.com and .co.uk are called top-level domains.
In the early days of the internet there were just 7, each with its own planned user base:
So far so good. But it quickly became clear though that internet users wouldn’t keep themselves neatly allocated in these 7 boring buckets.
So the decision was made to introduce…
You may recognise popular ones like .co.uk and .au for the UK and Australia .
Others like .gu for Guam and .pf for French Polynesia may be less familiar.
Others, like .dj, .me and .is you may have seen but not realised they were country specific. This is because they look like words, and often get repurposed for niche or vanity sites as a result:
But in reality they belong to Djibouti , Montenegro and Iceland .
Thankfully, most countries don’t have geographical restrictions preventing sites hosted outside the country using one of their domain. Otherwise, I would have been forced to move to Iceland.
Here’s where the fun begins, though. (What’s that? You thought the fun had already started?)
Someone realised that infinite possibilities that lie after the second dot in a website’s name and decided to launch over 500 new domains over the past few years
Wikipedia gives a list of these, along with a (sometimes flimsy) explanation of their intended target market. It’s an incredibly expansive list, and they range from the sensible (.audio, .business) to the bizarre:
But despite their flexibility you don’t see many of them around, possibly proving one journalist’s prediction that they were “doomed to fail” correct.
Some of the rare uses are inspiring though. My favourite is here: a truly visionary exploration of what new top-level domains can do (edit: the link is now dead).