& the GII
generic top level domains (gTLDs)
This page looks at the global or generic top level domain
(gTLD) spaces: those that are not based on a national
code and those (such as dot-mil and dot-edu) have gTLD
status because of an accident of history.
It covers -
com, net, org
Dot-com, dot-net and dot-org are the three domain spaces
with which most people are familiar. They are not restricted
to US citizens or entities (for example the registrant
of a dot-com does not need to be based or legally registered
in the US).
The cost of registration is significantly lower than that
in many national domains (noted on the following page
of this profile) and is one reason why the dot-com has
become the global 'default' domain.
In discussing the size of the web we have noted
suggestions that as of October 2002 there were over 21.2
million dot-com registrations, 3.6 million dot-nets and
around 2.3 million dot-orgs. Those figures have increased
over successive years, although the number of discrete
sites has not grown to the same extent because much registration
has been opportunistic or as part of monetisation. Some
comparisons are provided in the note here.
TLD is used only for registering organizations established
by international treaties between governments. As of February
2003 it appears to comprise around 94 domains.
The European Union has established a dot-eu gTLD to cover
EU entities, with establishment of a registry (EURid)
and addition of the TLD to the internet root in May 2005.
Dot-eu is meant to cover businesses having their registered
office, central administration or principal place of business
within the European Community; organisations established
within the EC and individuals resident within the EC.
US government domains
In the October 1984 Domain Requirements RFC (RFC
920) Postel & Reynolds proposed a set of initial
gTLDs including dot-com (commercial), dot-edu (education),
dot-gov (government), dot-mil (military) and dot-org (organisation).
An additional gTLD - dot-net - was added prior to implementation
of those domains in January 1985 and has gained more attention
than the two US government TLDs.
TLD was initially reserved exclusively for the United
States Government: Federal and State agencies and Federally-recognized
Indian tribes (the latter in a .nsn.gov 2LD). As of February
2003 it appeared to comprise around 1,350 domains.
The coverage of dot-gov has subsequently expanded to encompass
federal government entities (some of which also appear
in the .fed.us 2LD)
listed in the US Government Manual
Cross-Agency Collaborative organizations
Federally recognized Indian Tribes (in the NSN 2LD)
State government entities
City and Township government entities
county and parish government entities
of early 2007 there were some 3,903 active websites, of
which 1,986 were attributed to state, local and county
entities (out of some 3,000 counties and 19,000 municipal
Dot-gov is operated by the US General Services Administration
TLD is exclusively reserved for the United States armed
forces and as of February 2003 appeared to comprise around
80 domains. It is operated by the US DoD Network Information
Center. There are equivalent 2LDs in some national domain
The dot-edu domain is reserved for educational institutions
in the United States and was restricted to bodies that
grant four-year degrees. Liberalisation as part of delegation
of administration from VeriSign to Educause,
a nonprofit body, in 2001 extended availablity of the
domain to a wide range of institutions, including acupuncture
schools and Bible colleges (with around 7,500 new dot-edu
names assigned to 6,000 institutions in February 2003).
As of January 2007 there were around 7,400 'live' .edu
The dot-edu gTLD initially comprised most of the net and
as late as 1996 the dot-com and dot-net gTLDs contained
only 1.8 times as many hosts. By 2000 the dot-com and
dot-net domains were six times larger than dot-edu; that
disparity will continue to increase.
ICANN is moving (its critics say moving too slowly) to
establish new generic TLDs. Some proponents have argued
for sectoral gTLDs. Others propose regional gTLDs, for
example on the basis that some cities have a distinct
identity and have both a population and economomy that
is larger than many countries. Particular proposals are
discussed in the following page of this profile.
As of 2006 ICANN has authorised establishment of a handful
of sectoral GTLDs.
Those addition TLDs are sometimes described as "experiments
to test demand feasibility" for the creation of a
range of other domains. As discussed later in this profile,
some clash with existing or new alternative domains established
by enthusiasts/entrepreneurs and unrecognised by ICANN
(and thus not readily accessible from most devices on
The additional TLDs include -
for organisations authorised by the International Council
of Museums (ICOM).
