A gTLD, or Generic Top-Level Domain is something that you’ll come across all the time when browsing the web. The vast majority of websites are organised under gTLDs, so if you’re shopping for a shiny new domain name for your own website, it’s worth knowing more about your options.

In this blog, we’re going to explain what generic TLDs are, why they exist, and what the best gTLD is for your project. But first - let’s cover the basics.

DNS explained

DNS, or the Domain Name System, was developed in 1983 to help simplify the process of organising all the domain names across the web. According to a July 2022 survey by Netcraft, there are 1,139,467,659 sites across 271,728,559 unique domains - that’s a lot of websites! So you can see why we needed a way to keep them all organised.

The DNS is a bit like the phone book of the internet. Whilst you may see a nice human-friendly URL like examplewebsite.com, its true identity in the DNS is a numerical code known as an IP address. The DNS helps translate these IP addresses into more pleasant domain names, and keeps them accurately logged.

What is a domain name?

A domain name is a chain of textual elements that’s used to identify and establish a website’s online location. A domain is your online identity, and deciding what yours should be is often one of the first decisions you will need to make when launching your business.

Learn more: What is a Domain Name?

Components of a domain name

Domain names can be made up of numerous components, including two essential parts, the second-level domain, and the top-level domain.

Let’s use the following domain to demonstrate: www.exampleaddress.com

Top-Level Domain

The top-level domain or TLD is the final section of a URL. This can be a generic TLD like .com in our address above, or a country code TLD (ccTLD) such as .co.uk. A TLD always follows the final ‘.’ in any URL, and plays an important role.

A TLD is part of what’s called a DNS hierarchy, which refers to the order in which the elements of a URL are arranged. A top-level domain is the final element of this DNS hierarchy, and it allows the DNS resolver to communicate with the TLD server in order to establish the IP address of the origin server.

Second Level Domain

The second-level domain or SLD of a URL refers to the text to the left of the final full stop, or exampleaddress from the URL above. Arguably the most important component of a domain name, your SLD is your chance to let site visitors know who you are and what you’re all about.

What is a generic TLD?

Generic TLDs are the most common category of TLD in use today, managed and maintained by the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority. These include titans such as .com, .org, .net, .co, and more. They’re called generic because they don’t give much information away about the website they’re attached to. Although they’re called generic, don’t mistake that to mean boring - gTLDs such as .com remain some of the most respected and sought after TLDs to this day.

The history of generic top-level domains

The first set of gTLDs was defined by RFC 920 and released in October 1984 to serve as “general purpose domains”. Despite their age, the original six gTLDs remain some of the most popular for new domains released today.

The original six gTLDs

  • .com: Derived from the word commercial, originally intended for commercial organisations but now open to all.
  • .edu: Derived from the word education, intended for institutions such as universities.
  • .gov: Derived from the word government, intended for use by U.S. government offices and agencies.
  • .mil: Derived from the word military, intended for use by the U.S. Department of Defense and any affiliated organisations.
  • .net: Derived from the word network, intended for use by organisations such as internet service providers, but now open to all.
  • .org: Derived from the word organisation, intended as a catch-all for websites that didn’t fit into the other categories. Now open to all, but commonly used by non-profit organisations.

Domain names ending with gTLDs are often chosen by businesses due to their history and prestige.

Country-code top level domain or generic TLD? Which is best for me?

As you might be able to guess, country-code top-level domains (or ccTLDs) throw some geography into the mix. This category of top-level domain can refer to a country, an autonomous territory, or sovereign state. The main advantage of ccTLDs is targeting users in a specific area, great for a business like a UK-based travel agency. Using a ccTLD  will also give you a small boost when trying to rank organically in its respective country. Some ccTLDs such as .co.uk or .de have restrictions on who may register them for their website.

How to register a domain with a gTLD

The best way to register a new domain name with a gTLD is to go through an accredited registrar like us. We offer all of the main generic TLDs as well as plenty of exciting new options, all you need to do is search for your domain name, and our handy tool will tell you what’s available.

But no matter what type of domain you need, we’re here to help. If you’ve still got any questions, get in touch with our sales team, and they’ll help get your project online in no time.