Thursday, October 1, 2009

Top-level domain

A top-level domain or domain name (TLD) is the highest level of domain names in the root zone of the Domain Name System of the Internet. For all domains in lower levels, it is the last part of the domain name, that is, the label that follows the last dot of a fully qualified domain name. For example, in the domain name, the top-level domain is com, or COM, as domain names are not case-sensitive. Management of most top-level domains is delegated to responsible organizations by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), which operates the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) and is in charge of maintaining the DNS root zone.

Originally, the top-level domain space was organized into three main groups,[1] Countries, Categories, and Multiorganizations. An additional temporary group consisted only of the initial DNS domain,[2] arpa, intended for transitional purposes toward the stabilization of the domain name system.

Countries are designated in the domain name system by their English two-letter ISO country code[3]. This group of domains is therefore commonly known as country-code top-level domains (ccTLD).

The Categories group has become known as the generic top-level domains. Initially this group consisted of GOV, EDU, COM, MIL, ORG, and NET.

In the growth of the Internet, it became desirable to create additional generic top-level domains. Some of the initial domains' purposes were also generalized, modified, or assigned for maintanance to special organizations affiliated with the intended purpose.

As a result, IANA today distinguishes the following groups of top-level domains:[4]

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