similarly to this, a third-level domain adds on another “layer”.

Lastly, we’ve also got premium domains. Premium TLDs are those that are particularly popular and in-demand, which is why they have a higher price. At Openprovider, when you are purchasing a domain, we always indicate which domains are premium domains.

Let’s get to work!

Now, that was it for the “dry” stuff! Hopefully you have learned a bit about the different types of domain names, and the world of domains seems a little less daunting to you now.

Are you feeling ready to register your domain? At Openprovider, we are happy to help you with that! It is very easy to register a domain with us. You just need to do three things:

  • Pick your desired domain name.
  • Fill in your personal information (name, physical address, phone number, email address and payment/billing information).
  • Choose the domain registration term of your preference. Most domains come with a registration term of one year, but multi-year registrations can often be cheaper!

Feeling ready to go?

Need a bit more time? Check our helpful posts on how to choose a business name and how to pick the best domain extension for you!

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