The first level of a domain, top-level domains (TLD), define entire categories of websites. The most common ones are quite familiar to everyone who uses the web:
Top-level domains are like neighborhoods in the real world; some have rules defining what is allowed in the neighborhood, while others don't. For example, .edu is for US post-secondary educational websites only, while on .com pretty much anything goes.
Second-level domains are like the buildings in a neighborhood. They’re the website addresses that people, businesses, and organizations can register and own.
Subdomains are like the rooms, spaces, and facilities in a building, representing specific uses or resources.
If you own a second-level domain, you set up and control all of that domain’s subdomains.
Open Neighborhoods allow any person or organization to register and own a second-level domain. For instance, .com was one of the original domains and is open to anyone to use.
Specialized Neighborhoods have rules for who can register second-level domains and how they can be used. Some of these are familiar, like .edu. Others may be less familiar, like .cat for the Catalan language and cultural community.
Country Code Neighborhoods (ccTLDs) represent nations around the world, and always with two characters, from .au for Australia to .zw for Zimbabwe.
These top-level domains were originally created to provide general categories for websites but they don't have any actual restrictions as to what kind of website can be registered. You can have any kind of website on any of these domains.
informational sites, now unrestricted
Internet infrastructure sites
for everything else
The air transport industry.
Companies, organizations and individuals in the Asia-Pacific region.
For business use.
U.S. post-secondary educational establishments.
U.S. federal, state and local government entities.
International organizations established by treaty.
Posting job listings.
Sites catering to mobile devices.
Families or individuals.
Business use by qualified professionals.
Post offices and related organizations.
Online services involving telephone networks.
The travel industry.
Some country code top-level domains are restricted to individuals and organizations located in that country, like websites on .ca for Canada and .de for Deutschland (Germany). Other country code domains are open and are used for everything from representing types of content (.tv, the country code for Tuvalu, is commonly used for video sites), to clever ways to make the domain spell a word (in the website pho.to the .to domain is the country code for Tonga).
Over the next two years more than 1,400 new top-level domains will come online, each a new neighborhood. Think you have places to go now? Wait until you see what’s coming.
Some new top-level domains will invite anyone to register a domain for any purpose. Need a laugh or want to spread some laughter? Visit a .lol website, or set up your own. Interested in motherhood? .mom is there for you. And there will be hundreds more to choose from.
We've discussed country code domains like .ca or .de. We’ll soon be able to get even more specific with domains related to a specific geography such as a city (visit.boston) or region (wine.aquitaine).
Some of the new top-level domains are intended for websites created by members of specific professions, communities, or interests. Looking for a lawyer? A website ending in .esq will signify a certified legal professional. Similarly, .ngo will be reserved for non-governmental organizations’ websites, and .catholic and .shia for sites representing those religious communities.
Numerous companies have applied for closed top-level domains and will have complete control over what websites to make available on them. These are usually recognized brand names, like .montblanc or .gucci. When you visit a website on a closed top-level domain, you can be certain that it’s authorized and overseen by that brand.
The new generation of top-level domains will start launching in the fall of 2013 and continue rolling out through 2015. We appreciate your time and interest in learning about this major change coming to the Internet and hope that you’ll find some great new places online, and maybe a new home of your own.
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