On this page you will find the most popular top level domains (TLDs) sorted by the number of websites which appear in today's list of the top million sites.
Currently, there are 651 active top level domains according to the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA). Some of these top level domains are reserved or in test modes, while most others fall within the categories of generic, sponsored or country code specific TLDs.
Someone who wishes to start a web site would register the name they wanted to use, picking an appropriate top level domain. Years ago, this was pretty simple. A ".com" was for commerical purposes, ".net" was for a network, ".org" was usually for a non-profit or member organization.
In fact, registration of these names used to be free. When the availability of names started to run out, the InterNIC, which was controlled by Network Solutions (now Verisgn Inc.) under authority of the National Science Foundation (NSF), began charging $100 to register for the first 2 years and $50 for each year thereafter. Competition and changes to how the registration of domain names were managed lead to lower prices and special offers where domains could be registerd for free, as part of a contract for other services, or relatively cheap, under $20 USD per year.
All of this is part of a system where names are mapped using the Domain Name System (DNS) to individual computers based on the numerical IP address it had been assigned. The computer could be running services such as a web server or email server. These mappings are controled by a "root" authority that is controlled by the IANA, which authorizes others systems to control the records for all host computers mapped to specific top level domains.
Only extensions that are authorized by the IANA are accessible on the public internet infrastructure where all connected computers and other addressable devices rely on specific "root servers" to convert a text based fully qualified domain name (FQDN) to an IP address, thus making communications possible using words instead of numbers.
Some entrepreneurs had tried early on to introduce their own root servers to augment or replace the official IANA servers in order to establish new top level domain extensions, but this would have required a majority of systems to change these settings, which did not happen. In order for the Internet to operate the same for everyone, standards had to be put in place, and they have been with IANA controlling the root zone.
One of the biggest problems facing those wanting to register a domain name, was that others beat them to it, so that they could charge far more for the domain. This process known as cybersquatting has sucked up some of the best domains you could hope to get, including some which are tradenames or trademarks of existing companies, but owned by someone simply hoping to get rich one day.
Policies and laws have been established to combat some cybersquatting, but the reality is that it can be hard to find a domain name that isn't already registered by someone else. This brought on the demand for more generic top level domains.
There are 4 types of top level domains managed by IANA:
Over the years, beginning near the end of 2000, several new top level domains were established, .aero, .biz, .coop, .info, .museum, .name and .pro. You may have figured this would be enough, but those in the adult industry wanted new TLDs to help settle disputes with service providers regarding obscenity laws and the Communcations Decency Act of 1996.
10 years later .xxx received its initial approval. Two years earlier in 2008, ICANN finally came up with new rules and policies that would pave the way for many new top level domains to be considered for addition to the IANA root servers and delegation to private firms.
On January 12th, 2012, applications were accepted for new generic top level domains. By May 30th, 2012, when the application window was closed, almost 2,000 applications were submitted. 116 were for IDNs, and more than 1800 were for standard latin text based top level domains. For many of these TLDs, there were more than one applicant for the same top level domain. Soon the Internet may see the availability of at least hundreds of these new top level domains. They call this "The Next Big Thing".
The price tag starts at $185,000.00 USD to just apply to operate a TLD. There are capitalization requirements and a long waiting process before you can be approved. So there is no telling how many of these applications will actually be approved.
Here is a video about the application process for new generic top leve domains:
What is the point to all these new top level domains?
Well, the point is to get a fully qualified domain name (FQDN) that you can use for your online identify for a website or email address. However, as this report shows, not many of these gTLDs are very popular. For commercial operations, there is an inherent value built into the .COM top level domain, especially if your main market is within the United States.
Popular search engines, such as Google, will treat TLDs differently depending on where the visitor is coming from. If you are browsing the web from Canada for instance, .ca has a higher value and will appear more prominently in the search results.
A lot of the generic TLDs introduced since 2000 rarely make any waves as far as popularity is concerned. You can evaluate this for yourself by looking at the TLDs on our list to the right and the count of how many of them exist within the top million pages in our daily rank database.
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Top Level Domains
Most Popular TLDs in the Top Million Websites