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Master of Your Domain – Part 2 – Choosing a TLD (or, The Fall of King .com)

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It used to be when choosing a TLD (Top Level Domain – the part of the domain name after the dot) you had very few choices, and most people went with .com. Originally .org and .net were reserved for organizations and networks. So your host or your ISP might have a .net domain, but few “normal” sites did. And if you wanted to register a .org domain you had to jump through hoops that involved actually mailing or faxing documents to the registrar.

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But those weird dark ages passed pretty quickly, and in the early 90s people began registering .net and .org domains to use for their personal sites. In those days it was usually done in order to be different and stand out, as .com names were still widely available. When the common (and not-so-common) words were used up in the .com namespace, .net and .org registrations increased, and for several years, those three TLDs – known as generic TLDs – ruled the roost.

Two letter country code TLDs have been around for as long as .com, .net and .org, but in the early days they were typically reserved for residents of the countries they represented. Then a few of those countries struck on the idea of selling domains on their TLDs, so you saw TLDs like .cc and .tv enter the mainstream.

Now there are very few countries that still enforce resident-restrictions on thier TLDs, which is why we have domains like bit.ly and ma.tt. Country codes continue to open up, as we saw recently when .me opened up registration. And while a lot of startups and social media companies are fond of spelling words with country code TLDs, most people still gravitate toward one TLD: .com

For a personal site, or a small startup venture, most people want a .com domain name. And for good reason. Even though there are more than 250 TLDs that you can use to register a domain, the Internet and the web as we know it today still tends to stubbornly rotate around .com. Need proof? If you’re unsure of a company’s domain name, what’s the first thing you try? Okay, the first thing you try is a Google search, I know, but if you are typing a domain, you’ll try the .com.

So you may spend a week trying to brainstorm a .com name that someone else hasn’t thought of, and find yourself frustrated at every turn. It can seem as though every possible .com has been registered. They haven’t, and I’ll give you a tip for finding your .com in a minute, but first I want to blow the whole idea of a “choosing a TLD” post out for the water by saying:

The TLD that you use doesn’t matter.

Five years ago I may not have made that claim, but the trend is clearly toward search and away from typing domains, so as far as being found on the web (a monumental task in itself, and the subject of another post – or book), search rules, and search doesn’t care how your domain name ends. So if you can force yourself to look beyond king .com, it may be in your interest to do so.

It’s a wide world of TLDs out there. One of them may have your name on it. You may have marketing considerations to take into account, and you should always look at which country some of the more popular country code TLDs represent. For example, .ly is extremely popular, but it’s the Libyan country code, and not everyone necessarily wants to be associated with Libya. No offense Libyans.

You’re probably thinking, “Hey, Michael, you guys don’t even register all these different TLDs, why are you telling me to go to someone else?” It’s true, we only provide registration for a few generic TLDs. That’s because that small handful of TLDs are still far and away the ones that people want to use. This article is for those of you who don’t mind stepping out into the great vast void and seeing what there is to find. It’s cold out there, but I’m told the view is spectacular.

Oh, that tip for finding an available domain in the ever-desirable .com namespace? Join two unrelated words. I know it sounds simple and obvious, and it is. But it’s also an endless source of available domain names, and one most people overlook. If you’re creative, you can find a combination that works for your project in a few minutes. I’ve used that little trick to find dozens of domain names for people who thought they could never find a .com domain.

And when you find your .com (or .net, .org, .biz, .cloud, .club, .info, .name, .pro, .store or .xyz) domain, you can easily register it directly from your Winhost Control Panel.

Wikipedia has a useful list of all TLDs, along with information on country code TLD domain registration. If you want to register a country code TLD domain without a lot of research, sites like EuroDNS can be very useful.

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