Generic top-level domain
|Historical Generic TLDs|
|com||Mainly for commercial entities, but unrestricted|
|org||Originally for organizations not clearly falling within the other gTLDs, now unrestricted|
|net||Originally for network infrastructures, now unrestricted|
|edu||Educational use, but now primarily for US third-level colleges and universities|
|gov||Governmental use, but now primarily for US governmental entities and agencies|
|mil||Military use, but now primarily for US military only|
|Full list of gTLDs|
Generic top-level domains (gTLDs) are one of the categories of top-level domains (TLDs) maintained by the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) for use in the Domain Name System of the Internet. A top-level domain is the last level of every fully qualified domain name. They are called generic for historic reasons; initially, they were contrasted with country-specific TLDs in RFC 920.
The core group of generic top-level domains consists of the com, info, net, and org domains. In addition, the domains name, and pro are also considered generic; however, these are designated as restricted, because registrations within them require proof of eligibility within the guidelines set for each.
Historically, the group of generic top-level domains included domains, created in the early development of the domain name system, that are now sponsored by designated agencies or organizations and are restricted to specific types of registrants. Thus, domains edu, gov, int, and mil are now considered sponsored top-level domains, much like the themed top-level domains (e.g., jobs). The entire group of domains that do not have a geographic or country designation (see country-code top-level domain) is still often referred to by the term generic TLDs.
Overall, IANA distinguishes the following groups of top-level domains:
- infrastructure top-level domain (arpa)
- country code top-level domains (ccTLD)
- internationalized top-level domains (IDNs)
- generic top-level domains (gTLD)
The initial set of generic top-level domains, defined by RFC 920 in October 1984, was a set of "general purpose domains": com, edu, gov, mil, org. The net domain was added with the first implementation of these domains. The com, net, and org TLDs, despite their originally specified goals, are now open to use for any purpose.
In November 1988, another TLD was introduced, int. This TLD was introduced in response to NATO's request for a domain name which adequately reflected its character as an international organization. It was also originally planned to be used for some Internet infrastructure databases, such as ip6.int, the IPv6 equivalent of in-addr.arpa. However, in May 2000, the Internet Architecture Board proposed to exclude infrastructure databases from the int domain. All new databases of this type would be created in arpa (a legacy domain from the conversion of ARPANET), and existing usage would move to arpa wherever feasible, which led to the use of ip6.arpa for IPv6 reverse lookups.
By the mid-1990s there was discussion of introduction of more TLDs. Jon Postel, as head of IANA, invited applications from interested parties. In early 1995, Postel created "Draft Postel", an Internet draft containing the procedures to create new domain name registries and new TLDs. Draft Postel created a number of small committees to approve the new TLDs. Because of the increasing interest, a number of large organizations took over the process under the Internet Society's umbrella. This second attempt involved setting up a temporary organization called the International Ad Hoc Committee (IAHC). On February 4, 1997, the IAHC issued a report ignoring the Draft Postel recommendations and instead recommending the introduction of seven new TLDs (arts, firm, info, nom, rec, store, and web). However, these proposals were abandoned after the U.S. government intervened.
In September 1998, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) was created to take over the task of managing domain names. After a call for proposals (August 15, 2000) and a brief period of public consultation, ICANN announced on November 16, 2000 its selection of seven new TLDs: aero, biz, coop, info, museum, name, pro.
biz, info, and museum were activated in June 2001, name and coop in January 2002, pro in May 2002, and aero later in 2002. pro became a gTLD in May 2002, but did not become fully operational until June 2004.
ICANN added further TLDs, starting with a set of sponsored top-level domains. The application period for these was from December 15, 2003 to March 16, 2004; it resulted in ten applications. Of these, ICANN approved asia, cat, jobs, mobi, tel and travel. In March 2011, xxx was approved (one year after an independent review found ICANN had broken its own bylaws by rejecting the application in 2007). Of the remaining applications (post, mail and an alternative tel proposal), post was introduced in 2012.
On June 26, 2008, during the 32nd International Public ICANN Meeting in Paris, ICANN started a new process of TLD naming policy to take a "significant step forward on the introduction of new generic top-level domains." This program envisioned the availability of many new or already proposed domains, as well as a new application and implementation process.  Observers believed that the new rules could result in hundreds of new gTLDs being registered.
