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What is a .IO domain & what does it stand for in 2023?

You’ve embarked on an exciting hunt for that perfect domain, but choosing one from the hundreds available can seem daunting. 

During your domain names search to find the perfect choice for a shiny new website for your writing portfol.io or a better fit for an existing pistach.io appreciation blog, you may have discovered the .io domain name and become desperate to find out more.

If you’re looking for some advice, we can tell you all there is to know about the .io extension and help you make an informed choice before you buy it.

Whether you’re a newbie who needs answers to questions like ‘What is a domain name?’ or just want to learn more, we’re happy to help.

What does a .IO domain mean? What country’s domain is .IO?

Before we dive into learning about .io domains, you should know that a ‘top-level domain’ (TLD) is the ending (of the domain). With namecheap.com, .com is the TLD.

There are two types of TLDs:

  1.  Generic top-level domains (gTLDs). These TLDs can be used to describe something about the person or company who owns it, like .org and .net or .football and .estate.
  2. Country code top-level domains (ccTLDs). This TLD type refers to any domain that a country uses and is always made up of two letters.

So, how do you know which ccTLD belongs to which country?

It’s surprisingly easy to hazard a guess at what country owns a TLD. A ccTLD is an Internet top-level domain that contains two letters and is a reserved web domain location for a specific country, state, or territory.

For example, a .de domain refers to Germany, .fr to France, and so forth.

Interestingly, .io is the ccTLD for the British Indian Ocean Territory, found halfway between Tanzania and Indonesia in the Indian Ocean. Despite being a ccTLD, anyone can register a .io domain and they are currently being used by individuals and organizations across the world.

Many other ccTLDs are used in different ways in which they were intended. The .ai domain (Anguilla in the Caribbean) is used by artificial intelligence companies and .co domains are used by all kinds of companies, committees, and communities.

It’s important to know that while some ccTLDs have strict rules about who can register them, some are open. If you’re interested in discovering all the latest top-level domains, check out our new TLDs page today.

What does the .IO domain stand for?

Like many top-level domains, a .io is versatile and can be used for personal and professional use, but if you’re wondering what .io domains stand for, we can help.

  • Input/output. Interestingly, ‘IO’ or ‘I/O’ is commonly used instead of ‘input/output’ in the computing world, so many people use a .io because it is a good extension choice for technology businesses, in the same way that a .app domain is a great fit for a mobile app.
  • Domain hacks. It’s a short and snappy domain ending, good for wordplay, just like a .co domain lends itself to dis.co or ta.co. If you’re a pistachio fan you might choose a .io URL extension to make pistach.io or carpacc.io for thinly sliced meat, fish and vegetables.

When considering purchasing this domain you don’t have to worry about what a .io is usually used for or who can have one because the choice is yours — registration is open to all.

Should I use a .io domain name for a startup?

Yes, you can. Top-level domains like .io are popular with startup companies looking for a cool tech domain, and the input/output reference is one of the reasons why tech startups are using this TLD.

Is a .io just for tech companies?

Definitely not! Due to its domain hacking capabilities, a .io is suitable for everyone in any industry. You might be a photographer and choose stud.io or if you’re looking to display your artwork online, you might pick portfol.io.

Why are .IO domains expensive?

Have you been paying attention at the back? If so, you’ll already know that they are popular with technology companies and this could be one of the reasons that .io domains are expensive.

Much like the saying ‘beauty is in the eye of the beholder’, a ‘valuable’ domain is often decided on demand, popularity, and marketability. Not all buyers will agree on it’s perceived worth.

When looking at an expensive TLD like a .io, consider:

  • Is this extension worth the money?
  • Will my website visitors benefit from this TLD?
  • Can I afford the cost?

If you’ve ever seen our pricing table, you’ll know that a domain’s price can vary hugely. You can learn more on this subject by checking out our blog, ‘How much does it cost to own a domain’?

What is .IO’s background story?

As we have already learned, the .io is assigned to the British Indian Ocean Territory. However, anyone can register a .io domain name. 

Back in 1997, the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) delegated .io, along with .ac, .sh., and .tm), to entrepreneur Paul Kane, of the Internet Computer Bureau Ltd (ICB). ICB was later sold to the registry Afilias in 2017. Later, in 2022, registry companies Afilias and Donuts merged to become Identity Digital. 

In July 2021, the Chagos Refugees Group UK filed a complaint against Paul Kane and Afilias, (a subsidiary of Ethos Capital), seeking repatriation of the .io domain and payment of back royalties.  

