It’s More Than Just a .COM World
“The domain name I want is taken, so I guess I’ll choose a different company name,” said everyone everywhere.
Not so fast. The domain name you want might be available if you are flexible about the part of the domain that comes to the right of the dot.
Second Level and Top level Domains
The domain you register has two parts: a second level and top level domain (also referred to as a TLD):
example is the second level domain and
.com is the top level domain. Most people focus on the second level domain when selecting a name. But there are hundreds of TLDs to choose from, and this drastically opens up the availability of domain names.
If the name you want is taken in .COM, it still might be available in .NET. Or .ME. Or even, .WTF (seriously!).
New Top Level Domains
Some of the most exciting TLDs have rolled out over the past five years. They’re commonly referred to as “new top level domains”. There’s a lot of variety because any company could apply to create these domains. That’s why you’ll see domains from .ACCOUNTANT to .XYZ and everything you could ever imagine in between.
Hundreds of companies applied with the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) to create these domains, which they in turn offer through domain registrars like Namecheap.
The new TLDs started rolling out in 2014 and now you can choose from hundreds. They can generally be sorted into four buckets:
- Generic – A generic domain works for basically any website. Generic TLDs include .ONLINE, .WEBSITE and .INFO. There are dozens more to choose from. These domains work for any type of business, blog, or e-commerce store. If the second level domain you desire is registered in one of these domains, it’s easy to just swap out the TLD to find one that’s available.
- Topical – Call these domains topical, niche, or industry domains. The TLD name means something and adds value to the domain by explaining what the site is about. For example, plumbers can use .PLUMBING. Homebuilders can select .BUILD. A youth hockey team can pick a domain ending in .HOCKEY. No matter what the topic, you’re likely to find a topical domain that fits. Here’s a list of domains available at Namecheap.
- Restricted – Restricted domains can only be registered by entities that meet certain requirements. These are usually tied to certain industries and organizations. Only licensed realtors can register domains ending in .REALTOR. Banks must apply to get a .BANK domain. These restricted domains ensure that imposters and scammers don’t use the domains for bad reasons.
- Dot-brand – Dot-brand domain names are ones that match a brand name. These aren’t available for the general public to register. They include names like .APPLE for the electronics company and .VOLVO for the car company.
Legacy Top Level Domains
The TLD .COM is the most popular top level domain in the world with about 150 million domains registered. It’s also one of the oldest. But there are lots of other domains that have been around the block.
.NET and .ORG were introduced in 1985 along with .COM. Besides .COM, they are the best-known domains worldwide. Contrary to popular belief, anyone can register .ORG domains — not just non-profits.
.INFO and .BIZ were introduced shortly after the turn of the century. While newer, they still pre-date New TLDs by more than a decade and have many active domains.
It’s worth taking a look at these choices if the .COM domain you want is already taken.
Country Code Domains
Country code domains (ccTLDs) are two-letter TLD names that correspond with countries.
For example, the United States has .US and Canada has .CA.
Some ccTLDs are restricted to people and companies that are in the country but others are available for everyone to register.
A handful of ccTLDs have broad appeal because they happen to match common acronyms or words. .TV is the country code domain for Tuvalu but is used for video sites. Building a personal site? Try .ME, the ccTLD for Montenegro. Artificial Intelligence companies love to use Anguilla’s .AI domain.
In some countries, consumers prefer the ccTLD over .COM domains.
Putting It into Action
Clearly, there’s a lot of choice when it comes to TLDs. This means the company or website name you want is probably available if you look at different TLD options.
Millions of websites are built on non-.COM sites. Here’s a look at some that chose alternative TLDs.
- WT.SOCIAL – Wikipedia creator Jimmy Wales was fed up with how social networks use personal data to sell ads and use algorithms to show the most explosive content. So he decided to create his own social network called WikiTribune. Thanks to new TLDs, he was able to get a short, easy-to-remember domain with a TLD that instantly explained that the site was for social media.
- ZOOM.US – Zoom was a popular service before the pandemic made everyone work from home. But 2020 has definitely been the year of Zoom. Like Google, to zoom has become a verb. The company chose the United States country code domain for its website. Last year it paid $2 million to acquire Zoom.com but it still uses Zoom.us for its site. It forwards Zoom.com to Zoom.us. That’s one expensive domain forward!
- ABC.XYZ – What we all know as Google is actually part of a company called Alphabet. The switch happened in 2015. The folks at Google are a clever bunch and they got creative when choosing a domain for the parent organization: abc.xyz. Get it?
- HOME.LOANS – TLDs can be used in combination with a second level domain to form common phrases and terms. Home.loans is a great example of a site using keywords to the left and right of the dot that form popular terms.
- HUEMOR.ROCKS – Most companies that chose something other than .com began with that name because the .com was taken. But New York-based web design company Huemor actually ditched its .com domain to pick one that it thought was edgier (not to mention shorter). It switched from HuemorDesigns.com to the fun .ROCKS TLD.
As you can see, companies both small and large are embracing domain names that end in TLDs other than .COM. They are an alternative when the domain you want is already taken or to make the TLD add value to the second level domain.
And there are more domain choices on the way. Notably, later this year you’ll be able to register domains ending in .GAY.
So give it a try. Use Namecheap’s Beast Mode search to see if the second level domain you want is available across hundreds of TLDs.