What is a TLD?

A top-level domain (TLD) is the last segment of the domain name. The TLD is the letters immediately following the final dot in an Internet address

TLD identifies something about the website associated with it, such as its purpose, the organization that owns it or the geographical area where it originates. Each TLD has a separate registry managed by a designated organization under the direction of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN).

In our Internet address,http://whatis.techtarget.com: com is the top-level domain name;techtarget.com is the second-level domain name; and whatis is a subdomain name. All together, these constitute a fully-qualified domain name (FQDN); the addition of HTTP:// makes an FQDN a complete URL.

ICANN identifies the following categories of TLDs:

  • Country-code top-level domains (ccTLD) -- Each ccTLD identifies a particular country and is two letters long. The ccTLD for the United States, for example, is .us
  • Infrastructure top-level domain -- There is only one TLD in this group, ARPA (Address and Routing Parameter Area). The Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) manages this TLD for the IETF.
  • Sponsored top-level domains (sTLD): These are overseen by private organizations.
  • Generic top-level domains (gTLD) -- These are the most common and familiar TLDs. Examples include "com" for "commercial" and "edu" for "educational." Most gTLDs are open for registration by anyone, but there is also a subgroup that is more strictly controlled.
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