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Pros and Cons of ccTLDs

Most people are familiar with .com, .net and .org. These domain name extensions (called top level domains) have been popular since the web was created.

Other domains became available in the past decade, such as those ending in .money and .fun. These are commonly referred to as new top level domains.

There’s another category of top level domain names that have gained in popularity: country code top level domains (ccTLDs). These ccTLDs are assigned to each country based on their ISO country code. Each country has a two-letter code. For example, the United State’s code is US and the country code domain is .US. Canada’s is CA, so the country code domain is .CA.

Some ccTLDs have been commercialized for broader use. The popular .CO domain is actually Colombia’s ccTLD, and .TV is from the tiny island nation of Tuvalu.

The ccTLDs can be a great option for a website. Let’s take a look at both the many benefits to these short domains as well as a handful of drawbacks to be aware of.

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Pros to ccTLDs

  • More available domains

There are nearly 150 million registered .COM domain names, which means it’s hard to find available options for domain names. For comparison, most ccTLDs have fewer than a million registrations. This means there are a lot more names available in these domains than in .COM. There’s a better chance of finding the domain name if you choose a ccTLD, especially if you’re flexible and choose a ccTLD that has fewer registrations.

  • Shorter 

As the web goes mobile, people appreciate short and simple domains that are easy to type while on the go. The ccTLDs are the shortest (to the right of the dot) at just two characters. All other domain choices are at least 3 characters to the right of the dot, and some are much longer. And, as mentioned above, there are fewer domains already registered in ccTLDs than in .COM. This means there are short domains to the left of the dot as well. Combining a short domain to the left of the dot with a two-character ccTLD allows website owners to get a short and simple domain name.

  • “Hacks” and action domains

Some ccTLDs lend themselves to create domain hacks or action domains. A domain hack uses the part to the left of the dot and the right of the dot to form a word or brand. 

For example, LinkedIn uses India’s .in ccTLD to create the shortcut Linked.in. YouTube uses Belgium’s .be in YouTu.be. And Instagram uses Armenia’s .am to form Instagr.am.

Domain hacks can be for common words, too. There’s a cool tool that helps generate these hacks.

Some ccTLDs can also be used as part of action domains. Tonga’s .TO is popular for putting the word ‘to’ at the end of a domain. Think go.to or journey.to. Montenegro’s .ME is great for action domains such as love.me and visit.me. The United States’.US domain can usually be substituted for .ME domains and they make sense, too.

  • Connotation

Domain extensions like .COM and .NET don’t really tell visitors anything about the site. 

There are descriptive domain extensions such as .consulting and .health that tell visitors what they’ll find at the website. Some ccTLDs also have descriptive properties. 

Most companies using Anguilla’s .AI domain are artificial intelligence businesses. Moldova’s .MD suggests that the user is a doctor or medical company.

Of course, if a site targets a particular country, having that country’s ccTLD tells visitors that the site is local.

  • A cool club

Some ccTLDs are trending and it seems like all of the cool kids want to have one. The TLD .IO is popular for tech startups. ESports players and teams use the Guernsey country code .GG. An eSports player or company using .GG signifies that it’s in the know.

Using a trendy domain extension can have its benefits depending on what the website is about.

Cons to ccTLDs

  • Google

Google uses several clues to figure out if content is targeting users of a particular location. A key one is the top level domain.

The search company assumes that content on a .CO.UK domain targets people in the United Kingdom and that websites on .DE are for German audiences. This is great for sites that are actually targeting those countries but can pose a problem if they aren’t.

Google treats some country code domains that are used generically, such as .CO and .ME, as generic rather than targeted to the countries to which they relate. For domains not on the list, website owners need to log in to Google Search Console and correct the targeting.

  • Unregulated pricing

Pricing for ccTLDs is determined by the country and/or groups that partner with the country to offer the domain name. This means that the price can change from year to year. The cost to renew the domain name might be substantially higher in the future.

It’s true that many top level domains, such as the new ones that rolled out starting in 2014, don’t have price limits. However, the commercial operators behind those domains are probably less likely to, say, double prices than a government bureaucrat is.

Unregulated pricing also means that the initial cost to register a ccTLD is often quite a bit more than some other top level domains. Pay close attention to prices when choosing one of these domains.

  • Government involvement and unique rules

Because ccTLDs are ultimately controlled by government entities, that government can set its own guidelines for how its domains are used and who can register them. This includes rules limiting registration to citizens and residents, as well as terms related to censorship and freedom of speech. Some governments also require identity verification before domains can be used. 

These rules can change at any moment. In 2010, China cracked down on the registration and use of its .CN domain. 

While such changes are rare, it’s best to stick with domains from stable countries.

Also, note that cybersquatting rules vary by ccTLD. For .COM domains, if a domain was registered before a company obtained trademark rights, then the domain name is not considered cybersquatting under the applicable policy. Some ccTLDs are more liberal in awarding domain names to companies that adopt brands even after a domain is registered.

  • Consider a ccTLD for your next domain

All things considered, ccTLDs can be a great choice for many businesses and individuals. They are short, cool, and can have fun meanings. 

Take a look at Namecheap’s selection of ccTLDs and find your next domain.

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Andrew Allemann avatar

Andrew Allemann

Andrew is the founder and editor of Domain Name Wire, a publication that has been covering domain names since 2005. He has personally written over 10,000 posts covering domain name sales, policy, and strategies for domain name owners. Andrew has been quoted in stories about domain names in The Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, New York Times and Fortune. More articles written by Andrew.

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