New top-level domains
The introduction of several generic top-level domains over the years had not stopped the demand for more gTLDs; ICANN received many proposals for establishment of new top-level domains. Proponents argued for a variety of models, ranging from adoption of policies for unrestricted gTLDs (see above) to chartered gTLDs for specialized uses by specialized organizations.
In 2008, a new initiative foresaw a stringent application process for new domains, adhering to a restricted naming policy for open gTLDs, community-based domains, and internationalized domain names (IDNs). According to a guidebook published by ICANN, a community-based gTLD is "a gTLD that is operated for the benefit of a defined community consisting of a restricted population." All other domains fall under the category open gTLD, which "is one that can be used for any purpose consistent with the requirements of the application and evaluation criteria, and with the registry agreement. An open gTLD may or may not have a formal relationship with an exclusive registrant or user population. It may or may not employ eligibility or use restrictions."
The establishment of new gTLDs under this program required the management of registrar relationships, the operation of a domain registry, and demonstration of technical (as well as financial) capacity for such operations.
A fourth version of the draft applicant guidebook (DAG4) was published in May 2011. On June 20, 2011, ICANN's board voted to end most restrictions on the creation of generic top-level domain names (gTLDs) -- at which time 22 gTLDs were available. Companies and organizations would be able to choose essentially arbitrary top-level Internet domains. The use of non-Latin characters (such as Cyrillic, Arabic, Chinese, etc.) would also be allowed in gTLDs. ICANN began accepting applications for new gTLDs on January 12, 2012. A survey by registrar Melbourne IT considered entertainment and financial services brands most likely to apply for new gTLDs for their brands. The initial price to apply for a new gTLD was $185,000. ICANN expected that the first batch of new gTLDs would be operational by September 2013. ICANN expected the new rules to significantly change the face of the internet. Peter Thrush, chairman of ICANN's board of directors, stated after the vote: "Today's decision will usher in a new internet age. We have provided a platform for the next generation of creativity and inspiration. Unless there is a good reason to restrain it, innovation should be allowed to run free." Industry analysts predicted 500–1000 new gTLDs, mostly reflecting names of companies and products, but also cities, and generic names like bank and sport. According to Theo Hnarakis, chief executive of Melbourne IT, the decision would "allow corporations to better take control of their brands. For example, apple or ipad would take customers right to those products." In agreement, Nick Wood, Managing Director of Valideus, suggested "Your own gTLD demonstrates confidence and vision and may accelerate your brand and its value. An internet address at the Top Level is far better than registration at the 'low rent' Second Level."  However, some companies, like Pepsi, ruled out a branded gTLD.
- ^a The number of new gTLD sites found for each TLD in the latest Alexa Top 1 Million list
Top City TLDs
Unrestricted generic top-level domains are those domains that are available for registrations by any person or organization for any use. The prominent gTLDs in this group are com, net, org, and info. However, info was the only one of these, and the first, that was explicitly chartered as unrestricted. The others initially had a specific target audience. However, due to lack of enforcement, they acquired an unrestricted character, which was later grandfathered.
The term sponsored top-level domain is derived from the fact that these domains are based on theme concepts proposed by private agencies or organizations that establish and enforce rules restricting the eligibility of registrants to use the TLD. For example, the aero TLD is sponsored by the Société Internationale de Télécommunications Aéronautiques, which limits registrations to members of the air-transport industry.
The new gTLD programme saw the arrival of many such top-level domains, with a restricted open policy, eligible to those active in a regulated industry, such as .pharma or .bank, or in other industrial domains such as .safety
A geographic TLD (or GeoTLD) is a generic top-level domain using the name of or invoking an association with a geographical, geopolitical, ethnic, linguistic or cultural community. As of 2009, only two GeoTLDs existed: the sponsored domains .cat, for the Catalan language and culture and .asia; as of 2014 there were many more, including .kiwi, .paris, .scot and .gal, but many others are being added regularly.
Brands have also applied to get their brand as a top-level domain. Specification 13 is an addendum to the registry contract that describes specific provisions to brands to run their Top Level Domain in a closed fashion. 517 applications to qualify to Spec 13 were made to ICANN, 36 requests were rejected by ICANN or withdrawn by the applicant, 4 are pending review.
In 2018, Spamhaus rated .men as the worst top-level domain in terms of spam and scamming. .men comes top with 60.6% of its 73,000 domains identified as "bad", resulting in a badness index of 6.48. The company that runs .men, Famous Four Media also runs the third worst registry - .loan – with 59 per cent bad domains and a 6.22 index.
