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A domain extension such as .us or .com is not only a necessary part of the URL – the top-level domains (TLDs) also become part of your brand. Companies will attach great importance to securing the right domains for their websites – in an online world, brand image and online presence are often inseparable. People surfing the Internet will associate certain things with a certain domain extension – whether the website seems trustworthy or modern, for example. This happens mostly unconsciously. And it’s one of the reasons why some domain extensions are more popular than others. Let’s take a look at the most popular domain extensions out there.
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What is a domain extension?
Web addresses are structured according to a fixed scheme. The name resolution via DNS ensures that Internet users arrive at the website they want to reach – without having to enter bulky IP addresses (a string of numbers is much harder to remember than ‘ionos.co.uk’, for example). To achieve this translation, a URL is structured hierarchically. First, you’ll find the subdomain on the far left (after "https://"), which in most cases is www, but can also contain ‘blog’ or specific language versions (es or en). This is followed by a freely chosen domain name. The address is completed by the domain extension, a top-level domain.
A distinction is made between top-level domains that refer to a specific country, such as .uk for the UK – known as ccTLDs – and those that are generic gTLDs, such as .org. TLDs are (for the most part) managed internationally by ICANN or IANA. Although there are now lots of different domain extensions – and there are constantly new top-level domains – certain TLDs are more popular than others. This has resulted in a thriving domain trade, where domains can sell for high prices. When choosing the right domain, you’ll also have to keep a certain budget in mind.
The most popular domain extensions 2021
One of the oldest TLDs in the world is still the most popular domain extension after more than 30 years: .com. Originally intended as an abbreviation of ‘commercial’ and planned only for companies, many users now associate .com domains with websites in the USA. This is for good reason, as the domain extension .us, which was actually intended for the USA, isn’t used as much as .com, although .us is on the rise for government websites, alongside .gov.
|.uk||1.6 %||United Kingdom||24.07.1985||ccTLD|
This ranking is taken from Analysis by W3Techs.com. This service provider measures published websites (and unregistered domains) and tries to filter spam websites from its statistics. This therefore sometimes results in different statistics to other publications. Another source worth checking out is the Domain Name Industry Brief from Verisign, the operator of the .com domains.
No matter which statistics you look up, more than half of all Internet addresses have the extension .com. Also high up in the rankings are the other two generic top-level domains .net and .org. Like .com, these have been around since 1985. The other domain extensions in the top 10 are primarily country code TLDs (ccTLDs), which are country-specific.
Among the country code top-level domains, highly populated countries such as Russia and India are ranked up top, as are other countries with a high level of digitalisation, such as the United Kingdom and Germany. The right to use a .uk domain extension has a slightly complex history. Most people will know that .co.uk is a typical domain extension for UK websites, but in June 2014, a shorter version was launched: .uk. The use of this domain ending was reserved for websites that already had .co.uk endings, or endings such as .gov.uk. This was to prevent cybersquatting and URL hijacking, but there was a time limit to these reservations and businesses had to actively claim the .uk domain extension. This reservation expired in 2019. A UK address is required to register a .uk domain extension. .
Further popular domain extensions
In the case of the most popular domain extensions such as .com or .org, the most coveted Internet addresses have long been taken or can only be claimed for large sums of money. If you’re upset that you can’t use a certain domain because the .com or .org extensions are taken, try looking at newer domain extensions instead. Alternatively, you can also enlist the help of a domain broker – a professional to get you the best deal for the domain you want.
The most popular ccTLD domain extensions
Verisign claims that the most popular country-specific domain extension is .tk, which the official domain of the group of atolls, Tokelau. This is according to their survey data (which in turn refers to surveys conducted by the service provider ZookNIC). Although only about 1,500 people live in the territory, there are about 27.5 million .tk domains. Many website operators resort to a domain from Tokelau, as these can be registered free of charge and in a relatively simple manner. In contrast, the domains of North Korea are not exactly easy to come by. The secretive state seems to use only about 28 domains.
|ccTLD||Registered domains:||Country/region:||Around since:|
|.uk||10.8 million||United Kingdom||24.07.1985|
.uk domains are managed by NOMINET, who also provide key information about the restrictions on certain domain endings, such as org.uk and .gov.uk. To get a .uk domain, you’ll need to go through a NOMINET approved registrar.
The newest top domains
To expand the Domain Name System (DNS) and enable more web presences, new generic TLDs (ngTLDs) are published every so often. Although these new domain extensions are not yet as established as traditional TLDs, they offer far more opportunities to create suitable website addresses.
Verisign also addresses the new domain extensions in its regular domain report:
The domain extension .icu (read as ‘I See You’) has gained a lot of popularity in recent months and is a popular TLD. The reason for this, besides the marketing-friendly meaning of the abbreviation, is that the prices for this ngTLD had been reduced.
Also, part of the new domain extensions are geographic TLDs, which, however, do not belong to the ccTLDs, because they are administered differently. In the UK, .london is apopular choice, but it is also a very ‘spammed’ domain – let’s take a look at what that means below.
The most spammed domains
Not every domain extension has an equally good reputation. Especially cheap domain extensions or ones that aren’t controlled TLDs are often used for illegal purposes. The organisation Spamhaus checks the Internet for spam and identifies the top 10 most spammed TLDs. To do this, the project takes into account both the total number of spam domains and their share of the total.
|TLD||Spam domains||Spam percentage||Around since|
Just because a TLD appears in the Spamhaus list doesn’t mean that the domain extension is automatically bad. So, if the extension fits your web project, you should not exclude these TLDs! As you can see .london is an internationally popular domain extension, but also appears on the spam list.
What are the best domain extensions in 2021?
The list of top domains can give you a good idea of which domains are in high demand. However, this does not necessarily mean that you should also choose one of the most popular domain extensions for your web project. Although these TLDs benefit from a good reputation among Internet users and stand for professionalism, many of them are already taken. So before making your decision, also consider the new top-level domains. Many are specially designed for certain industries or target groups and could fit very well to what you want to do!
Do you want to publish your own website? Are you still looking for the right web address? With IONOS, you can buy and register a domain in just a few steps – it’s easy, affordable, and there’s plenty of choice!