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Domains: The Address of Your Website

Every website needs a domain. But what options are there? Can and may I use anything as a domain name? What is a top-level domain and which ones are suitable for my desired domain? Here is a brief overview.

Domains: The Address of Your Website
Ing. Philipp Doblhofer Ing. Philipp Doblhofer

Ing. Philipp Doblhofer

At some point in every web project, the question arises: Under what address or domain should the presence be achieved?

Naming is a crucial decision. After all, a project appears under this name - often for many years to decades. In addition to a appealing naming, compliance with both technical and legal regulations must also be ensured.

Basics

In principle, a domain can be divided into several parts. For example, if you look at the domain www.codeaware.at, it can be broken down into 3 components:

This chain can be continued almost indefinitely. Under a Third-Level Domain, another subdomain can be set up, and so on.

Common Third-Level Domains, besides www, include: mail., smtp., pop3., imap., ftp., …

Since the Third-Level Domain is freely selectable, a web server does not necessarily have to run under www, it could also run under web or even foobar. In this context, it should be noted that, with regard to search engine optimization, a difference exists between codeaware.at and www.codeaware.at. It is recommended to decide on one spelling and use it consistently.

Top-Level Domains (TLD)

Top-Level Domains are fixed domain endings, which are thus not freely selectable. They are divided as follows:

Country-specific TLDs (ccTLD)

There are two-letter ccTLDs for over 200 countries. These include, for example, .at for Austria, .de for Germany, .us for the USA, etc. However, this also includes TLDs like .tv for Tuvalu, which is often “misused” for TV providers.

A small excursion into search engine optimization: In principle, neither the domain name nor the TLD have a direct influence on ranking in the search results. An exception here are the ccTLDs:

Search engines try to find optimal results for a search query. For this purpose, websites are assigned to geographical regions (i.e., which region a website targets). Since ccTLDs are allocated to specific countries, this is considered a strong signal of relevance for that particular region (and conversely - a not so strong relevance for all other regions). Since some ccTLDs, as noted, like .tv, .me, and others are used “abusively,” there are some exceptions to this geographical allocation.

Generic TLDs (gTLDs)

Generic TLDs are not assigned to any specific region. Here you can find, among others, .com, .net, .org.

In June 2019, there were over 1900 different gTLDs. A brief overview of popular gTLDs:

Meanwhile, there are also specific gTLDs for some cities - such as .wien.

Technical Guidelines for Domain Labels

As already mentioned in the basics, the names - or also called labels - can be more or less freely chosen.

The following rules must be observed:

For several years, special characters and umlauts have also been allowed in domain names. These domains are called IDN (internationalized domain names). Technically, these umlaut domains (Unicode domain name) are first converted to the ASCII character set (Punycode) for resolution when accessed.

The umlaut domain dömäin.example becomes, for example, xn–dmin-moa0i.example after conversion. Usually, the value after conversion is not necessary, however, not all programs support these umlaut domains - since no conversion is performed. It is therefore necessary to clarify whether an umlaut domain should be used at all.

For umlaut domains, it is also important to note that not all top-level domains allow all special characters.

Although many names would be technically possible as a domain, legal points must also be considered. Thus, a domain name can be protected under the following laws (for example in Austria):

In short, domain names are not allowed, which are identical or similar to trademarks, company names, or the like. It must be ensured that there is no risk of confusion with already existing names.

Likewise, a domain name basically belongs to the respective name bearer. This name bearer can be a person (family name, …), corporation, but also a city, municipality, or a country.

Attention: When registering a domain, it is not checked whether name rights are violated. It is therefore essential to do sufficient research before registering a domain (trademark register, company directory, …) to prevent a possible legal dispute.