Avoiding Risky Domain Extensions

A word of warning when choosing your domain name - be careful about what kind of domain extension you choose, and ensure you register it with a reputable domain name registrar.

I normally recommend folks starting out on the web stick to purchasing domains on .COM, .NET and .ORG if available, and perhaps the relevant 2-letter country level domain(s) - for example .IE for Ireland, .ES for Spain, .FR for France - or the equivalent in UK being .CO.UK and Australia being .COM.AU. These domains are called TLDs for Top Level Domains, and are divided into gTLDs and ccTLDs for Global- and Country-Code- Top Level Domains respectively. These are "official", or "real" TLDs and you can find a list here (note that two-part domains like Australia and UK just have the last part listed).

Quick rule of thumb for a new business: my general guideline to stick to the established TLDs. You should go for .COM if it's available, plus maybe the ccTLD for the country(s) that your target customers live in. Of course there are always exceptions, and you might have good reasons why you want to consider other domains, particularly if you're a more advanced web user.

A domain name is one of the most inexpensive (in terms of the annual fees) yet is the most important and fundamental asset that an e-commerce business can ever have.

A domain is, quite literally, the organisation’s identity and brand. It is also your shop window and warehouse. If a domain name or URL is unreachable, then the organisation has got a big issue to deal with.

From Nigel Roberts.

Historically, some clever people bought short domains such as GB.COM and CO.CC and started to offer "YourSite.gb.com" and "YourSite.co.cc" as domain registrations. These are sometimes known as "Pseudo-TLDs" or "Pseudo-domains" in the industry, and the websites hosted on these domains are actually on subdomains rather than standalone domains in their own right.

Normally it's not a big problem - despite the fact that your site is not standalone, it acts and feels like a normal website. The issue is when there's any dispute or problem. The company you are dealing with is not usually licenced registrar, and your site is actually part of one big website, and can be deemed to be part of what Search Engine experts call a "Bad Neighbourhood". If that happens, then something like what happened to every .CO.CC website could happen to your site:

In a rare and sweeping move, Google has removed all of the sites hosted on .co.cc domains from its search results, saying that because such a large percentage of the sites on that freehosting provider are low-quality or spammy, they decided to de-index all of them.

The .co.cc domain is well-known in security and anti-spam circles for being a favorite spot for phishing and spam domains, but there also are legitimate domains hosted there. The .cc country-code TLD belongs to an Australian territory called the Cocos Islands, but the .co.cc subdomain is also used as a freehost that allows anyone to register a domain

Google Removes .CO.CC Subdomains Over Phishing, Spam Concerns from Dennis Fisher at Threatpost

Aside: this is also a big risk in using free hosting services - I highly recommend steering clear of those :)

Centralnic's gb.com is no longer pointing to their nameservers and any domains in the zone are now being wildcarded to the main gb.com website which carries the following notice:

You may be here because you have been sold a domain or email service using the gb.com domain that has ceased to work.

You can restore that service swiftly by registering with GB.COM Ltd.

Centralnic's Gb.com In Dispute – gb.com now wildcarded from Michele Neylon at InternetNews.me

Even some of the official ccTLDs are worth consideration before basing your site there:

I would like to warn current and future owners of .ly domains of a concerning incident regarding the deletion of one of our prime domains ‘vb.ly’ by NIC.ly (the domain registry and controlling body for the Libyan domain space ‘.ly’).

In short: The domain was seized by the Libyan domain registry for reasons which seemed to be kept obscure until we escalated the issue. We eventually discovered that the domain has been seized because the content of our website, in their opinion, fell outside of Libyan Islamic/Sharia Law.

From Ben Metcalfe

And slightly more off the wall:

domain registrar Godaddy recommends against purchasing .tv domain names because the island of Tuvalu, which the domain represents, is sinking.

Source: Boing Boing

In summary: if you're looking for a domain for your new website, consider carefully. Pick a reputable provider, and especially if you're choosing one of the more obscure domain extensions, do some research on the top-level domain first.

SAS Member Resources:

About Alastair McDermott

Alastair McDermott is an online business and technology consultant specialising in web design & development, internet marketing and search engine optimisation. He has been building websites and software since 1996 and is a ten year veteran of using WordPress.

Alastair blogs and makes media of all kinds at WebsiteDoctor. Follow him on Twitter at @WebsiteDoctor.

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