What are top level domain names?

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Understanding what are top level domain names is the key to unique web identity

Top level domain names (TLDs) are something you type in everyday and probably donít know it. Ask a computer whiz what they are and their eyes will light up just as yours glaze over. 

The computer world is filled with jargon and acronyms that can make understanding a basic thing rather difficult. As the name implies, top level domain names are the highest level in the hierarchy of the Domain Name System (DNS). DNS is frequently explained as the Internetís phone book. It links IP addresses to commonly recognizable host names. The DNS is how every web address exists as a constant entity thatís independent of a physical location. This allows you to access the same web page from your desk top computer as you can almost anywhere in the world.

The hierarchy of domain names goes from right to left. Top level domain names are therefore located in the root zone of a web address. For example, the top level domain of is the Ď.comí.

Types of Top Level Domain names

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) is the non-profit organization responsible for managing many TLDs. ICANN operates the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA), which maintains DNS root zones where TLDs are installed. Today, IANA lists several different groups of top level domain names, many of which youíll recognize.

Generic Top Level Domains Ė Many of these have three characters or more. Examples: com, gov, edu, org, info and net

Country Codes  - Created for countries, these TLDs are two characters. Examples: .UK (United Kingdom), IE. (Ireland) and JP (Japan).

Sponsored Ė Generic TLDs that are sponsored by private organizations based on content themes. Examples:  .JOBS (Employ Media LLC), .Museum (Museum Domain Management Association) and .Travel (Tralliance Registry Management Company, LLC.)

*IANAís full root zone database includes a comprehensive list of the root zones itís responsible for coordinating.

Top level domain names come into play every time you type a url in a web browser. For instance, you type into a web browser. The browser sends this to a name server, which translates the name into a numerical IP address. The server sends back HTML text for, and then formats the text into the page you see on your screen.

Learning about top level domain names will help you understand how your computer and other electronics that connect to the internet function. Peaking behind the curtain of the technology we use every day is fascinating, and helps us appreciating it more. 


IANA: Root Database

ICANN: Top Level Domains

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