An introduction to .com vs .net vs .org domain extensions
Often called domain extensions or top-level domains, these elements of a website URL serve to categorize websites within the domain name system (DNS) implemented in 1984.
Back then, they assumed that website visitors cared about the domain name extension, thinking that it showed the type of site to expect when visiting. Therefore, each domain name extension meant something:
- .net: for networking sites and telecommunications providers.
- .com: for commercial websites (for-profit businesses).
- .org: for charities, non-profits, and other philanthropic “organizations.”
Seven domain name extensions came out for the early internet, all of which had their purposes. The other four include:
- .mil: for anything to do with the US military.
- .edu: for educational institutions, like colleges, high schools, and research centers.
- .gov: for governmental departments and agencies in the United States.
- .int: for international organizations.
That categorization strategy once devised for the DNS has in some ways remained true to form, but as we all know, certain domain extensions don’t actually mean what they stand for.
For example, .com has developed into more of a universal domain for all the internet, not just commercial enterprises. You could also argue the same for .net and .org domain names.
Since the original seven, ICANN (the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) has introduced thousands of domain extensions for industry and professional-specific uses like .realtor, .cars, or .actor, along with domain extensions for geographical locations and languages (.us and .de), companies (.homedepot and .xerox), and activities and events (.tennis and .wedding).
Some of the domain extensions have no exclusivity, meaning anyone can buy them. Yet, some of them require some sort of proof that you’re involved with a country, industry, activity, profession, or company. For instance, some country extensions have requirements, and niche extensions like .apple are managed by the companies themselves. Even .realtor extensions ask for real estate licenses.
As for the most popular extensions , here are the most common today:
- .com, .net, .org, .co, .us
How to decide: .com vs .net vs .org
The search for a domain name begins by making a list of potential candidates, targeting the .com extension first, then looking for alternatives if that doesn’t work.