What Is a Generic Top-Level Domain?

What is a generic top-level domain?

If you’ve spent any time on the internet, chances are good that you’ve entered a gTLD, or Generic Top-Level Domain, into the search bar. The vast majority of websites possess one, and they exist to make the internet a more organized place. That said, what exactly is a gTLD, where do they come from, and how can they be used to your advantage?

Before diving into these questions, it’s helpful to quickly explain how the internet, and web addresses, are organized.

The DNS, Domain Name System

According to a survey done in January of 2018, 1,805,260,010 websites currently exist on the internet. That’s 1.8 billion individual web addresses that exist online, with more added every day.

Organizing all of those web addresses seems a grueling task, but thanks to the Domain Name System (DNS), developed in 1983, the process has been simplified.

Think of the DNS as the internet’s phonebook. Each web address — like Domain.com — is represented as an IP address, a long string of numbers that functions as the home address of a website (much like your home address corresponds to your house or apartment.)

The DNS helps translate IP addresses into domain names. Domain names are easier ways to remember web addresses — they’re shorter and more practical for humans than a long string of numbers is.

Components of a Domain Name

Domain names are comprised of multiple parts, but only two of them are essential components. They exist on either side of a web address’ “dot.”

To demonstrate how a web address is broken down, we’ll use Domain.com as an example. Domain.com has two components, a second-level domain (SLD) and a top-level domain (TLD).

  • Second-Level Domain (SLD): The second-level domain is the text that exists to the left of the dot in Domain.com specifically the word “domain.” All web addresses possess a second-level domain, which is used to distinguish one website from others.
  • Top Level Domain (TLD): A website’s top-level domain, or TLD, further distinguishes websites from one another, and also helps identify the content of the website. In Domain.com the TLD is the string of letters that fall to the right of the dot, specifically, “.com.”

There are over one thousand unique TLDs, but the most popular and recognizable of them are known as generic top-level domains, or gTLDs.

It all starts with the right domain. Get yours today at Domain.com.

What is a gTLD?

There’s a certain irony about the word “generic” in the phrase “generic top-level domain,” or gTLD. Generic means something unexceptional, banal, common — and yet, websites that use a generic top-level domain are respected, sought-after, and valuable to the companies and individuals who use them.

Understanding the history of gTLDs can help explain why that is.

History of gTLDs

The first wave of gTLDs were released in the 80s, shortly after the internet was invented. They were developed to help the first generation of internet users organize websites.

Despite being 30+ years old, the original seven gTLDs are among the most popular top-level domains on the internet. The original seven are:

  • .com
  • .edu
  • .gov
  • .int
  • .mil
  • .net
  • .org

It’s likely that you’ve seen or recognize most, if not all, of these gTLDs.

Because of how recognizable these gTLDS are, domain names that include them are often considered more valuable than domain names using some of the more obscure TLDs developed in the past several years.

gTLDs vs ccTLDs

Top-level domains can be divided into multiple categories. Two of those are gTLDs, like the seven listed above, and ccTLDs, which stands for “country code top-level domains.”  Just like gTLDs, ccTLDs are represented by a string of letters that come immediately after the dot in a web address.

Unlike gTLDs, ccTLDs designate a country, autonomous territory, or sovereign state. If a web address includes a ccTLD, it’s safe to assume that the website refers to a specific geographic location.

A report was released in 2018 that listed the 10 most popular ccTLDs in the world. Here they are, in order of relevance.

  • .cn – China
  • .tk – Tokelau
  • .de – Germany
  • .uk – United Kingdom
  • .ru – Russia
  • .nl – Netherlands
  • .br – Brazil
  • .eu – European Union
  • .fr – France
  • .au – Australia

Compared to gTLDs, ccTLDs help websites target internet users in their geographic region. Many ccTLD domain name owners believe that using a specialized ccTLD gives them a competitive advantage. Some ccTLDs, like .ca or .us, have geographic restrictions on who can register and use them.

The Top Four gTLDs

Over 1,000 TLDs are available on the internet and many of them hint at a website’s function (.coffee, .travel, etc.), but the most common TLDs were designed to be open-ended.

Four of the top gTLDs in registration volume include:

  • .com
  • .net
  • .org
  • .co

Each of these TLDs offers domain name owners unique advantages. We’ll dive a little deeper into their origins, and how they can be used most effectively.


.com has remained popular ever since the first wave of gTLDs was released, and as a result, is the most recognized top-level domain.

  • The “com” in .com stands for “commercial”
  • .com is the most widely used gTLD of all time
  • .com is the most recognized gTLD of all time

Originally intended for use by for-profit, commercial businesses, .com became the go-to extension for the majority of websites.

