What are ccTLDs?
Country code top-level domains (ccTLDs) are two-letter TLDs usually reserved for a specific country, sovereign territory or geography. For instance, the Republic of Ireland is represented by the “.ie” ccTLD in “www.irishexamplesite.ie.” Some ccTLDs have a set of “presence requirements” that only allow residents of that country to register a domain. Some ccTLDs also offer to possibility to register Internationalized Domain Names (IDNs), which are domains that allow non-Latin scripts and characters with accents to be used.
What are gTLDs?
Where ccTLDs are associated with specific countries or geographies, generic top-level domains (gTLDs) are based more around broad themes and feature a minimum of three letters. For example, .com was, at one time, most closely associated with businesses, while .org is commonly used by non-profits, and .edu is intended for educational institutions.
Policy differences between ccTLDs and gTLDs?
The policies governing ccTLDs and gTLDs differ in three key ways, reflecting the different regulatory and administrative frameworks that apply to each.
Governance and regulation: ICANN, a non-profit organisation based in the United States, is responsible for overseeing the administration of gTLDs and ensuring their stability and security.
ccTLDs, meanwhile, are governed by the organisations responsible for administering them in each country or territory, and are generally subject to local laws and regulations.
Another key difference: ccTLD registries are free to establish their own contractual relationships with registrants and registrars, whilst gTLD domains can only be registered via registrars or resellers who are officially accredited with ICANN.
Domain name registration eligibility: With ccTLDs, registration can be (but is not always) limited to individuals or organisations with a presence in the corresponding country or territory. For example, to register a domain name in the .uk ccTLD, the registrant must have a physical address in the United Kingdom.
By contrast, gTLDs have no such restrictions, and domain names can be registered by anyone, regardless of their location or nationality.
Dispute resolution policies: ICANN, which oversees the administration of gTLDs, has established a uniform dispute resolution policy (UDRP) to handle disputes over domain names. This policy provides a relatively streamlined process for resolving disputes through arbitration and has been widely adopted by gTLD registries.
In contrast, ccTLDs each typically have their own dispute resolution policies, which are adapted to the jurisdiction in which they operate.
New gTLDs: Massive expansion and more selection
In a bid to boost consumer choice and competition, ICANN began introducing new batches of gTLDs in 2013. This expansion saw the previously svelte list of 22 gTLDs balloon to over 1000, which were introduced in waves.
Many of the new gTLDs are intended to help businesses better differentiate themselves and target specific audiences and niches.
For instance, a wood-fired, Neapolitan pizza restaurant might choose the “.pizza” gTLD, while a footwear retailer would gravitate towards “.shoes.”
The complete list of gTLDs can be found on the IANA website.
When would you pick a ccTLD over a gTLD?
A ccTLD indicates to search engines that a website “relates” to a country or geography. Of course, being tied to a specific country can have an impact on the search results that are displayed depending on a user's location. For instance, if someone is searching for Italian-made furniture within Italy, a search engine like Google will tend to prioritise local results.
A gTLD, on the other hand, is “neutral” location-wise and not tied to any specific geography. If a business’ intent is to reach a wider, international audience, they might opt to use a gTLD, rather than a ccTLD.