What are some interesting statistics about .IO?

Let’s take a look! As of June 2023, according to Domain Name Stat, and w3techs.com, there are:

  • 1,125,924 registered .io domains;
  • 59,976 signed zones (domains signed with DNSSEC);
  • 212 registrars working with .io;
  • Backend – Internet Computer Bureau Ltd.

Namecheap has the biggest market share for .io, with 203,614 registered domains, which is a share of 18.08% — and interestingly .io is in the top 15 most registered TLDs at Namecheap.
According to Similarweb, in June 2023, the top 10 .io domain names received the following traffic:

Domain nameTraffic, # of users

Are .IO domains safe?

There are rules and security restrictions put in place for all domains to confirm registrant authenticity, and .io domains are no exception.

According to registry regulations, ‘No .io domain may be used directly or indirectly, for any purpose that is sexual or pornographic in nature or violates the statutory laws of any nation.’ If a registrant were to break this regulation, the nic.io registry has the right to immediately deactivate the domain.

When it comes to keeping your .io domain safe for your own needs as well as the needs of your users, there are safety measures that you can take.

At Namecheap, we offer free Domain Privacy Protection for life. This service protects your data from potential spammers and fraudsters and ensures that your contact information is hidden from the public Whois database.

We also offer Premium DNS which offers uptime and site security at an affordable price. Our service provides security features that can help protect your business from potential cybercriminals and is one of the fastest DNS services on the market.

Plus, with DNSSEC providing greater DNS security with an extra layer of validation paired with two-factor account authentication, you know your website is safe with us.

While we’re on the subject of safety, it’s important to make sure you’re safe when purchasing anything online.

Be sure to keep an eye out for a padlock symbol located in your browser bar. This means that your connection is secure and safe from spammers and fraudsters, leaving you safe to enter your credit card details and other personal information.

Treat a domain purchase like you would when buying anything from the internet.

Ask yourself ‘Is it reliable?’ and ‘Does it look appropriate to use?’. In short, use a bit of common sense.

If a website looks untrustworthy, go with your instincts and don’t make the purchase. Take the time to do some proper research, and register your domain with a secure and trustworthy registrar (like Namecheap!) with a good reputation (also like Namecheap!).

Rocket plugged into computer

What other benefits are offered by a .IO TLD?

If you’re a savvy startup looking for a business site or a budding blogger hoping to find a  special new domain name, there are many advantages to having a .io in your web address.

As you know by now, ‘input/output’ is a computer term, and because of this, the .io domain is often used for websites related to technology. If you want your brand to be associated with the tech world, then you know what domain to pick.

Another benefit of getting a .io TLD is the opportunity to exercise your creative muscles.

Domain hacks like scenari.io and card.io might offer your writing or running website more significance than other domains — a chance to engage and amuse your customers with your clever name.

If your .com or .net has already been taken, you may have a better chance at securing the domain name you want by choosing a .io. Plus, it’s short, which helps people to remember the website address, and keeps email addresses short and memorable too.

Where can I host my .IO domain?

By now, you’re probably excited and enthralled at the prospect of purchasing this versatile domain, so why not register a .io with us?

We offer affordable web hosting and a website builder tool, complete with over 200 fully equipped templates. You’ll have everything you need to get your website up and running, and our Live Customer Support team is on hand 24/7, should you run into any difficulties.

With Namecheap, you will also benefit from:

  • Free domain privacy protection for life. Your data is kept safe from would-be-spammers, hackers, and telemarketers.
  • Free email address. Start off with a free 2-month trial that’s ready and waiting upon sign-up.
  • Free DNSSEC security. Keep your visitors protected from online scams or phishing attacks.

Well, that’s all folks, we hope you’ve enjoyed learning more about .io domains. Alternatively, if you’ve come to the realization that a .io isn’t for you but you’re curious to find something that is, head to our Domain Name Search page and have a play!

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Colleen Branch avatar

Colleen Branch

Colleen is a senior copywriter at Namecheap and has been focussing on domain registration and management since 2019. She finds the domain industry fascinating and believes that "A domain name has unlimited possibilities. It’s a chance for an individual or business to create a brand, communicate personality, and to grow. At Namecheap, we offer everything a person needs to get started and build their dream." Colleen started her copywriting career in 2008 and has been featured in HuffPost UK, The Times, and many other places in print and online. Her passions include cooking, music, and playing pool. More articles written by Colleen.

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