In every URL, there is something called the top-level domain (TLD). For most websites, you know the TLD as .com but other variants like .org or .net also exist. They give information about the site and its purpose but, just like number plates, some site owners opt for a vanity URL instead. That brings us to the strange market of country codes, where site hosts pay to attach the right letters to their websites.

How TLDs Work

TLDs give vital information about the site name, how it’s registered and what it was made to do. Online, the default TLD is .com meaning commercial. It was originally intended for profit-seeking businesses but, over time, it became the most popular format for most sites. That’s why you’ll see it attached to personal blogs, but also online businesses in e-commerce and iGaming. So, when users go online to play Slingo Deal or No Deal and other slot games or find deals at a Shopify marketplace, the URL will show they are a commercial domain. As you’ve probably figured out already, the other common TLDs – .net and .org – stand for network and organisation, respectively.

These different TLDs are managed by administrators, a group of network infrastructure companies that maintain root nameservers. The largest companies, Verisign, Public Interest Registry and the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA), manage .com, .net, .edu, .org, and .int domains. The exceptions are .gov and .mil, which are operated by the US government. The UK has its own government-managed TLD – .gov.uk – that makes official government sites stand out from the crowd.

Vanity TLDs

While the TLDs we’ve mentioned encompass most websites you’ll find online, there are many other TLD options out there. Most of them focus on random words that can be used without restriction, though were intended for certain uses. For example, .actor or .attorney, or .auto for vehicular sites. Others are branded, like .apple or .amazon, which the retail giant finally claimed after lengthy negotiations detailed here by MIT Media.

When the earliest businesses moved online, some enterprising individuals registered their sites using unrestricted country TLDs instead. Sites that worked with CDs used the Democratic Republic of the Congo’s TLD – .cd. Likewise, the African country Djibouti gave .dj to disc jockeys and other musical sites.

In each case, the country charges the business to use the TLD. Some smaller, poorer nations make a lot of money by renting out their unique digital nametag, covered here by Fortune. Other countries don’t allow this or require a business to be registered in their borders. Even today, larger companies like YouTube have a deal with Belgium since their sub-domains and redirects use the ‘youtu.be’ domain.

TLDs Owned by Regions Across the World

If you’ve been around the internet, you’ll recognise many of the TLDs that are actually owned by countries or regions. Here’s a list of them:

TLD

Country/Region

Common Usage

.ac

Ascension Island

Non-government academic sites

.ai

Anguilla

AI-related tech start-ups

.am

Armenia

Radio shows and sites

.be

Belgium

Used by YouTube

.cd

Democratic Republic of the Congo

CDs and music gear sites

.cv

Cape Verde

CV-related sites

.dj

Djibouti

DJ and music gear sites

.ec

Ecuador

Electronic sites in Japan

.fm

Federated States of Micronesia

Radio shows and sites

.gg

Guernsey

Gaming and gaming-related sites

.gl

Greenland

Historically used by Google

.io

British Indian Ocean Territory

Tech and web dev start-ups

.is

Iceland

Used to add ‘is’ to a site name

.la

Laos

Sites focusing on Los Angeles

.li

Liechtenstein

Sites focusing on Long Island, New York

.ly

Libya

Used to add ‘ly’ to a site name

.me

Montenegro

Used to add ‘me’ to a site name

.ms

Montserrat

Microsoft-related sites

.pe

Peru

Private equity sites

.pa

Panama

Sites about Pennsylvania

.sc

Seychelles

Snapchat-related sites

.su

Soviet Union

Student union websites

.to

Tonga

Sites about torrenting, Tokyo, Toronto

.tv

Tuvalu

Sites about TV and visual media

.yt

Mayotte

YouTube-related sites.

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Last Update: April 11, 2024