As of April 2003 around 669 names had been registered,
predominantly from the US and often with multiple names
for the one entity
.biz, a domain that parallels dot-com and is
expected to be colonized by many of the entities that
have dot-com registrations. It is being marketed by
As of September 2002 there were around 770,000 dot-biz
registrations (up from 700,000 in April), with utilisation
(ie activation of live web sites) variously estimated
at between 1% to 25%. Growth has slowed from approximately
1,500 to 1,000 names per day.
.info, an 'unrestricted' space that was marketed
as a gTLD for directory services and handled by Afilias.
As of October 2002 there were around 920,000 dot-info
names. As with dot-biz there are a significantly smaller
number of live sites (many registrations appear to be
wholly 'defensive') and growth has slowed to under 1,000
new registrations per day
.name, a domain for personal names, being marketed
by Global Name Registry (GNR).
It appears that around 85,000 dot-name registrations
had occurred from January to end September 2002, with
an estimated 71% involving GNR's complementary email
service. As of October 2002 the growth in dot-name registrations
was around 750 names per day. At the end of 2003 GNR
was moving to allow registrations at the 2LD level
.pro, aimed at accountants, lawyers, physicians
and other professionals. Inclusion in the gTLD would
be restricted to certified entities (tacitly operating
a gTLD as a meta-trustmark,
chief operating officer Sloan Gaon commenting "We're
looking to provide a gated community for professionals").
As of May 2003 the space was to be structured as .law.pro
(legal and related services), .cpa.pro (accountancy
and related services, US only) and .med.pro (medical
and health-related services) but in October 2003, in
an apparent admission of underwhelming demand, the registry
moved towards registration at the 2LD level (eg name.pro
rather than name.cpa.pro). The registry is to be operated
on a for-profit basis by a subsidiary of dot-com registrar
.aero, relating to the air transport sector.
(with five commercial registrars) is to be operated
on a not-for-profit basis by SITA. The 2002 ATA/IATA
Joint Passenger Services conference endorsed use of
two-character airline designator codes, followed by
.aero, to assist travellers to gain quick access to
airline sites and the Airports Council International
(ACI) has endorsed a "fully predictive naming convention
for the use of three and four letter location codes".
.coop, concerned with cooperatives. It has been
established under the auspices of the Indian National
Dairy Development Board, the Cooperative League of Puerto
Rico, US National Cooperative Bank, UK Co-operative
Union, US National Rural Telecommunications Cooperative,
International Co-operative Alliance (ICA), US National
Cooperative Business Association (NCBA) and UK service
.travel, which according to the registry
is "designed to serve the global travel and tourism
community by developing products and services that promote
the efficiencies and convenience of e-commerce for all
bona fide travel companies and tourism organizations
on the Internet ... improved Internet identity, creation
of advanced distribution channels, and the establishment
of an ever-stronger level of trust between the industry
and its customers". It will encompass "airlines,
theme parks, restaurants, tourism offices and others
in travel and tourism" and "may grow to include
retailers of luggage".
.mobi, concerned with web delivery
of information to mobile phones and similar devices.
on the uptake of some of those gTLDs are provided in writings
by Ben Edelman and others. They include
of Usage of the .BIZ TLD, a June 2002 paper
by Edelman & Jonathan Zittrain
.NAME Registrations Not Conforming to .NAME Registration
Restrictions, a May 2002 paper
A Case Study of Disputed Registrations in .BIZ, A
Case Study of Domain Registrations by Swarthmore Associates
and John Kirkland, a May 2002 paper
The Viability of Market-Based Regulation of Internet
Top-Level Domains, a 2002 thesis (PDF)
success of the new TLDs is uncertain: establishment will
require significant promotional resources. As of August
2002 the uptake of the new commercial TLDs (other than
for defensive purposes) and dot-museum appeared to be
ICANN's procedures for creating new gTLDs and reassigning
existing gTLDs were criticised in a 2004 OECD report on
Generic Top Level Domains: Market Development &
Allocation Issues (PDF).