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Types of domains: What to know before choosing one

Types of domains

Domain names are more than just a string of random letters strewn together– they provide an address that users type into a browser to find a specific website. By understanding the types of domains, users can also know who owns a website and where they are located. When building a website, knowing what is a domain name and the implications it can have on your business, is crucial to represent your brand and speak to the right audience. 

This article will break down the main domain extensions, what they mean and when you might want to use each one. By the end, you'll have a clear understanding of domain naming conventions and make informed decisions about a domain for your website. 

What is a domain?

Websites each have a unique IP (Internet Protocol) address, a string of numbers that connect computers to web servers. While IP addresses are perfect for computers, they're not so easy for people to remember. That's where domains come in. A domain name is linked to a website's IP address, making it simpler for people to recall and search for a website by its domain. 

Think of a domain as a home address. Your friends don't memorize your house's GPS coordinates every time they want to visit you. Instead, they just plug in your street address into their phones or satnav systems. The same goes for visiting a website. Instead of memorizing a website's IP address, visitors simply type in the domain into their browser. For example, if you want to go to Wix, you will type “”

How do domains work?

When you type a domain into your browser, it sends a request to the Domain Name System (DNS). The DNS is a universal, decentralized system that maintains a directory of domain names and their corresponding IP addresses. The DNS is crucial to ensuring browsers can reliably use domain names to find websites.

Once the DNS translates the domain name into an IP address, it is then used to locate and access the website's files on its hosting server to display the website on your screen. Your website's files, databases and media elements are all stored on the web server. This is the space you rent from a hosting company when you purchase web hosting services. The speed with which a visitor will connect to your site after typing in the domain in the address bar depends on your website's optimization and the quality of the web server you are hosting the site on. Choosing a good web host can increase your website's performance and search engine rankings.

The difference between domains and URLs

The domain is the main part of a complete web address, or URL (Uniform Resource Locator). Domains act as a set of instructions that lead browsers to a fixed website on the internet and the rest of the URL points to a web-page or file hosted on the website.

A complete URL usually consists of a protocol, domain name and path. Let’s take the URL of this blog post as an example: Here are the parts of a URL:

  • Protocol: Instructs the browser on how to retrieve the website's data, using HTTP (Hypertext Transfer Protocol) or HTTPS (Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure). (https)

  • Domain name: Identifies the website as the main part of the web address. (

  • Subdirectoy: Refers to a section or page of the website. (blog)

  • Path: Specifies the exact location of a file or page on the website. (types-of-domains)

Parts of a URL address for

Parts of a domain name

A domain name consists of two parts: the actual website name, also known as the second-level domain (SLD) and the top-level domain (TLD), which is the ending of a web address. When read from left to right, these parts become less specific.

Top-level domain (TLD)

Top-level domains (TLDs) are the highest level of domain extensions in the hierarchy, always appearing at the end of the web address. Also known as "domain extensions," they broadly categorize the website's purpose or geographical location. Extensions like .org vs .com specify the type of entity your business is registered as on the internet.

In our example, Wix’s top-level domain is ".com" since it's a commercial entity in the United States.

Some popular top-level domains:

  • .com (commercial): Ideal for businesses, individuals and all types of companies looking to establish a commercial web presence. It is the most widely used domain extension and is seen as a symbol of commercial intent.

  • .net (network): Suitable for all types of organizations seeking to build an online network. This domain extension was originally intended for network-oriented websites, but it is now used by a wide range of companies.

  • .mil (military): Used exclusively by U.S. military branches. This domain extension is restricted to official U.S. military use and is not for public use.

  • .gov (government): Recommended for U.S. government agencies, government personnel and websites representing U.S. cities and regions. It is a trusted domain extension that is only for use by verified government entities.

  • .edu (education): This domain extension is for accredited post-secondary institutions in the United States, making it perfect for schools, universities and educational institutions.

  • .org (organization): While initially designated for nonprofit organizations, it is now widely used by a variety of groups, including non-governmental organizations and community projects.

  • .co (companies): Recognized as a global domain used by businesses, entrepreneurs and online communities, this domain extension has become a credible alternative to the .com domain.

For a more in-depth list, check out the most popular domain extensions.