Expansion of gTLDs
The new generic top level domain (gTLD) application system opened on January 12, 2012. The application window was initially to close on April 12, 2012. However ICANN's Chief Operating Officer, Akram Atallah, stated there was a glitch in the TLD application system leaving applicants' information visible to others. The system was shut down to protect applicants' information, and measures were taken to resolve the situation.
ICANN re-opened the TLD Application System on May 21, allowing applicants to submit and review their applications until May 30, 2012.
On "Reveal Day" June 13, 2012, it was announced that ICANN received about 1,930 applications for new gTLDs, 751 of which were contested.
It was expected for the new gTLDs to go live in June 2013. However, as of March 2013 only non Latin domains have gone through Initial Evaluation. The updated timeline suggested the new TLDs will go live in November 2013.[needs update] On November 26, first seven new generic top-level domains, .bike, .clothing, .guru, .holdings, .plumbing, .singles, and .ventures, have entered the Sunrise period.
A lottery was held in December 2012 to determine the order in which ICANN would evaluate the 1,930 applications.
After the Application Window there was a public comment period from June 13, 2012, to September 26, 2012, in which the public could express their views on the individual new gTLD applications submitted.
Concerns were raised over Closed Generic applications in which the applicant would be the sole registrant for the TLD. In particular objections were raised by publishers over Amazon's .book application.
Of the technology giants, Google has filed for 101 new gTLDs, Amazon comes 2nd with 76, and Microsoft has filed for 11. The more specialized domain name companies include Donuts submitting the most (307) applications and Uniregistry pursuing 54 gTLDs.
On July 30, 2018, whistleblower and writer for the Register Kieran McCarthy exposed the systematic refusal of ICANN to create the .islam and .halal gTLDs through the willful breaking of the organization's own bylaws. McCarthy coined the 6-year refusal as "the internet's very own Muslim ban" after ICANN kowtowed to Middle Eastern governments by not approving the domain name additions.
New gTLD launches
On July 15, 2013, the first four new gTLD agreements were signed in Durban, South Africa. They all consisted of Top Level Domains in non-Latin characters:
- International Domain Registry Pty. Ltd.'s شبكة , Arabic for "web" or "network"
- Core Association's онлайн, Russian for "online"
- Core Association's сайт, Russian for "site"
- Spring Fields, LLC's 游戏, Chinese for "game"
The most popular gTLD has been .guru, launched in February 2014 and reaching 50,000 domains in April 2014, briefly surpassed by .club between June 2 and June 9, 2014, with around 55,000 domains; .club was then surpassed by .xyz, which had more than 300,000 domains after one and a half months of existence. The growth of .xyz has been concentrated on one registrar due to a promotion they ran. Recently, SBI bank has started using gTLD as "Bank.SBI" on February 20, 2017.
Some browsers and software applications do not properly recognize new gTLDs as top-level domains. For example, some browsers do not recognize many new gTLDs and instead treat them as a search query. Prefixing the domain with "http://", or including a trailing slash, will usually force the browser to perform a DNS lookup rather than a search.
Following the vote to expand gTLDs, many trade associations and large companies, led by the Association of National Advertisers, formed the Coalition for Responsible Internet Domain Oversight. The coalition opposes the expansion of gTLDs, citing "its deeply flawed justification, excessive cost and harm to brand owners." In a statement to the US Congress on December 9, 2011, National Restaurant Association vice president Scott DeFife stated, "Even beyond the financial toll the gTLD program will exact on millions of U.S. businesses, the Association believes that ICANN’s program will confuse consumers by spreading Internet searches across hundreds or even thousands of new top-level domains."
- "Delegated Strings". ICANN. Retrieved March 3, 2018.
- "New gTLD Current Application Status". ICANN. Retrieved March 3, 2018.
- "Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) root database". IANA. Retrieved June 21, 2011.
- "New Registries and the Delegation of International Top Level Domains". IETF Tools. August 22, 1996. Retrieved June 21, 2011.
- "TLDs | sTLD Information Page". ICANN. Retrieved June 21, 2011.
- "ICANN Board meeting decision to approve .xxx". ICANN. April 18, 2011.
- "Independent Review Panel judgment on .xxx" (PDF). February 19, 2010.
- "32nd International Public ICANN Meeting". ICANN. June 22, 2008.
