Which Domain Extension?

Which to Choose First?

Some recommend choosing your extension or top-level domain (TLD) first, while others suggest you use your brand name, which means going about your choice the other way around. What’s the best way to approach the choice?

Several factors go into this decision. First, you may wish to check whether there is a specific TLD that fits your purposes. If you’ve got a cooperative farm, you may certainly wish to consider the .coop gTLD. But before you leap to register a name, consider that
the existence of a TLD does not mean that it is widely used or accepted by those for whom it was made. Check to see if others in your industry or business area are actually using the gTLD and thereby making it known to customers that this is where your type of product, service, or other business can be found.

Another fact to consider is that most websites have .com as their extension, so customers are conditioned to make that their first choice. This doesn’t mean that you should use .com no matter what: it’s just another factor to keep in mind.

Third, being “first come, first serve,” the name you want or the name that exactly matches your business name may be gone in the TLD you’ve chosen, in which case, you’ll have to rethink.

What a TLD Says About You

Although many websites have used .com indiscriminately, leading to a looser connection between the websites and the TLDs than was originally conceived, it still is worthwhile considering what the intended domains are/were as you make your choice. This is necessary with the restricted TLDs, but also arguably desirable for all domains.

You may want to begin your considerations with the unsponsored, unrestricted domains:

.com—associated with businesses (commerce), but open to all

.info—associated with informational websites, but open to all

.name—available to all individuals for their own personal name, pseudonym, and/or name of a fictional character that they own the rights to. The domain name can take several standardized forms:

<emailaddress>.name, for example: jane@isp.name
<first>.<last>.name, for example: jane.rodriguez.name
<first>.name, for example: jane.name
<last>.name, for example: rodriguez.name

.net—associated with technical network sites, but open to all

.org—associated with non-profit organizations, but open to all

There may also be sponsored or unsponsored, restricted sties that would suit your purposes, such as:

.biz—for businesses engaged in commerce on the Internet

.coop—for cooperatives

The country code top-level domain (cTLD) of your residence or of places in which your business has a presence are other possibilities. Keep in mind that some of these, like .us, .de (Germany), and .uk are restricted and have requirements, such as citizenship, while others are available to anyone. Still others, like .am, .fm, and .tv have been made available to those who work in AM and FM radio or television. If you work in these industries, this is a valuable option to check out.

Be Forward Thinking

If your business plans include international expansion, plan ahead and think about your website TLD choices with that in mind. You may also want to cover extensions other than the main one you want to help direct traffic to your site and to prevent others from purchasing them. Another strategy to consider is to register domain names for likely misspellings of your domain name: that way, even if the user gets it wrong, he or she can still find you.

Caveat Emptor

  • Particularly if you apply for a cTLD, proving that you meet the criteria may take some time, so allow for the process in your plans.
  • Watch out for imposters! All the TLDs listed above are legitimate and approved. But others, such as .xxx, have been talked about but never approved, and others simply have not been accepted (yet) by the ICANN and may not be visible to all Internet users.