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Beyond Dot-Com

The most challenging aspect of registering a domain name used to be finding a name that hadn't yet been registered. Today, deciding on a top-level domain (TLD) can be equally challenging, because there are so many more options than the traditional three.

There are two general types of top-level domains: global TLDs (gTLD) and country code TLDs (ccTLD). Global TLDs include the familiar .com, .org, and .net, extensions and now also .biz, .info, and .name (with more TLDs reportedly on the way).

In addition, each country has its own ccTLD, ranging from .ru for Russia to .se for Sweden. Even the United States has its own .us TLD. A country has sole authority over how its TLD is used. Japan recently allowed non-residents the right to register .jp domain names, for example, while the nation of Tuvalu sold the rights to .tv outright. Country codes follow the ISO 3166 standard; for a complete list, visit www.iana.org/cctld/cctld-whois.htm.

Now that vendors are beginning to offer IDNs, domain registration becomes that much more complicated. For example, i-DNS.net offers two types of IDNs. In one case, the .com is translated, while in others it's left in English (see Figure 3). Although it makes perfect sense to translate the entire domain name, TLD and all, keep in mind that ICANN hasn't yet authorized this practice. According to Paul Hoffman at the IETF, "The IDN Working Group's work allows you to localize all parts. When we are done, ICANN will start work on internationalized root names for ccTLDs."

—JY