When the internet was being developed in the mid‐1980s, its founding fathers created a limited palette of top level domains. Alongside country code top level domains (ccTLDs) like .uk and .it, a handful of generic top level domains (gTLDs) were launched. These included .com for a company, .edu for educational institutions and .gov for Government agencies.
When ICANN began the process of regulating domain name sale and usage in 1998, it started rolling out new top level domains to prevent cybersquatting and extortionate pricing. And in 2014, this trickle of new gTLDs became a flood, with hundreds being launched every year. Admittedly, while some have proved hugely popular, others have become synonymous with cybercrime or malware:
- TLDs with bad reputations for spam email include .work, .rest, and .fit.
- The vast majority of .country, .download and .win websites are associated with shady activities like hidden malware or multiple pop‐up windows.
There are now over 1,500 gTLDs on the market, from the sublime to the dubious. With so much choice, how can you decide on the best top level domains for your business?
We’ve come a long way from the days when .uk was the only way to distinguish a domestic website. Today, you can choose from TLDs like .scot and .cymru, while businesses in the capital can distinguish themselves with .london. That’s particularly helpful if your business incorporates the city’s name – tailorsof.london, for instance. (If you suddenly feel inspired, this domain is for sale through UK2 for £35.99).
ICANN attempted to reduce demand for the initially‐dominant .com domain by launching gTLDs which would appeal to companies. Today, the best top level domains for specific industries include .photography, .management and .careers. While these could apply to a company anywhere in the world, they give potential first‐time visitors a useful indication of what they can expect when they click on a hyperlink.
The financial services sector has been a keen adopter of online services, from cloud‐hosted accounting software to Bitcoin trading. Financial enterprises can suffix their website domains with .financial or .finance, .exchange or .estate. The .accountants TLD has gradually supplanted the rival .accountant domain, while .mortgage and .loans are ideal for companies with a specific focus.
The Internet of Things is spearheading unprecedented convergence between technology and the internet, so tech‐themed web addresses are among the best top level domains for promoting technical products and services. The appeal of .graphics, .email and .computer need no introduction, while .technology and .systems suit multifaceted businesses or tech firms with expansion plans.
Many people launch their first business venture to sell something they make, or promote a service they offer, so launching a web site can be critically important in attracting custom. UK2 sells a variety of shopping‐related domains, from .bike and .clothing to .equipment and .boutique. Prefixing one of these with your chosen niche could be very successful (the lawnmower.equipment domain is available for £21.99 a year).