It’s one of those frustrating things that can happen when we’re setting up an online business. The business idea, the name, and the details for all the other steps fall into place. Except…the perfect dot com domain for our site is already taken. Generally speaking, .com domains are the most sought after. They’re what people think of first when they type in a domain name. If we use a different domain extension, we risk losing traffic to the site with the .com extension. Of course when we want a country-specific domain extension, the extension for the country we have in mind has precedence over a .com one. Or we may have to settle for a domain other than the .com variation if nothing available in .com is what we want. And if our business serves or represents a specific community and we can have a domain extension that specifies that place, isn’t that even better? Sometimes we don’t get what we think we’re getting.
Country code top-level domains (ccTLD)
Every country has its own top-level domain (domain extension). An important point to remember is that registry authorities in the country of each ccTLD have control over the registration of domains using their TLD. How does YourCompanyName.la sound? LA, or Los Angeles, is glamorous. The city of stars. Domains ending in .la would suit a variety of entertainment sites. Problem is, .la refers to Laos, not Los Angeles. Or what about .ws? Anything goes with “website.” A lot of domain registrants are viewing it as an excellent alternative to already-taken .com domains. The .ws extension is for Samoa, however. For medical doctors, .md sounds impressive, even if the doctor isn’t from Moldova. Another example illustrates the problem. A few years ago, domains with .uk.co extensions were marketed as an alternative to domains ending in .co.uk. They were just what a lot of people wanted when the .co.uk version of the name they wanted was already taken. They were also useful domains to have if you already had the .co.uk domain and wanted to catch traffic from those who accidentally reversed the two parts of this extension.
So, a lot of people registered these domains. About 8,000, in fact. One morning in February 2003, those 8,000 people woke up to find out that they’d lost their domains, their sites, and their email. At a Colombia website, they were able to learn the story. The registrar for .uk.co domains hadn’t agreed to the terms of a new arrangement to provide temporary safeguarding of their domains, so .uk.co domains were no longer available. That was probably the first time that many people realized that the “co” in the domain stood for Colombia, not company. If Colombia can pull the plug on people from other countries using their ccTLD, so can other countries. A geographical domain that appears to represent something else may not be such a good idea after all. The terms for domain registration for some ccTLDs state that the registrant must live in or have other ties with the country.
People who register the domains without meeting the requirements risk losing their domains if it’s found that they registered the domains without being eligible to do so. Those with .tv domains should fare better. In 2000, the tiny South Pacific nation of Tuvalu sold the use of its .tv ccTLD. The term TV is internationally known for television, so it can be suitable for websites in various countries.
Newer top-level domains
Beyond the generic .com, .net, and .org TLDs, newer ones provide more opportunities to choose that perfect domain for general and specific uses.
Domains for professional use
.aero is reserved for the aviation business, such as airports and airlines . .biz means business. It’s restricted to business or commercial use. .coop is intended to promote co-operative identity. Credit unions and other business co-ops that use .coop contribute to funds only to help cooperatives with limited resources in various countries. .museum domains help people see that a website is run by a museum, a museum association, or museum professionals. The Museum Domain Management Association, or MuseDoma for short, manages .museum domain registrations. .pro, short for professional, is currently only for professionals in the accounting, engineering, legal, or medical fields. When professionals are certified that they are eligible for a .pro domain, they can register .acc.pro, .eng.pro, .law.pro, .med.pro, or a few other variations. They are also issued a digital certificate so that they can digitally sign and encrypt emails.
Domains for general use
.info is, of course, short for information — in many languages, which adds to its usefulness. There are no restrictions on who can use an .info domain. It’s suitable for both individuals and companies. .name domains are for individual use. The names can be real, first and last name, first name last initial, pseudonyms, nicknames, or a fictional character that the registrant has rights to. They can be a combination of names and numbers, e.g., janedoe1972.name. But they must be personal names of some sort and not just words. .us can be used by US citizens, organizations, businesses, or government agencies. Its use is for the most part unrestricted. Naturally, the registrant must be a US citizen or permanent resident, or the organization must be incorporated in the US or have a presence in the US.