Second-level domain (SLD)

Second-level domains enable companies and individuals to incorporate something that users can associate with their websites, strengthening their brand. Typically, they are the name of the business or vendor that registered the domain name with a registrar. The brand, company or project name serves as the identifier for potential customers. A second-level domain can include letters, numbers and hyphens, but not symbols.

Looking at this blog post URL, the second-level domain for is "wix."

Here are some examples of second-level domains (SLDs)





A third-level domain or subdomain isn’t required, but can be added before second-level domains. Subdomains offer better structure to websites, allowing multiple parts to remain separate under the same domain. Larger companies use them to distinguish between site sections.

In our blog post, the subdomain for Wix's blog is ""

What is a domain used for?

Establish ownership

A domain gives you ownership over your website's address. Once registered, the domain is exclusively yours, preventing anyone else from claiming it. This gives you full control over domain management including where the website points to, which domain registrar maintains it and who administers it. You may also use it to manage associated information and decide whether to sell it.

Boost brand identity

Good domain names leave a lasting first impression and help people remember your business. A domain name that closely aligns with or mirrors your company name can significantly contribute to establishing a consistent and recognizable digital brand identity. This makes it possible for users to find and engage with your business across digital platforms. A brandable domain name, therefore, helps attract new shoppers by developing trust with prospects.

Improve search engine ranking

Search engines use domain names to identify the type of business or industry the website belongs to. Therefore, a keyword-rich domain or one that relates closely to your offerings may boost your ranking on SERPs (search engine results pages). Having a credible and relevant domain name can increase the chances of backlinks, which is another factor in improving search engine ranking.

Establish online presence

Having your own domain allows you to create a website and prevent domain squatting. This conveys to customers that your business is established and committed to delivering top-notch services. Plus, customizing business email addresses for different divisions, like or, adds credibility.

.com domain type

7 types of domains and examples

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, also known as ICANN introduced domain name extensions in 1998, marking the creation of the first six top-level domain extensions: .org, .gov, .mil, .edu, .net and .com. These extensions were designed to categorize domain names into groups.  While you may recognize the main TLDS mentioned above, there are actually over a thousand TLDs, offering a wide range of choices for your online store, small business website or online resume.

Look at the different domains and what they are used for:

01. Generic TLD (gTLD)

Generic top-level domains consist of three or more characters and can be registered by anyone. These TLDs are the most regular and are what users anticipate encountering while browsing the web. The .com domain is notably the most popular, with 54% of global websites using it as of January 2022.

The following are some additional gTLDs:

  • .info - for information platforms

  • .agency - for agencies

  • .site - for a wide range of websites

  • .email - for websites related to email services

  • .live - for websites with live streaming content

  • .top - for a unique and memorable name

  • .me - for a personal touch

  • .studio - for any type of studio, design or photography

  • .company - for companies or business-focused domains

  • .design - for designers and creative industries

  • .fitness - for sports and wellness businesses

  • .work - for employment and job listings

  • .website - for small businesses

  • .technology - for tech-related content

  • .shop - for eCommerce and online retailers

  • .solutions - for problem solving service websites

  • .directory - for businesses that categorize content

  • .fun - for websites related to entertainment and leisure

  • .tokyo - for businesses associated specifically with the city of Tokyo, Japan

  • .london - for businesses associated specifically with the city of London, UK

02. Country-code TLD (ccTLD)

Country-code top-level domains (ccTLDs) are two-letter extensions reserved for countries, sovereign states and territories. Each country has its own ccTLD, but you don’t have to use one just because you live in that country. ccTLDs are available to organizations from the corresponding country or territory, as well as to corporations with a presence in the region. Websites can use ccTLDs to show viewers the country they’re based in and serve. ccTLDs also help Google geotarget your site for more accurate search results.

Here is a list of common ccTLDs:

03. Internationalized country code TLD (IDN ccTLD)

Internationalized country code top-level domains are essentially the same as ccTLDs, but with non-Latin characters. They allow for domain names in other writing systems, such as Cyrillic or Chinese, making it easier for local populations to identify and use websites assigned to their region or language.

04. Generic-restricted TLD (grTLD)

Generic-restricted top-level domains are similar to generic TLDs, but with stricter requirements. These limitations may involve presenting evidence of trademark ownership or membership in a certain sector.

