When you type a website into the search function on a web browser, you’ll usually end it with dot “something”. This is known as a top-level domain (TLD), but did you know country code top-level domains (ccTLDs) are used to specifically indicate a site operating in a particular country?

In this blog post, we’ll run through everything you need to know about country code top-level domain names. So sit back, relax, and let us tell you all about ccTLDs.

What is a ccTLD?

A country code top-level domain, or a ccTLD, is one of five types of TLDs. A ccTLD represents a specific geographical location and is the most efficient way to show search engines and users which country or region you’re based in. An example of a ccTLD would be the .co.uk part of www.fasthosts.co.uk. The addition of a ccTLD here shows that this site is aimed at users in the UK.

If you have an ecommerce website that operates in regions other than the UK, you may wish to register a domain with a ccTLD of that particular territory, such as .es, .it etc. Not sure what other ccTLDs there are? We detail them below!

What is the purpose of a ccTLD?

A country code top-level domain points both users and search engines in the right direction. For example, adding .fr shows that the content on your website is specifically targeted at people living in France. This means that users can be directed to the correct regional page. This logic is very similar to the addition of a .shop domain to an online ecommerce store or .org to a charity website – it gives extra information about your site. It also helps the DNS process all of the current registered domains.

How are ccTLDs created?

Every country code top-level domain you’ll come across will only be formed of two letters. The first letter used is always the first letter of the country’s name, but the second letter is selected randomly so as not to clash with any current ccTLDs. These letters are assigned to a country through the use of the 1974 ISO-3166 standard, and use the native name of a country. For example, Germany’s ccTLD is .de for Deutschland instead of .ge relating to Germany.

How many ccTLDs are there? And who controls them?

There are 308 ccTLDs, which shows just how many countries, regions and languages are jumping on the bandwagon of owning a ccTLD. Regions that are separated from their mainland country can also receive their own ccTLD, too.

ICANN or the Internet Corporation for Assigned Numbers and Names are responsible for regulating and managing country code top-level domains. They actually control all the TLDs available on the internet and distribute various TLDs to other organisations. For example, VeriSign controls all of the .com and .net domains.

According to VeriSign’s Domain Name Industry Brief, the top ten ccTLDs, as of the 30th of September 2022, are:

  • .cn
  • .de
  • .uk
  • .nl
  • .ru
  • .br
  • .au
  • .fr
  • .eu
  • .it.

.cn also has around 18 million domain registrations, which just goes to show how essential ccTLDs have become for users and search engines alike.

Want to dig deeper and find out the average number of active domains per territory? Read the Fasthosts State of the Web report.

Top 10 most popular ccTLDs in Europe

What are the requirements for a ccTLD?

When it comes to being eligible for a country code top-level domain, there are a few boxes to tick. For example, if you were to register a .eu ccTLD, then you would either need to live within the European Union or have your business based there. But, when it comes to registering a .cc domain name for example, there are no requirements and just about anyone can register this domain, so it really depends on which country code top-level domain you’re opting for, just make sure to check the requirements first.

Can you register multiple ccTLDs for the same site?

Yes, you can register multiple ccTLDs for the same site. Many international sites will have slightly different websites and content depending on the country they are targeting, so it’s useful to register multiple domains each with a different ccTLD. For example, you may want to target customers in China, in this case you would opt for a .cn domain as well as your main domain.

What are the three types of TLDs?

There are lots of different types of domain names, so let us quickly go over what TLD categories you can expect to see online.

1. gTLD - Generic top-level domain

A gTLD isn’t specific to a set location, and is one of the most popularly used forms of TLDs. Examples include: .org, .com and .net. If you want to find out more about gTLDs, check our blog post ‘What are generic TLDs?’.

2. ccTLD - Country code top-level domain

As we explained a bit earlier on, a ccTLD is a domain specific to a certain region or country. Examples include: .co.uk, .us, .fr and .it.

3. sTLD - Sponsored top-level domain

An sTLD is a domain name that’s supported by an organisation or community. For example, .gov and .museum are both sTLDs.

What is the difference between a gTLD and a ccTLD?

Whereas a ccTLD is specific to a country or region, a gTLD is not. Generic top-level domains are non-country specific, an example of a gTLD would be .com or .net. However, they’re both controlled and regulated by ICANN.

What other uses of ccTLDs are there?

It’s not uncommon for some ccTLDs to have alternative uses besides denoting themselves to a particular country. For example, the ever-popular Twitch.tv technically uses the ccTLD for Tuvalu (.tv). Due to users having their own “channel” on Twitch, it made sense to have the .tv extension for branding purposes.

The same example can be seen in sites like Last.fm – a popular radio and podcasting website with the ccTLD actually belonging to the Federated States of Micronesia. As “fm” stands for 'frequency modulation' of radio, it also made branding and commercial sense to have .fm as the extension.

.ai domain and Anguilla’s economy

Anguilla’s economy is primarily reliant on tourism and offshore enterprises, but by the end of 2023, the island is expected to generate around $30 million from domain registrations and sales. This is due to the rise in .ai registrations: from 70,000 to 150,000 by the end of 2022. This then grew even further to over 230,000 by November 2023, making up 0.03% of the entire TLD registration market.

This isn’t surprising, given the rising searches of AI tech – naturally lending itself to tech-based businesses registering the ccTLD.

During this same time period the median price for .ai also increased from $3,789 in 2022 to $6,333 in 2023, with most recently ‘you.ai’ selling for a record-breaking $700,000, demonstrating the extension's growing value and rarity pushing individuals to race to register this extension at record prices.

So, what’s in a name, or more specifically what is a domain name? If you’re interested in finding out more about domain names, our sales team is always happy to help. Or maybe you’re struggling to pick the perfect domain name? In that case, why not check out our blog post how to choose a domain name. Or, if you want us to do the heavy lifting, try using our new AI-powered Domain Name Generator.

If you need help with one of your current Fasthosts products, get in touch with our 24/7 support team today.