The Bottom Line Despite what you may have heard all two character top level domains are country code TLDs. This installment will discuss their benefits and drawbacks.
Non-standard (country code) Top Level Domains are becoming far more common as the number of attractive domains with gTLDs diminishes, which is something to consider when you register your domain name. With .com becoming “too-darn-dot-hard-to-get” (to quote a recent client) more and more people are turning to ccTLDs for their sites.
Despite all of the hype and advertising to the contrary, all two-character TLDs are country code Top Level Domains (ccTLDs) and they are not new! Of the 237 currently active ccTLDs, only three new ccTLDs have been added since 1997: .nr-Naru (03/30/98), .bd-Bangladesh (05/20/99) and .ps-Palestinian Territories (03/22/00). Not surprisingly, the first ccTLD was .us-United States (02/15/85) followed several months later by .uk-United Kingdom (07/24/85) which is still probably the most used ccTLD on the internet.
In the last several years many small countries have begun to realize that their unique ccTLD is a national resource and have sought ways to profit from them. Countries such as Western Samoa (.ws), the Cocos (Keeling) Islands (.cc), Tuvalu (.tv) and The Federal State of Micronesia (.fm) have contracted with private companies to market their domains to the rest of the world. Hence, the growing awareness of these domains in the public consciousness.
For a complete list of ccTLDs and their associated countries visit http://www.iana.org/cctld/cctld-whois.htm
Rules and Regulations
Each ccTLD is administered by a group, organization or company selected by IANA (Internet Assigned Numbers Authority) and the country the code represents. Thus requirements vary by domain.
Many ccTLDs are limited to residents of the represented country, or others having a ‘presence’ there of some sort. Others offer domains to residents at a reduced price, or even for free.
Additionally, not all ccTLDs permit direct registration of second level domains, but rather use assigned second level domains (usually based off gTLDs) and permit registration of only third level domains. For example, epinions.uk would not be permitted, but epinions.co.uk would be acceptable.
You also need to be aware that such things as propriety are culturally based. In other words, what seems an innocuous word or phrase in your country may be taboo in other countries and not permitted to be registered with certain gTLDs.
Although gTLDs may now be up to 63 characters long (including the TLD), not all countries have upgraded their DNS servers to permit long domain names. Thus, names may be limited to as few as 23 characters total.
Be sure to read all the regulations related to the ccTLD you are interested in before finalizing your decision.
Pros and Cons
The primary reason that most people turn to ccTLDs is because the domain name they want has already been registered with all three gTLDs. While this does make some sense, unless the ccTLD is somehow tied in to your site’s purpose, people are unlikely to remember your TLD and end up at yourchosenname.com rather then your actual site. A better move may be to choose a different second level name that is still available.
The largest problem with ccTLDs is that they are difficult for people to remember. As discussed extensively in part 3 of this series, most people tend to assume your domain ends in .com. The majority of these can adapt fairly easily to a .net domain, but I’ve had numerous people inform me that web addresses such as .tw (Taiwan) and .lv (Latvia) simply don’t exist.
Obviously if you reside outside the US or your site deals primarily with issues related to another country then choosing the associated ccTLD would be a good choice. Or if you actually have operations and/or customers in more than one country, then registering your domain with each unique ccTLD may be appropriate. Ditto, if your trademark is registered in multiple countries.
This is part four of a series of articles on domain registration also posted on epinions.com.