Not .Com: Domain TLDs and Usage Trends


Dot .com is the dominant extension (TLD) in the Domain Name System of the Internet. Added in 1985, it's short for "commercial," with an original intended purpose for domains registered by commercial organizations. Later, the domain opened for general purposes.

Today, there are almost 370 million domains in Q2/2020 with .com domains exceeding 150 million registrations. That leaves us with about 220 million domains registered in other top-level domain extensions: TLDs other than .com, ccTLDs, and gTLDs.

For ranking purposes, major search engines such as Google treat the TLD with lesser importance, giving more weight to the relativity of the content to the domain's keywords. Ranking depends on a domain's ability to observe optimal SEO practices related to freshness of content and website loading times. For the most part, search engines such as Google are TLD-agnostic.

Domain investors and end-users find alternate TLDs, ccTLDs, and gTLDs attractive for a variety of reasons.

Firstly, the national ccTLDs are used as indicators of locality for products and services rendered in that particular country, and Google does give an established ccTLD domain prominence in searches, when performed locally.

Secondly, Top-Level Domains such as .net, .org, .info and other legacy TLDs are used successfully by entities related to technology, start-ups, and non-profit organizations.

And finally, new generic TLDs (gTLDs) represent the widening of the domain name space to extensions that add meaningful context to the keywords, in more than 1,100 categories. Some of these are closed systems, however, operated as brands by the companies that own them.

An expanded universe of domain name extensions has led to usage trends dependent on the particular TLD. While numbers of use vary per TLD, some extensions are considerably more popular than others. Let's take a look at some.

There are roughly 33 million gTLDs, according to nTLDstats, a reliable resource that tracks domain registrations daily.

Eight TLDs command 20 million domains:

gTLD Registrations
.icu 5,971,335
.xyz 3,308,747
.top 2,934,984
.site 1,749,222
.online 1,748,997
.wang 1,380,053
.club 1,305,878
.vip 1,120,710

More than half of these registrations are with registrars in China and Japan, indicating extended marketing campaigns that target those lucrative markets.

A subset of the gTLDs is aimed at various cities around the world, essentially geographical domains (geodomains) per their TLD.

There are about 700,000 geographical new gTLDs, of which the biggest include:

geo gTLD Registrations
.nyc 66692
.london 53703
.berlin 48512
.bayern 30908
.koeln 27800
.amsterdam 23818
.paris 20374

Aside from .nyc, there are two other US cities with their own new gTLD:

geo gTLD Registrations
.vegas 14308
.miami 12779

Why such low numbers in relation to the city population?

It seems that most large US cities lack the incentive to build a local identity, and this is due to the extremely high popularity of .com in the American market.

Traditionally, certain TLDs are popular among European registrants. For example, in Germany .net and .info are quite popular both for business and for personal use.

So what about global ccTLD use?

Stats data for October 2020 show that China's ccTLD, dot .cn, has surpassed 100 million registrations—a remarkable milestone!

Here's the list of the top 10 ccTLDs in descending order:

Country ccTD Registrations (millions)
China .cn 100.22
Germany  .de 78.97
UK .uk 78.83
Tokelau .tk 58.1
Russian Federation .ru 42.72
Gabon .ga 25.33
Netherlands .nl 24.87
Central African Republic .cf 23.64
European Union .eu 20.31
Australia  .au 14.06

It should be noted that some of the ccTLDs on this list are domains of "opportunity," registered freely: .tk, .cf, and .ga are all offering free domain registrations, with some keyword restrictions.

While it might be tempting to register domains in these ccTDLs, their conditions of usage might be more restrictive than TLDs that require an annual renewal fee.

Google treats a number of ccTLDs as "generic," giving them global importance in searches, as opposed to primarily in searches performed in their respective countries.

These ccTLDs are:

Country  ccTLD
Andorra .ad
American Samoa .as
Belize .bz
Cocos Islands .cc
Democratic Republic of the Congo .cd
Colombia .co
Djibouti .dj
Federated States of Micronesia .fm
British Indian Ocean Territory .io
Laos .la
Montenegro .me
Montserrat .ms
Niue .nu
Seychelles .sc
Suriname .sr
Soviet Union (legacy) .su
Tuvalu .tv
Tokelau .tk
Samoa .ws

Many of these ccTLDs have restrictions on who can register domains; for example, some require a local business presence, while others such as the Colombian .co are open to everyone.

Regardless of registration numbers, some ccTLDs are popular among certain profession groups or other communities. For example, both .io and .ai are tech industry "sweethearts" due to their reference to terms such as input/output and artificial intelligence.

In a nutshell: There are many different domain extensions to choose from, if one wants to move away from .com. Some are useful and popular, while others are esoteric and less inclined to provide to the registrant permanent support for their intended use.

The information contained in this blog is provided for general informational purposes about domains. It is not specific advice tailored to your situation and should not be treated as such.

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