If someone has the chance to register a domain name with a .com gTLD, they should seriously consider taking advantage of the opportunity. Here’s why:

  • Familiarity: Almost every internet user has typed “.com” at some point in time (if not on a daily basis) and that’s led to an implicit authority possessed by all .com websites. People tend to trust .com websites as they see them all the time and are most familiar with them.
  • SEO Favorability: SEO experts agree that many search engines are biased towards .com websites as .coms are widely used and frequently searched. So websites with a .com domain name have a higher chance of appearing towards the top of search results.  


There’s no debating the dominance of the .com gTLD, but there’s also no debating the strength of the gTLDs trailing right behind it in registration volume.

  • The “net” in .net stands for “network”
  • .net has been a gTLD since the 80s
  • .net is one of the most popular gTLDs available

The word “network” suggests that the .net gTLD was originally intended for tech-based companies and industries. It’s frequently used for websites that advertise, promote, and sell web-based services.

Since fewer .net domain names have been registered than .com domain names, companies or individuals have a higher chance of securing the .net domain name that best fits their brand.  


.org is another gTLD that’s available for anyone to register. However, its original purpose was to indicate websites belonging to non-profits, NGOs, and other organizations. Like .net and .com, .org is one of the oldest and most credible gTLDs available.

  • The “org” in .org stands for “organization”
  • .org websites often focus on community building

.org websites are normally seen as trustworthy. Some of the most famous .orgs, like Wikipedia, have done a lot to bolster the credibility of this classic gTLD. .org is often associated with websites that impart reliable information, but it’s also commonly used to register websites that serve as an online home for communities of people with similar interests.

.org is a powerful choice for SEO. While it may not have the same amount of pull as .com does with search engines, it still performs well as it falls in the second tier of preferred gTLDs (along with .net.)

Although .org was originally intended for nonprofits, a lack of regulation has essentially eliminated that restriction, making it possible to secure your ideal domain name with a .org gTLD. There are millions of registered .org domain names, but not as many as .com, so you may have a better chance getting the domain name you want with this gTLD.


Of all gTLDs, .co might have the most interesting backstory. Most of the gTLDs we’ve discussed have been around almost as long as the internet has, but .co came much later as it was introduced at the same time as other ccTLDs.

  • The “co” in .co officially stands for Colombia but it’s changed to stand for “commercial” or “company”
  • .co is a trendy option for many companies and startups who want to separate themselves from older, more traditional .coms.

.co is the only TLD on this list that was originally created to be used exclusively as a country code. There are several reasons that this extension gained popularity in the last decade.

The first reason is distinction. Startups and companies are always looking for ways to distinguish themselves from their competition. One of the best ways to do this is by distancing your company from previous generations, those same generations that all obsessed over the .com gTLD.

.co is seen as a forward-thinking, fashionable TLD. While .com clearly indicates “.commercial,” .co can suggest “company,” “corporation,” as well as “commercial.”

By opting for a .co TLD, you have a higher chance of securing your ideal domain name. Businesses have swept up .com domain names for decades, but .co is still relatively new and hasn’t been abundantly registered.  

How to Register a Domain Name and gTLD

The best way to register a domain name and gTLD is through an ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) accredited online registrar, like us, Domain.com.

We offer a domain search tool that allows you or your business to search for your desired domain name. If no exact match is available, we’ll show you a list of domain names that are available and associated with the keyword or phrase you searched.

How Much Does it Cost to Register?

Because certain gTLDs and ccTLDs are more popular than others, prices between them tend to vary. Some TLDs cost $9.99 and others cost $2.99 to register for a year. You can find the perfect domain name for your business here and register it for a period of 1 to 5 years.

Recapping gTLDs

Many popular gTLDs have been around since the 80s. These gTLDs include .com, .net, and .org, among others. When you register a domain using one of these TLDs, your website gains an implicit authority based on the familiarity most internet users have with those gTLDs.

Registering a gTLD is simple, and can be done at low costs through domain name registrars like us, Domain.com. Choosing a domain name and finding a reliable web hosting company has never been easier.


Guilon, J. (2019, April 8). March 2019: Which New gTLDs Are Becoming Mainstream? http://www.circleid.com/posts/20190408_march_2019_which_new_gtlds_are_becoming_mainstream/

Top-Level Domains (gTLDs). (n.d.).https://archive.icann.org/en/tlds/

Usage of Top-Level Domains for Websites 2018. (2018, June 20). https://www.statista.com/statistics/265677/number-of-internet-top-level-domains-worldwide

Kristin Crabb
Kristin Crabb

Content Marketing Strategist working in the digital marketing industry. Skilled in SEO-focused content creation, keyword research and competitive analysis, interactive content, web content optimization, and landing page creation.

Kristin Crabb
Kristin Crabb

Content Marketing Strategist working in the digital marketing industry. Skilled in SEO-focused content creation, keyword research and competitive analysis, interactive content, web content optimization, and landing page creation.