The Best Top Level Domains (And The Ones To Avoid)
Today’s proliferation of website domains represents a stark contrast to the years preceding the World Wide Web. Early internet usage was characterized by the exclusive use of the .com top level domain, which retained its stranglehold well into the 1990s. America’s country code TLD (.us) was largely ignored in favor of .com, while brands and businesses with international footprints (or aspirations) also favored a universally recognized domain.
Carrying the ‘CANN
By the late Nineties, demand for .com TLDs had become problematic due to a lack of supply and rampant domain squatting. To regulate a wayward industry, and to prevent speculators bulk-buying corporate domain names, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, or ICANN, was formed in 1998. And one of ICANN’s first responsibilities was to increase the variety of TLDs beyond a handful of generic suffixes like .org and the country code TLDs used by domestic businesses across the globe.
The merits of ICANN’s mass-release policy for generic TLDs have been keenly debated, and many new domain names sank without trace. However, the greater choice has certainly benefited the market, driving down the cost of registering a new domain and giving companies real choice about how to market themselves. Today, industry-specific TLDs rub shoulders with novelty suffixes, as city or regional ccTLDs replace national domains that have been reclassified as generic. For instance, .tv is chosen as a domain name by broadcasters more frequently than by companies in the Polynesian nation of Tuvalu. Similarly, .io’s adoption by IT companies saw the British Indian Ocean Islands losing their ccTLD.
Making the right choice
With more than a thousand top level domains to choose from, many people struggle to identify the best TLDs for their requirements and target audience. To help separate the .web from the .chat, we’ve outlined some of the best top level domains – followed by a few we’d recommend avoiding altogether…
#1. .com. Launched: 1985. Market share: 46.4%
By far and away the most popular domain name in existence, .com heads any list of the best TLDs. Officially denoting a company, its ubiquity has seen it adopted across every industry and territory imaginable.
#2. .org. Launched: 1985. Market share: 5.1%
The only TLD able to hold a candle to .com’s popularity, .org was initially intended for non-profit organizations. Today, it’s used fairly liberally, though .org’s suitability on ecommerce platforms remains a topic of debate.
#3. .net. Launched: 1985. Market share: 4.0%
The final pre-WWW domain to achieve mainstream success, ahead of fringe siblings like .mil (military sites) and .edu (academic portals). An abbreviation of network, it’s enduringly popular with tech firms – including Midphase’s sister website, UK2.NET.
#4. .uk. Launched: 1985. Market share: 2.2%
Any firm wishing to trade in the United Kingdom should consider a .uk suffix, or the second level co.uk alternative. One of only three ccTLDs launched in 1985, this domain suffix is highly respected across the pond.
#5. .info. Launched: 2001. Market share: 0.9%
There are roughly a thousand TLDs commanding less than 1% of the global TLD market, but .info is the most successful of these. One of ICANN’s first creations, it’s often used by the owners of information websites or platforms not intended for profit.
#6. co. Launched: 1991. Market share: 0.5%
Colombia’s domain suffix became the first ccTLD to be reclassified as a generic TLD, after startups and innovators began using it as an affordable and characterful variant of .com. It shouldn’t be confused with co.uk, or other similar second level domains.
#7. .me. Launched: 2006. Market share: 0.3%
The breakup of the former Yugoslavia created various compact nation states, though Montenegro’s .me ccTLD was swiftly adopted by bloggers and hackers. Rather unexpectedly, .me has also found popularity in Maine.
#8. .biz. Launched: 2001. Market share: 0.3%
Another early win for ICANN, this was one of five gTLDs introduced in 2001. And while .pro and .name failed to attract significant custom, .biz became fashionable shorthand for business domains throughout the English-speaking world.
#9. .us. Launched: 1985. Market share: 0.3%
Six years prior to the World Wide Web, .us was chosen to be America’s ccTLD. The .com boom took us in a different direction, but search engines prioritize domestic TLDs in local results. A .us website is one of the best TLDs for maximizing SEO performance.
#10. .xyz. Launched: 2014. Market share: 0.2%
On paper, .xyz makes no sense. In reality, this gTLD became the fourth most popular internet domain within two years of its launch, behind the top three entries on this list. Oddly, the .xyz domain is used almost entirely by American and Chinese firms.
Not a safe .bet
So much for the best TLDs – what about the ones you should avoid to preserve your company’s reputation and professionalism? The list is lengthy, but we’ve chosen a few from the bottom of our pile. You won’t be able to buy any of these domains from Midphase, and with good reason:
#1. .mobi. Launched: 2005.
Originally intended to identify mobile-only websites, .mobi has become a victim of responsive website designs that automatically resize according to output screen resolutions. Mobile sites are as outdated in 2018 as flip phones and dial-up modems.
#2. .accountants. Launched: 2014.
New gTLDs are usually brought to market by one company, with exclusive responsibilities for selling and management. It’s unfortunate for the owners of .accountants that the shorter .accountant is a TLD being sold much more cheaply – and in far greater volumes.
#3. .men. Launched: 2015.
Launching a gTLD appealing to 49% of the world’s population probably seemed a smart move. However, international spam fighting agency Spamhaus says the .men domain is the most abused TLD in existence, as more than 55% of its domains are owned by spam sites.
#4. .top. Launched: 2014.
Another suffix heavily associated with spam is .top, and around 160,000 bad domains use this gTLD as of June 2018. If you ever see a link to a .top site, stay away – and the same applies to domain purchases, too.