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Under­stan­ding Country Code Top Level Domains (ccTLDs)

Although .com, .net and .org are typically the most widespread and talked-about domain name extensions, they are not the only fully-functional ones that are available for use. As more words and phrases in the English language becoming snapped up as .com, .net and .org domains, ccTLDs are becoming increasingly popular.

Simply put, a domain name using a ccTLD has a country code as its suffix instead of the typical .com, .net or .org extension. Each country has its own domain extension; Canada, for example, is .ca, while Japan has been assigned .jp. From a functional perspective, ccTLDs work just as well as any TLD. Therefore, more webmasters are choosing country-specific domains, as better names are typically available than when choosing a domain under the .com, .org or .net extensions.

One common misconcep­ti­on is that ccTLDs can only be assigned to Web sites physically located in the suffix country. This is not necessarily true. While most countries have specific rules surrounding exactly who can register domains using their suffix and for what purpose, regulations in some countries are more stringent than others. While it is true that in certain cases, the registrant must be an individual/­company located within the country of the country suffix they wish to register, there are no restrictions whatsoever in others. Micronesia’s .fm domain extension, for example, is available to the general public worldwide; however, Canada’s .ca domains can only be assigned to Canadian companies and individuals.

Because these restrictions can vary, it is important to “look before you leap” when purchasing a ccTLD. Always research any restrictions that may be placed on potential ccTLD purchases; otherwise, you may not be able to buy the domain you want.

Why You Should Consider Purchasing a ccTLD

There are several reasons why purchasing a ccTLD instead of a regular TLD could be advantageous to your Web site:

* Keyword availa­bili­ty: Most of the effective domain names available under the current TLD structure have already been registered. Because of this, most businesses and consumers are being forced to register obscure words and phrases as domain names. ccTLDs, on the other hand, are available to a limited pool of buyers; this sig­ni­fic­antly increases the chances that the domain name you want is available.

* Regional identi­fica­ti­on and branding: Although part of the Internet’s allure is its global nature, a ccTLD can provide regional-specific branding that a typical TLD cannot. This is becoming particularly important as companies try to distance themselves from being labeled as “.com” operations. It is also important because “.com” Web sites are typically perceived to be American; therefore, a ccTLD can provide the regional iden­ti­fica­tion that a TLD lacks.

* Reseller advantage: Domain name resellers that offer ccTLDs send a strong message to customers that they are willing to provide a “one stop shop” for domain name services. It also increases the potential for repeat business and revenue.

With the increasingly widespread use of ccTLDs, it is no longer necessary to settle for a mediocre TLD when better ones are available using a different suffix. Therefore, keep all of your options open the next time you shop for a domain name; you may be selling yourself short if you don’t.