What is a TLD?

I want to talk about choosing website domain names. But first, a little background, because to understand how domain names work, we need to understand what a ‘TLD’ is. Here goes.

A TLD is the highest (‘top’) level domain in the internet’s domain name system. Domains and subdomains are made up of separate levels with ‘dots’ between each, and work backwards. So the ‘.com’ bit is the top level; and the ‘bluewidget’ bit in ‘bluewidget.com’ is the next level. You can also specify ‘subdomains’ such as ‘store.bluewidget.com’, where the ‘store’ bit adds a third level to the website address.

Interestingly, the most commonly-used subdomain is ‘www’. This just means the ‘web’ area on your domain. It’s not strictly necessary, and you send people there by default, which is why many sites have now dropped that historical baggage. Everyone should choose whether their website is at the www or non-www space, and the one they do not use should invisibly redirect to the one they do. For example, at BMON we use the ‘www.’ subdomain, but we’re set up correctly so that anyone typing in just ‘bmon.co.uk’ is directed to ‘www.bmon.co.uk’. It would be quite acceptable to do things the other way around.

Now, the time was when there weren’t many choices of TLD, and if you were a business, it was really down to ‘.com’ or your country’s TLD. In the UK and some other countries, although there is a TLD (‘.uk’), nobody was originally allowed to use it directly, and we were all eccentrically forced to use an extra level (‘.co.uk’, ‘.ac.uk’, etc). So, if you’re the Blue Widget Company, and you’re based in the UK, the chances are that somebody set up your website domain as either ‘bluewidgetcompany.com’ or ‘bluewidgetcompany.co.uk’.

That’s fine, and it all works well. The important thing is that it looks authoritative, and in the case of the country TLD, lets people know at a glance what country you operate in.

But there are many more TLDs available now. I’d go as far as to bet that you’ll be amazed to find out how many there are. Should you consider them for new projects? We’ll talk about that tomorrow.