It’s remarkable to think that the World Wide Web was completely unregulated for the first seven years of its life. Consumers discovered a world of dial-up opportunity and companies scrambled to establish an online presence. Meanwhile, self-styled entrepreneurs were engaging in some thoroughly disreputable activities. These included registering brand name domains, then advertising them for sale at huge markups, and bulk-buying .com domains for similar purposes.
Although the term might be unfamiliar to many people, top-level domains are a cornerstone of the internet. We use them every day, usually without noticing or realising. TLDs are vitally important for identifying a website’s location or purpose, but what are they, and why do they matter?
Since then, almost everything has changed. Individuals around the world spend countless hours online for business and pleasure, each activity accompanied by a dedicated domain name. To better understand domains and their importance, Let’s get started…
When were domains created?
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.
What’s the most popular TLD?
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.
How Many TLDs Are There?
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: Introducing gTLDs
ICANN started the process in 2001 and the trickle of introduced ccTLDs 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, 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.
How many TLDs are there?
IANA data reveals that there are currently more than 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.
Are there some new TLDs we shouldn’t use?
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.
What is a domain exactly? In technical terms?
A website’s internet protocol address is a series of four numbers, ranging from 0 to 255. For instance, UK2.NET’s IP address is 18.104.22.168. However, that’s rather tricky to remember. Instead, addresses can be entered in easier-to-remember words – like our own address of https://www.uk2.net. The first part describes the hypertext transfer protocol being used, with the ‘s’ suffix indicating a secure connection. The World Wide Web part is quite self-evident, while UK2 is our chosen company name.
Finally, there is the top-level domain – the last part of a web address, yet often the most revealing. At UK2.NET, we chose .NET to reflect our network expertise. Alternatively, we could have selected co.uk to demonstrate our British origins, or .com or .biz to make it clear we’re a company or business. We could even have used .info, launched in 2001 to challenge .com’s market dominance.
In truth, we are spoiled for choice. There are now over 1,500 TLDs. Almost all of them have been introduced by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers. This non-profit organisation was founded in the late 1990s to manage domain names and regulate who buys and owns particular domains. A steady trickle of new generic TLDs is released every year.
Why does the choice of top-level domains matter?
Firstly, if you’re setting up a new company, there’s a high chance that its .com address has already been registered. The official owner may be very reluctant to surrender their online presence, so selecting an alternative may be necessary. It’s almost inconceivable that every possible TLD relating to your proposed brand name will already have been claimed.
A generic TLD often speaks volumes about your company. It might identify a particular industry, service, or even location – .scot and .wales debuted in 2014 and 2015 respectively. Some brands are using TLDs to spell words, like online streaming platform rad.io. This reflects the fact that shorter domain names are easier to type and remember.
How do I know which top-level domain to choose?
A good rule for any new business contemplating website addresses is to investigate competitors. If rival companies have all adopted .com addresses, you might want to do likewise. As the generic TLD for a company, .com is seen as especially trustworthy. However, this means .com addresses are frequently taken and generally command a high price. If your rivals are using quirky TLDs like .ooo or .xyz, you’re probably safe to be equally unconventional.
Finally, the .uk domain is presently on sale exclusively to existing website owners. For instance, only UK2 could currently register uk2.uk as a domain name. By 2019, the .uk suffix will be released to the general public, and anyone can acquire any address ending in .uk (as opposed to the long-established co.uk). The potential for confusion is obvious, and we’d recommend all new customers buying a co.uk domain reserve the .uk domain as well.
Do we need more domains?
ICANN has succeeded in its original mission to alleviate demand for .com domains. This brings cost back in line with other website domains after a period of rampant price growth. It has also ensured we will never run out of website domains. It’s considered newsworthy that every three-letter .com domain in existence has now been registered.
However, there are billions of longer .com addresses as yet unclaimed. While it’s frustrating to discover the desired .com address has already been registered, a wealth of alternative domain suffixes will be available. Our site will offer numerous alternatives if a .com address is already in use, even for highly generic terms.
Don’t Lose Your Domains!
Your domain name is the link between your customers and your business: don’t lose it!
You might think it’s hard to misplace something as ubiquitous as a domain name. It’s not like you can put it down somewhere and forget about it, right? Wrong. Your domain name is very real and a very important part of your online business, and without due care, you could see it snapped up by someone else.
When you register a domain name you are effectively renting it. All the domains on the web are owned by registrars; when you register yours the lease is signed over to you for an agreed amount of time. Typically domain registrations last for one or two years, but you have the option to extend this period.
If your domain name is registered with UK2.NET, we’ll send you a series of email notices when your time as a domain name owner is nearing its end. You have the opportunity to renew your domain names and continue using them as the gateway to your website. So, these emails are important. When you receive a notice from us you are free to renew your domain name either by contacting our Billing department or through your CHI account.
What happens when your domain name expires?
If you allow your domain name ownership to lapse you could face a range of problems. Without a domain name to point your customers towards your website you could lose out on revenue, customer loyalty, and vital traffic. Your search engine ranking could go through the floor as potential site visitors are unable to reach your website. Website downtime could cost your business millions of pounds in revenue. Don’t let your site go offline because of something as simple as a forgotten domain name renewal.
If you heed email reminders from your registrar and renew your domains then you can continue with business as usual. Your website will stay online and can be easily found. Unfortunately, even some of the big names in business have fallen foul of domain name renewal…
Do I have to ring up every time my domain name nears expiry?
If you are likely to forget to manually renew your domain name, you have the option to set your domains to auto-renew. This means you’ll never face the embarrassment of plunging your customers into online darkness or losing important revenue and site visitors by having an inactive web address.
When you purchase a domain name through UK2.NET we automatically set your domain names to auto-renew, saving you time and effort. If you’re unsure about whether or not your domain names are safe from expiry you can find all you need to know through your CHI control panel. Simply log in and select the ‘Domains’ tab on the left-hand side. Set your domain names to auto-renew. It will be clearly stated beneath your listed web address. If they currently have a finite lifetime this will also be indicated in this section.
You can quickly and easily set your domain name to auto-renew from within your CHI control panel. Simply select the domain name which you wish to modify from within the ‘Domains’ tab. You will be presented with all the information we have about the account. On the right-hand side of your page here there will be a button which is set to ‘Manual Renew’. Clicking on this button will then give you the option to set to ‘Auto-Renew’.