What are TLDs/domain extensions?

When trying to reach a website or an email address one always needs to add a dot at the end of its name followed by some letters. Those letters are the top-level domain (TLD), also known as domain extension or suffix. To illustrate with our own domain name ICDSoft.com: “.com” is the top-level domain and “ICDSoft” is the second-level domain. The name most meaningful to people usually comes at the second level to the left of the dot (whitehouse.gov), or in some cases at the third level (pm.gov.au). Domain names and TLDs are generally not case-sensitive: typing in your web browser ICDSoft.com, icdsoft.COM, or IcDsOfT.cOm will take you to the same website. The part after the domain is almost always case-sensitive, though: icdsoft.com/blog will take you to the blog of the best hosting provider in the world ( 😀 ), while icdsoft.com/Blog will only show you a 404 Page not found error.

How did domain names appear?

In the infancy of the Internet, networked computers were identified and accessed only by a string of numbers delimited by dots. These are called IP (Internet Protocol) addresses. They, however, were difficult to remember, so easier to remember and use domain names were invented to simplify the access to resources on the Internet. Domain names are meaningful words or strings of characters, numbers and some punctuation marks that are matched to the IP addresses of computers (servers) by Domain Name System (DNS) servers. With the invention of the World Wide Web and the rapid growth of the number of business and personal websites since the mid 1990s, the importance of recognizable and easy to remember domain names became even more important.

What are the oldest existing TLDs?

TLDs were introduced on paper in 1984 to facilitate the sorting of domain names. Second level domains were created at the first seven TLDs in early 1985. The first TLDs were .arpa, .gov (government), .edu (education), .com (commercial), .mil (military), .org (organization), and .net (network). The oldest .com domain is symbolics.com. It has been registered continuously since March 15, 1985. It was initially registered by a now defunct computer manufacturer.

How many TLDs are there?

According to the Root Zone Database of the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA.org), which is one of the functions of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN.org), as of July 21, 2019, there were 1581 TLDs of all types, including some 36 listed as “Not assigned” or “Retired”.

IANA distinguishes among the following groups of top-level domains:

  • Country-code top-level domains (ccTLD) – these are reserved for each country, sovereign state or dependent territory which has a two-letter country code assigned under the ISO 3166-1 alpha-2 standard. Examples of such domains are .us (United States), .eu (European Union), .de (Germany), .ca (Canada), .hk (Hong Kong). There are 315 such TLDs as of July 21, 2019. Some require you to provide a street address at the respective country before your are allowed to register a domain.
  • Generic top-level domains (gTLD) – the greatest number by far falls into this group, 1240 domain as of July 21, 2019. You can find here such staples as .com, .net and .org rubbing shoulders with .bingo and .blackfriday. Anyone can register domain names under these TLDs.
  • Sponsored Top Level Domains (sTLD) – these TLDs are managed by private organizations which require certain requirements to be met before you can register a domain with them. The group includes a total of 14 TLDs, the most widely-known being .gov, .edu and .mil, currently reserved for government, higher-education and military organizations in the US.
  • Infrastructure top-level domain – there is only one TLD in this category – .arpa, initially standing for Advanced Research Projects Agency, and now for Address and Routing Parameter Area. This TLD contains the domains used for reverse domain name resolution.

How many domains? What are the most popular TLDs?

It is not easy (may be even impossible) to get a completely accurate number of the registered domains of each TLD, as not all registries publish their domain count. There are some estimates considered more authoritative than others, though.

Verisign is the US company managing the .com and .net TLDs among others, and the only entity running two (as in more than one) of the thirteen root name servers of the Internet. Verisign.com publishes a quarterly report on the state of domain name registrations. They use their own data plus third-party analysis and estimates to report TLD totals. Their Q1 2019 report states that there were a total of 351.8 million domain name registrations of all TLDs. According to the report, country-code TLDs accounted for a total of 156.8 million registrations, while the largest single TLD was .com with 141 million registrations. The top ten of TLDs at the end of Q1 2019 according to Verisign looked like this (in millions):

2..cn (China)23
3..tk (Tokelau)22.5
4..de (Germany)16.2
6..uk (United Kingdom)12
8..tw (Taiwan)5.9
9..nl (Netherlands)5.9
10..ru (Russia)5.8

Zonefiles.io use their own methods for collecting and analyzing domain use data. They provide a basic daily report on their website. Their system apparently includes the crawling of domains actually in use, so the results may be closer to the real “popularity” numbers for TLDs. With the explicit disclaimer that most country-code registries do not publicly share domain count data, Zonefiles provide somewhat different absolute numbers as of July 21, 2019, with a total of 243.8 million, and top ten as below (in millions):

4..uk (United Kingdom)8.7
5..de (Germany)8.3
6..ru (Russia)5
9..nl (Netherlands)2.7
10..fr (France)2.3

DomainTools.com is another reputable provider of TLD statistics. Their most recent report is below:

2..tk (Tokelau)24.7
3..de (Germany)14.7
5..cn (China)12.5
6..uk (United Kingdom)11.3
8..nl (Netherlands)5.2
9..ru (Russia)4.8

To provide yet another point of view, W3Techs.com, use their own methodology too, involving the analysis of Alexa’s top 10 million websites. They use certain checks to disqualify “spam” websites and subdomains (such as the “tickets” part in tickets.suresupport.com). They report the following top-ten based on a percentage of the total:

3..ru (Russia)4.4%
5..de (Germany)3.4%
6..br (Brasil)2.1%
7..uk (United Kingdom)1.9%
8..it (Italy)1.5%
9..pl (Poland)1.5%
10..jp (Japan)1.5%

Apparently, the only thing that all reports fully agree on is that .com still reigns supreme. Dotcom has become more or less synonymous with the World Wide Web, and it doesn’t seem like it will be dethroned any time soon. As to country-code TLDs, as long as they keep their real numbers private, all we can enjoy are various flavors of speculation.

Which ones to avoid?

Now that we’ve had a look at several opinions about the most popular TLDs, let’s look in the other direction too. The very popular and reputable spam fighters of Spamhaus.org maintain a list of TLDs with the worst reputation based on the amount of email spam originating from them. As of July 21, 2019 the Spamhaus list of the “worst” TLDs is as below. The ranking is based on a formula developed by Spamhaus that you can check on their website if interested. The list changes quite often based on the TLDs currently popular among spammers. The popularity is mostly related to the volume discounts available on the domain registration market at any given time.

6..コム (xn--tckwe)

Where should you register your domain name?

You place a lot of trust in the company handling your domain name registration and having a reputable company for this task is of upmost importance. Many registrars have employed shady practices over the years (like “pre-registering” domains which users searched on their site, for example).

ICDSoft has been in the domain registration and hosting business for nearly 20 years now. We are independently owned and trusted by tens of thousands of customers. We try to maintain a completely transparent domain pricing policy and sell domains at wholesale prices, as we believe that they should be a commodity item.

Domain registration, renewals, and transfers usually cost the same with us (sometimes the costs is different due to the pricing scheme of the underlying registry operator).

At the moment, we offer registration of domains “at cost” for the following TLDs: .com, .net, .org, .us, .ca, .biz, .info, .eu, .de, .hk, .com.hk, .net.hk, .org.hk, .idv.hk, but we are expanding this list constantly. If you want a domain we don’t offer, ping us, and we may be able to expedite its release.