What’s the difference of .COM .CO .NET .ORG and .US domain names?

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As most Internet users are already aware, there are a number of different types of domain name extension, which basically act as the Internet’s address book to help direct people to certain websites. Some of the most common types of domain name extensions are .COM, .CO, .NET and .US, which are referred to as a ‘Top Level Domain’ or TLD, and traditionally have specific connotations…

  • .COM: this is the most commonly used domain extension (almost 50% of websites globally in 2018) and is traditionally used by commercial (for-profit) websites
  • .NET: is a domain extension traditionally reserved for network-related websites, such is Internet or telecommunications providers
  • .ORG: is a domain extension traditionally reserved for non-profit organisations
  • .CO: is a newer, increasingly popular domain extension that is an abbreviation for ‘company’, and generally used by big brands with a global presence

Open and Closed TLDs

Despite their traditional affiliations, the above-mentioned TLDs are all “open” – meaning anyone can register these domains (for a fee) without needing to meet any specific qualifications.

For example, there is nothing legally preventing a for-profit company registering a .ORG website, or a non-network-related website using .NET. In fact, some businesses chose to buy all variations of domain extensions in a bid to protect their branding.

However because of the reputations and connotations that have been forged with these domain extensions over the past 30+ years of the Internet, the traditional uses are still recommended and generally followed, despite not being compulsory.

There are other TLDs that are “closed”, such as .museum, .aero, or .travel domains, where you have to verify that you’re a legitimate museum, air-travel, or tourism-related entity before registering. Similarly, in many countries .GOV can only be used by government organisations and .EDU by registered educational institutions.

Country-Specific TLDs

Of course there are hundreds of country-specific TLDs such as .US (United States), .UK (United Kingdom), .DE (Germany), .CN (China) and .AU (Australia). Whilst a few country codes remain open, most of the major country-specific domain extensions, including those mentioned above, are closed to proven citizens or entities within that country. This strict registration eligibility helps create strong associations, trust and confidence in those websites from their visitors within their country, though they can of course still be viewed by international visitors.

If you’re having trouble choosing a domain name, our Domain Name Generator provides hundreds of suggestions based on keyword searches, and also provides information on domain name availability across the major TLDs.