A Glance At Top-Level Domains And Subdomains

A perfect domain name may be just what you and your clients need. Take a look at what exactly TLDs and Subdomains are and what they can do for your business.

I recently wrote a post about the behind-the-scenes details of DNS. In that post, I went through how your browser finds the web page you’re looking for by simply typing in a domain name.

A domain is the unique name/title of your website. It’s what your clients will associate with your business. Apple.com, for example, is the domain name for the dominant computer company, Apple. Seems pretty obvious, right?

You want your business and your clients’ business to have the absolute best domain for whatever you or your clients might be selling.

Let’s say you’re in the food catering industry. Catering.com seems like the perfect fit, right? The problem here of course is that there can only be one catering.com in the entire world. A company already owns the domain catering.com and has it registered. For the time being, no other business can use food.com.

Luckily for you, there are numerous options available for a relevant domain for your catering business. To understand the different routes you can take to find the perfect domain, we first need to understand the difference between top-level domains (TLDs), second-level domains and subdomains.

The DNS functions as a hierarchy: it begins with the top-level domain, followed by the second-level domain, then finally, the subdomain.

Top Level Domain (TLD)

The TLD is the last word or sequence of letters in a domain. Some of the most recognized TLDs are .com, .uk, .net, .org and .edu. Under the direction of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, or ICANN, each TLD is registered by a specific organization. ICANN breaks down all TLDs into four separate categories:

  • Generic top-level domains (gTLD). These domains are the most recognizable, with .com, .org, .edu and so on. Before 2014, there were only 22 different gTLDs. Now, ICANN has released 100s of domains, including some as radical as .ninja and .hiphop. The reason behind this is that as the internet grows, domains will become harder and harder to obtain. New TLDs give aspiring businesses the opportunity to have a relevant domain name.
  • Country code top-level domains (ccTLD). Country Code TLDs are operated privately and are specifically designated for particular countries. They are reserved to serve communities. The ccTLDs are made up of two letters. Some common examples are .us, .uk, .cn and .au.
  • Internationalized country code top-level domains. These domains are similar to the ccTLDs, but are geared more towards countries that use the Arabic alphabet or non-alphabetic writing systems such as Japanese. An example is  مصر, which is reserved for Egypt.
  • Infrastructure top-level domain. This group consists of only one domain, the Address and Routing Parameter Area (ARPA). It is used exclusively for technical infrastructure purposes. This TLD is simply .arpa.

You can register a domain with many different companies, but all eventually link back to ICANN to form a database of all TLDs.

Second-Level Domain

Second-level domains are like the core of a domain name in that it is directly below the top-level domain. The second-level domain is generally associated with the organization that is registered to the domain name. If we look at the domain, www.resell.biz, “resell” is the second-level domain.


A subdomain is exactly what is sounds like: a domain that is part of a larger domain. Subdomains are read from left to right and are separated by dots. We commonly see this with email. For example, mail.google.com will take you to your Gmail account. Another common example of a subdomain is if there are separate divisions within an organization or business, such as support.example.com or finance.example.com.

Subdomains should not be confused with subdirectories. Subdirectories are files and folders that are part of a domain, such as resell.biz/domain-reseller/. The part of the domain: /domain-reseller/ is a file of resell.biz, not a subdomain. Subdomains always come before the TLD.


Now that we have explored the different parts of a domain name, we can go back to our example of a catering business and find a perfect domain name. Within ICANN is a department called Internet Assigned Numbers Authority, or IANA. IANA focuses on maintaining the codes and numbering systems involved with the internet. The IANA keeps a Root Zone Database that contains all of the gTLDs available. You can find the list here.

Conveniently enough, .catering is an available TLD. We can now move forward and include the second-level domain: the name of the business. For our example, we’ll choose the name “Logan Valley.” A perfect domain name would be loganvalley.catering. We can check the availability of this domain by searching on virtually any domain name reseller’s website. I went to midphase.com, a sister company of resell.biz, to search the availability of loganvalley.catering. You can test your future domain by clicking here.

Fortunately for this example, loganvalley.catering is (at time of writing) available. You can purchase the domain and web hosting services, design your website, and have your online business up and running in no time.

As your business grows, you may want to add subdomains. You could add a sales.loganvalley.catering, services.loganvalley.catering and info.loganvalley.catering. These subdomains will all function under the domain name loganvalley.catering. Subdomains are generally easy to set up once you own the domain.

Although domain names now may seem more complicated than just your business’s name plus a .com, it really is easy to find the perfect domain for you. Explore different options. If you want to stick with a .com TLD you may need to adjust your second-level domain just a bit. We suggest looking into new TLDs that will help boost your business. A unique domain name may just be what your business needs to really take off.


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