How Many TLDs Are There?

3rd May, 2019 by

There’s a common misconception that the internet debuted in 1991 because this was the year Sir Tim Berners-Lee unveiled his revolutionary World Wide Web. However, the internet had actually been in existence for six years by that point, with early adopters including computer manufacturers and technology firms. Domains were first registered by tech firms in late 1985, and the first twenty websites launched all had one thing in common: a .com top-level domain.

First among sequels

The .com TLD remains the world’s most popular domain, with an estimated 46.9% of all live websites using it. Yet even in 1985, .com wasn’t the only option. A total of nine domains were initially made available: six of these were generic, while three represented the country code TLDs for America, the UK, and Israel. The other generic options were fairly specialist, covering government bodies, the military, educational institutions, networks, and organisations.

Approximately ten ccTLDs were introduced each year through the late 1980s, increasing to a few dozen per year in the early 1990s. By the millennium, every nation on Earth had a two-letter domain identifying it, with Palestine being the last new arrival in 2000. By this point, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (or ICANN) had been established to regulate the sale and ownership of individual domains. They quickly realised the six gTLDs in existence wouldn’t meet future levels of demand, meaning that new TLDs would need to be created.

New endings

ICANN started this process in 2001, and as with the staged introduction of ccTLDs, a trickle rapidly became a flood. Over the next decade, a dozen new TLDs were released. Yet curiously, not one of them achieved great success. The .biz domain has become reasonably familiar, but 2002’s .aero and 2006’s .travel failed to make much of an impact. Others fell victim to evolving technology trends, with 2005’s .mobi launched at a time when mobile websites remained distinct from their desktop brethren.

In 2014 alone, ICANN approved several hundred new gTLDs. It also added numerous regional ccTLDs, including .scot and .wales in the UK, plus .durban and .joburg in South Africa. Buyers suddenly had a far wider choice of domain names, with hundreds tailored to specific markets. There was no ambiguity about the industry of a company using a .limo, .florist, or .dentist TLD. .However, some of the other new gTLDs (.moe, .ooo, .pink) were less specific.

A cast of thousands

IANA data reveals that there are currently 1,578 top-level domains in existence, the vast majority of which were launched this decade. However, quantity hasn’t necessarily been matched with quality. Before new TLDs are released, they have to be requested by a domain registry which will then supervise selling domains to the public. And some of these domain registries have done a pretty poor job. Indeed, it’s estimated that 100% of websites registered under certain new TLDs are in some way dubious, in that they contain malware, serve as link farms or handle other nefarious activities. Many of the new TLDs simply withered on the vine, never managing to overcome initial apathy among buyers.

As a result, UK2.NET is selective about the gTLDs we sell on our site. We don’t market country code TLDs for most nations either since websites terminating in a foreign ccTLD generally perform poorly in domestic search rankings. We’ve made a strategic decision to market 300 of the most trustworthy and popular TLDs, including evergreen choices like .com and .biz. Whatever your industry or target audience, there’ll be a TLD to suit your needs in our searchable database.

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