- "New gTLDs Program". ICANN. Retrieved June 15, 2009.
- "Biggest Expansion in gTLDs Approved for Implementation". ICANN. Retrieved June 21, 2011.
- ICANN Board Approves Sweeping Overhaul of Top-level Domains, CircleID, June 26, 2008.
- "Names Council Solicitation of Comments for Consideration of New Generic Top-Level Domains". ICANN. April 1, 2000.
- "New gTLD Program: Draft Applicant Guidebook (Draft RFP)" (PDF). ICANN. October 24, 2008.
- "May 2011 New gTLD Applicant Guidebook". Icann.org. Retrieved October 24, 2013.
- New Internet Name Rule Opens Door to Huge Changes. Voice of America, June 20, 2011. Accessed June 20, 2011
- Internet minders OK vast expansion of domain names, Associated Press, June 20, 2011. Accessed June 20, 2011
- Who will apply for gTLDs, Managing Internet IP, June 21, 2011.
- "The official (unrealistic) go-live date for new gTLDs is September 28 | DomainIncite – Domain Name News & Opinion". DomainIncite. June 6, 2013. Retrieved October 24, 2013.
- Charles Arthur (June 20, 2011). "Icann announces huge expansion of web domain names from 2012 | Technology". London: theguardian.com. Retrieved October 24, 2013.
- "IPR University Center : Dot Confusion – ICANN is Planning Hundreds of New gTLDs". Iprinfo.com. Retrieved October 24, 2013.
- "Pepsi rules out .brand gTLD". Managing Internet IP. June 21, 2011. Retrieved July 28, 2011.
- "Biggest Selling vs Fastest Growing". Name Stat. Top 20. Retrieved August 3, 2018.
- "Applications to Qualify for Specification 13 to the Registry Agreement – ICANN New gTLDs". Retrieved September 11, 2016.
- "Men are officially the worst… top-level domain".
- "ICANN knew about TAS security bug last week". Domain Incite. Retrieved June 11, 2013.
- "TA Interruption – Update (21 May 2012)". New Generic Top Level Domains | ICANN. Retrieved June 11, 2013.
- "It's Reveal Day and there are 1,930 new gTLD bids". Domain Incite. Retrieved June 11, 2013.
- "ICANN approves non-Latin 'dot word' domains". Computer World. Retrieved June 11, 2013.
- "New gTLD Program Timeline". New Generic Top Level Domains | ICANN. Retrieved June 11, 2013.
- "New Domain Name Launch Schedule". Webnames.ca. Retrieved November 1, 2016.
- "New gTLD winners will be decided by lottery after all". Domain Incite. Retrieved June 11, 2013.
- "New gTLD Application Comment Period Extended". New Generic Top Level Domains | ICANN. Retrieved June 11, 2013.
- "Amazon's .book domain bid sparks dominance row". Digital Spy. Retrieved June 11, 2013.
- "Google Applies For 101 New gTLD's; Amazon 77; Microsoft 11; Apple 1". The Domains. Retrieved June 11, 2013.
- "Donuts raises $100 million, applies for 307 new TLDs". Domain Name Wire. Retrieved June 11, 2013.
- "Here Are The 54 New gTLD's That Frank Schilling's Uniregistry Applied For". The Domains. Retrieved June 11, 2013.
- "The internet's very own Muslim ban continues: DNS overlord insists it can freeze dot-words".
- "Milestone: First Registry Agreements Executed – Internet Users Will Soon Be Able To Navigate The Web In Their Native Language – ICANN New gTLDs". newgtlds.icann.org.
- "Many milestones for the new gTLD". Dot stories. Retrieved September 16, 2016.
- Andrew Allemann. "I got my first free .XYZ domain name offer today – Domain Name Wire | Domain Name News & Views". Domain Name Wire. Retrieved September 16, 2016.
- "Universal Acceptance Steering Group (UASG)". ICANN. Retrieved March 3, 2018.
- "chrome does a search when i want to open a website on a custom TLD". Chromium bugs. Retrieved March 3, 2018.
- "Coalition for Responsible Internet Domain Oversight information page". Association of National Advertisers. Retrieved December 14, 2011.
- "Restaurant industry registers opposition to new Internet domain name plan". Washington Restaurant Association web page. Washington Restaurant Association. Retrieved December 14, 2011.
- Dyson, Esther. "What's in a Domain Name?". Project Syndicate. Retrieved January 9, 2012.