The 10 top (and bottom) TLDs
Some TLDs are ubiquitous on the internet while others are more often used in scams. Find out which domains belong in which category and why it’s important to keep track of domain registrations in your brand’s name.
Not all domains are created equal. Some tend to be more popular with web users while others are often associated with spam and malevolent content. But in our age, having the right domain is often part of a carefully formulated brand promotion and marketing strategy, which makes it important that you pick the right one.
Top Level Domains, or TLDs are the last few letters in the domain name that come after the dot. Currently there are ca.1500 TLDs in the world. These can be categorized according to their age and “location”.
Generic, or gTLDs aren’t tied to a specific location in the world. These include .com, .net, .gov, and so on. In contrast, country TLDs (ccTLDs) are linked to a specific country, like .de to Germany, .uk to the United Kingdom, .in to India, or .fr to France.
The third category contains the youngest domains. The “ng” in their name, ngTLD means “new generic.” (Sometimes they’re also called new gTLDs.) These domains have been launched after 2012, when the ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) realized that the existing 22 gTLDs weren’t enough any more for the growing digital world.
ngTLDs include combinations like .icu, .top, or even .online. According to the ICANN’s ngTLD policy, organizations anywhere in the world can apply for their own TLD. Thanks to this, there are currently over 1,200 ngTLDs in use.
According to Verisign’s last quarterly report, Q4 of 2020 saw 4 million new domain name registrations, elevating the total number of registered domain names by 1% to 366.3 million in the world. (This number obviously doesn’t include darknet domains that are impossible to keep track of.)
It should come as no surprise to regular internet users that the most popular TLD is in fact .com. This gTLD, introduced in 1985 and short for “commercial”, was originally intended to be used for businesses. However, nowadays it’s mostly associated with well-established, trustworthy domains usually based in the US. (Funnily enough, the ccTLD for the United States, .us is not nearly as widely used or popular.)
According to the latest survey of W3Techs, the ten most widely used TLDs are .com (52.2%), .ru (5.9%), .org (4.4%), .net (3.3%), .ir (1.9%), .in (1.7%) .uk (1.6%), .au (1.6%) .ua (1.3%) and .de (1.2%).
Out of these ten, .com, .org and .net are gTLDs, while the rest are ccTLDs tied to a specific country.
Old and trusted gTLDs are popular across the globe, as evidenced by the wide usage of .com, .org and .net. In fact, .com and .net are responsible for 165.2 million domain name registrations across the globe.
As for ccTLDs, the ones that made the top ten are used in either very populous countries like .in India and .ru Russia, or in countries with a high digitalisation rate like .de Germany or .au Australia.
If we look at the most popular ccTLDs based on Verisign’s survey (please note that any differences in the results of various surveys arise out of different methodologies used), there are some surprising appearances on the list.
.cn is the most widely used ccTLD with 24.7 million registrations, which is equaled by .tk with 24.7 million registrations as well.
The two “winners” are followed by .de (16.7 million), .uk (10.9 million), .nl (6.1 million), .ru (5.7 million), .br (4.5 million), .fr (3.7 million), .eu (3.6 million), and .it (3.4 million).
While the appearance of .cn, .de, and .uk on the list is no surprise, have you ever heard of .tk? Well, it stands for Tokelau, a territory of New Zealand, and its popularity can mostly be due to the fact that registering a .tk TLD is free of charge.
While ngTLDs are gaining popularity as we speak, their usage can’t (yet?) equal older and more established TLDs.
Currently, 7.1% of all domain registrations use ngTLDs, which translates to 26 million individual domain name registrations with ngTLDs.
The most popular ones are .icu (12.9%), .xyz (11.6%), .online (6.6%), .top (6%), .site (5.2%), .club (3.7%), .vip (3.6%), .shop (2.9%), .app (2.8%), and .work (2.1%).
An interesting group among ngTLDs are highly localized geographical domains. These are usually cities or regions with high digital literacy like .tokyo, .nyc or .berlin, with a few notable exceptions like .africa.
Picking a domain name for your brand is like picking an outfit for a business meeting. It has to fit your image, be memorable and easy to recall, and has to exude credibility and confidence.
Trusted gTLDs and ccTLDs like .com, .net, .de, or .uk can induce confidence in users, while ngTLDs like .icu (short for and pronounced “I See You”, though the abbreviation can also mean “intensive care unit” in hospitals) or .shop could suggest a young, innovative spirit and wake curiosity in users.
But a domain name is more than a simple TLD. The part before the TLD is equally, if not even more important. Yourbrand.net or brandname.uk are great examples for memorable and easy-to-use domains. Take globaleyez.net, for instance.
However, users may type the name incorrectly into their browsers and get lost. Or, in an even worse case scenario, scammers or counterfeiters can buy those domains and use them to dupe customers into believing they’ve established contact with your brand. If you want to avoid this, it makes sense to acquire domains close to yours.
Then there’s the case of cybersquatters. These people acquire domains they suspect would be of interest to a brand. In our yourbrand.net example, these could be buyyourbrand.net, your-brand.net, or anything that closely resembles your original website domain. The aim of these people is to re-sell the domain names to your brand, for a much higher price, of course.
While it’s impossible to buy every single variation of your domain name before a scammer or cybersquatter can think of it, online brand protection experts can help you do effective damage control as fast as possible.
globaleyez’s domain monitoring service ensures that threats to your domain name are quickly discovered and efficiently disposed of. Which is important enough in case of popular domains, but even more essential when it comes to TLDs with the worst reputation.
Some TLDs are more often used in scams and spams than others. This doesn’t mean that all of those TLDs are bad, or that none of the most popular TLDs can be used for the wrong goals.
However, according to the research of the Spamhouse project, there is a tendency of the following domains to appear in scams mainly because registrars sell a large amount of them to known spammers.
The Spamhouse project calculates the score of bad domains by comparing all registered websites with a specific TLD to actual bad ones with the same TLD. Since this calculation may provide a false ranking due to the size of an actual domain, Spamhouse uses a corrective measure that accounts for the size of a certain domain and the amount of bad domains found within.
Based on this calculation, .asia is the worst with a “badness index” of 3.23.
It’s closely followed by .surf (3.17), .gq (2.44), .ml (2.10), .date (2.04), .cf (1.94), .top (1.84), .tk (1.66), .ga (1.44), and .work (1.35).
As you can see, we have a slight overlap of the most widely used and most abused TLDs with .tk, .top and .work. This again shows that any domain can be used for honest or dishonest purposes and you have to be vigilant when it comes to the protection of your domain name.
Whether with the most popular or most notorious TLDs, registering a domain name is relatively painless, which is why fraudsters have an easy time to get ahold of domain names that resemble your brand. Finding them, on the other hand, is not that easy, unless you’re a trained online brand protection expert.
With software tools like traxster, we monitor domains on all levels. We find domain names that resemble your brand’s name and provide comprehensive analytics to filter out authorized pages and separate small timers from the big fish that cause your brand the most harm.
All this allows us to effectively enforce your rights and take quick action against domains that violate your trademark.
If you fear that fraudsters are misusing your brand’s domain name, cybersquatters have snatched the domain you want, or have any other concerns about your brand’s online protection, reach out to globaleyez and let us show how we can help you.