These domain extensions are grTLDs:

05. Test TLD (tTLD)

Test top-level domains, also known as tTLDs, are domain names exclusively for testing and development purposes. These domains cannot be registered with the DNS, which allows software developers and testers to freely experiment without worrying about conflicts with existing or future domain names. This creates a safe and flexible environment for testing software updates and developments.

The four main tTLDs are:

06. Sponsored TLD (sTLD)

Sponsored top-level domains (sTLDs) are specialized domains requiring eligibility verification. They cater to certain communities or industries, providing targeted online experiences. Sponsoring agencies determine eligibility. Similar to generic top-level domains, sTLDs offer industry-related information, helping users find official and trustworthy content quickly. To obtain an sTLD, apply through an ICANN-accredited registrar and meet defined criteria.

Options of sTLDs include:

  • .gov

  • .museum

  • .edu

  • .mil (U.S. military)

07. New TLD (nTLD)

New top-level domains (TLDs) are the latest innovative domain extensions introduced by the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority, or the IANA in 2013. These newer extensions offer website owners a wider array of descriptive and creative alternatives, allowing brands to differentiate themselves in a crowded online environment. Much like traditional domains, new TLDs are subject to eligibility requirements set by ICANN, which range from general use to industry-specific purposes. This expansion of domains reflects the evolving landscape of digital branding.

Examples of new TLDs include:

examples of different domains

How to choose a domain name

Now that you know about the different types of domains, learn how to pick a domain name that is best suited for your needs. Choosing a domain name is a crucial step in building your website. The right domain name can boost your website's visibility, branding and credibility.

Here are some tips when selecting a domain name:

Align with website goals

Different domains cater to various types of websites based on their purposes and functions. Determine the type of website you’re building and select an extension that aligns with your content, audience and overall goals. Take a look at other sites in your niche and see what domain name extensions they are using. By observing the choices of established websites, you can gain valuable insights and make informed decisions about the best extension for your own website.

Short, simple and memorable

A short, memorable domain name can help users avoid typos and improve search engine rankings. Look for a name that's easy to spell, pronounce and relates to your business. Search engines increasingly prioritize accessibility and usability, so the simpler a domain (or URL) is to read for humans, the better it is for search engines. A domain name that clearly conveys your offerings can leave a lasting impression on visitors, making it easier for them to recall your website.

scroll of URL examples

Avoid hyphens

Using numbers and hyphens when spoken can be confusing and often misunderstood. The use of hyphens is also strongly linked to spammy behavior, which can have detrimental effects on a website's reputation, potentially leading to decreased user trust and engagement. It's best to stick to letters only or to use no more than one hyphen.

Protect your brand

Protect your brand identity by securing multiple extensions and variations of your domain name. This can prevent competitors from using similar names and helps maintain consistency and recognition among your audience. Consider purchasing common misspellings, singular/plural versions and other popular extensions to avoid confusion and protect your brand.

Keep it legal

Be sure to research any possible trademark violations before you buy a domain name. This can save you from legal disputes in the future and ensure that your website is compliant with copyright laws. You can check for existing trademarks through sites such as USPTO. Additionally, avoid using trademarked terms or brands in your domain name, which can also lead to legal issues.

Registering your domain name

There are many types of domain names out there waiting to be owned. But before you can do anything with them, you need to know how to register a domain name.

  1. Select a domain registrar: Opt for a reputable domain registrar, like Wix.

  2. Run a domain name search: Utilize the registrar's domain name search tool to verify the availability of your desired domain. You might need to explore variations or use a domain name generator to find an open option.

  3. Pick your domain: Once you confirm availability, decide on the domain you want and complete the purchasing process. Provide any necessary contact information and pay the domain price. Many registrars offer bundled services, including free web hosting

Tip: With Wix, when you make a website, a paid plan allows you to get a free domain with a one year voucher.

how to buy a domain name

Types of domains FAQ

Can I change my domain name in the future?

Depending on how well-established your website and internet presence are, changing your domain name might be a challenging process. Carefully consider your domain name before purchasing one and make sure it aligns with your long-term goals. Learn more about how to redirect a domain before making a decision.

What is a root domain?

Are domain names important to SEO?

What is the difference between domain and web hosting?

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