This article explains the difference between .com, .co, .biz, .net, and .org
Your domain name is the face of your website and your online brand — it’s the first thing visitors learn about your website. Every domain name is unique, but the best ones are relevant, familiar, and easy to remember.
To capture customer interest, you need to choose a domain with an appropriate domain extension. Whether it’s “.com”, “.org”, or otherwise, this short snippet of text is central to your online presence, as it shapes how visitors perceive your brand even before hitting your homepage.
What’s the right domain extension for your site? Let’s review and compare some of the most well-known extensions you can use to cap off your domain name.
What Is a Domain Extension?
There are two parts to every domain name: the name and the extension. Together, these form the “address” of your website on the internet.
The name, also known as the second-level domain, is the unique identifier of the website. The domain extension comes after the second-level domain. Domain extensions are also referred to as the top-level domains, or TLDs. These terms are used interchangeably.
While the second-level domain signals the name of your brand, the domain extension specifies the entity that your website represents. Advent Trinity’s top-level domain is “.com” because we’re a business.
Types of Domain Extensions
There are three types of domain extensions you should know when looking for a suitable option for your site: generic, sponsored, and country code.
Generic Domain Extensions
This is the most widely-used category of extension, and what most online businesses use in their domain names. Generic domain extensions are available to any website willing to buy, and some you’ll even find for free. The popular extensions .com, .org, and .net are generic, as are many other niche TLDs.
Sponsored Domain Extensions
Sponsored domain extensions may only be used by organizations that fit certain requirements. For instance, only certified educational institutions are allowed to use the .edu domain extension for their websites, and the .gov extension is restricted to entities under the United States government.
Country Code Domain Extensions
Many countries have their own two-letter domain extension to signify the organization’s location. Examples include .us (United States), .uk (United Kingdom), and .de (Germany).
Common Domain Extensions
Domain extensions were originally created to divide websites into categories based on organization type. The thinking was that all websites can be broken down first by the entity (the “top-level” category), then by organization name (the “second-level” category), then by website section using subdomains.
Some of this reasoning still holds true, but the domain extension system has loosened its regulations over the years. There are now well over 1,000 different domain extensions available, and even some classic extensions are used by sites beyond their original purpose. Here are some popular choices:
The .com domain extension stands for “commercial.” When introduced, .com was intended for e-commerce sites. Today, it’s the most widely-used domain extension, serving over half of all websites. It’s seen by many as the default domain extension, and its ubiquity makes it the go-to choice for most online businesses, organizations, personal websites, and blogs.
There’s only one downside to the .com extension but it’s a big one: availability. There’s a good chance that the perfect .com domain name for your business is already taken by someone else.
.net is the second most popular TLD after .com. It stands for “network” and was created for websites specializing in network-based technology, including ISPs, email services, and database services. In recent years .net has come to inhabit the same space as .com. Some businesses opt for this extension if their preferred .com domain is taken.
This TLD was made for and limited to nonprofit organizations, hence “.org”. While this restriction was recently lifted, its original intention remains — .org is typically used by foundations and charities, educational services, open-source software projects, and other not-for-profit entities. Any website can use a .org extension, but for many .org implies that the organization behind the domain is non-commercial.
The .co extension was introduced in 2010 as a .com alternative to address the shortage of desirable .com domain names. It stands for “company” or “corporation.” Like .com and .net, .co is most popular among online businesses.
It’s worth noting that the .co TLD is often paired with country code domain extensions (e.g., .co.uk), and is also the official domain extension of Colombia, the country. Still, .co is most commonly recognized globally as a .com or .net alternative.
As the name implies, .biz is intended for online businesses only. It’s the least popular extension on this list and tends to be the cheapest. Though it is a generic domain extension, the .biz TLD is restricted to business and e-commerce websites.
How to Choose the Right Domain Extension
Think about websites you know that use .com, .org, and .net — these extensions each likely carry different meanings and set different expectations for you. It’s important to pick a domain name with an extension that appropriately communicates your type of service or organization.
When running an online business, .com will do the trick. However, it’s often not that simple with .com’s limited availability. If you can’t secure your domain of choice with the .com extension, alternative domain extension options can help put your site on the map.
Does Domain Extension Affect SEO?
It’s always beneficial to think about SEO when creating or changing a website. Your site’s generic top-level domain will not affect its performance in search engines. Your top-level domain influences brand perception and trust more than anything, but Google states it does not take TLD into account when listing search results. You’re better off implementing other SEO best practices to climb the rankings.
There is one caveat here. If two or more websites share the same name and implement the same SEO practice, but have different extensions, the website with the .com domain extension will rank highest in most results. This is because people tend to trust .com websites and will generally choose them over .net or .biz alternatives, and websites with more traffic perform better in search engines.
Unlike the TLD, the name component of your domain does affect SEO. Your site’s name tells people and search engines what your organization is and/or does.