Domain name extensions and the world

29 November 2018

It’s like preaching to the choir:  the world is changing rapidly – and that includes the world of domain names. Trends in dry matter such as domain name extensions are at times compelling barometers of what is going on in society.  And perhaps such extensions teach us something about the internet, the world and ourselves…

The change in the nature of the internet in the past decade is reflected also in domain name extensions. In the past, apart from national extensions, i.e. the ccTLDs (country code Top Level Domains such as .be), . com, .org, .info, and . edu were particularly popular. The extensions clearly reflected the nature of the internet: commercial, but also informative and educational. 

Commercial internet

The advent of a whole series of new gTLs (general Top Level Domains) shows a completely different side of the Internet: .shop is immensely popular, but also .discount, .buy, .bargain, .deals… give reason to suppose that the Internet has become more commercial. 

Fortunately, there is also room for pleasure with extensions such as .fun, .games, .dance, .bingo, .party, .lol. Another form of entertainment you will probably find on websites with the extensions .adult and .sexy. In this segment, .porn was a great commercial success among the new gTLDs.   

ccTLDs for other purposes 

Sometimes, ccTLDs are used effectively for other purposes. The national extensions of Armenia (.am) and the Federal State of Micronesia (.fm) are particularly popular among radio amateurs. The website of the musician is of course… with undoubtedly great Google scores in Armenia. And which DJ would not opt for the extension .dj?  It is the ccTLD of Djibouti, a tiny  country surrounded by Eritrea, Somalia and Ethiopia.  

The extension .io is very popular among tech start-ups. In their philosophy, IO stands for input/output, and it looks a bit like binary code. As it happens, the ccTLD of the British Indian Ocean Territory is used as a domain extension for no fewer than 0.1% of all websites worldwide. The British Indian Ocean Territory? Indeed, an archipelago of the British Empire that in addition to a British-American military base, has about 1500 inhabitants.   

Geopolitical developments 

Sometimes, geopolitical developments also have an impact on domain names and their extensions. The fact that .brussels and .vlaanderen exist does not mean that these regions are about to declare their independence soon. on the other hand, extensions such as .cs and .zr have disappeared together with their states, Czechoslovakia and Zaire. 

What does give rise to questions is the disappearance of the extension .nato and whether that might have something to do with the extension .su which still exists more than 25 years after the collapse of the Soviet Union? Isn’t NATO on the digitisation bandwagon? Or have we discovered a shift in the geopolitical power blocs thanks to domain name extensions? 

SDG 9: industry, innovation and infrastructure

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