You’ve probably noticed it by now: apple.com (International), ebay.co.uk (United Kingdom), amazon.de (Germany). But have you ever wondered why? Why do countries have their own domain extensions instead of using “.com” or “.net”? And, more importantly, why do some countries use the “.co.xx” (just like the UK) while others just have “.xx” extensions (just like Germany)?
This is something i’ve always pondered and it was about time we clarified things out. We’ll try to explain this as simple as possible. Here’s how this goes.
Back in 1985 when the internet was invented and the Domain Name System was implemented, there were initially seven (7) domains you could choose from: .com, .net, .gov, .org, .edu, .mil, .arpa. These domains are called Top-Level Domains (TLDs) and supposedly, each one had a different purpose: .com was for “commercial” purposes, .net for “network” companies, .gov for “government institutions”, .org for “non-profit organizations”, .edu for “education”, .mil for “military” and .arpa for “infrastructure” (it stood for Advanced Research Projects Agency). (the article continues after the ad)
It soon became obvious though, that it was important for countries to have their own, country specific domain extensions instead of just having the generic ones mentioned above. So, a new top-level domain category was invented called Country Code Top-Level Domains (ccTLDs). These ccTLDS are exclusively to countries, just like .fr for France, .de for Germany, .gr for Greece, .jp for Japan, etc. To further confuse things up, some countries decided to have a “.co.” before their ccTLDs: for example, amazon.co.uk (United Kingdom), australia.gov.au (Australia) or google.com.mx (Mexico). So, how one decides what to use?
Well, each and every country has the right to choose whether to use just its ccTLD (that would be name.jp for Japan) or also add a sub-domain (such as name.co.za for South Africa). There are no regulations as to the domain each country will use – it’s entirely up to them. Some prefer to add the sub-domain in order to distinguish between commercial (example.co.uk), government (example.gov.uk) or education (example.gov.uk). Others don’t share this opinion and only use their ccTLD.
It’s important here to note that things change. For example, up until a few years ago, one couldn’t register a .uk domain – only .co.uk. However, since July 2014, it’s possible to get a .uk domain.
BONUS FACT: Of the 184 actively registering country codes, 100 are “restricted” and require a specific legal documentation and/or local presencein order to register (China, France and Japan). The remaining 84 are unrestricted” – anyone from anywhere can register, no local presence is needed.
If you like what you read, then you will definitely love this one: Why Some Countries Refrigerate Their Eggs While Others Don’t?
Photoshop: I’m A Useless Info Junkie
Sources: Top Level Domain Definition | What You Should Know About Country Code Domains | Why do some countries have a co top-level domain instead of com and some have none?