A domain is the name of an address on the Internet that is internationally unique. It consists of a top, second and third level domain and is part of a URL.

Domains are used for simplification. For example, an IP address such as 123.456.789.012 is more difficult for a blog or online store to remember than a string of characters consisting of meaningful letters. The domain name system (DNS) works in the background, unnoticed by the user. Instead of the code consisting of numbers for an IP address, letters are used to uniquely identify a website.

This system is one of the most important building blocks that have contributed to the success of the Internet. It not only makes it easier to open a website in a browser, but also to create easy-to-remember email addresses, such as

Every website, blog and online store has a domain. This consists of a TLD (top-level domain), an SLD (second-level domain) and a subdomain (third-level domain). Example:

TLD: org
SLD: seo-content
Subdomain: www

Anyone who enters this information in the address line of the browser is taken to the start page of a website, which is usually designated index.html, index.htm or index.php. A complete, unique URL (Uniform Resource Locator) for a page on the Internet therefore looks like this, for example:

Top-level domains

TLDs are divided into generic TLDs (gTLD) and country code TLDs (ccTLD).

Generic TLDs are used internationally. Today, the vast majority of gTLDs are freely available and are disconnected from their original purpose. For example, the suffix com no longer necessarily indicates a commercial enterprise behind a corresponding domain, and the suffix net no longer indicates a network. Anyone can register a com, net or info address online – even if the person concerned only runs a private blog.

Country-code TLDs stand for a country. Examples:

de (Germany)
fr (France)
it (Italy)

The most frequently assigned TLDs worldwide are:

com (Commercial) 169 million
tk (Tokelau, “telecommunications”) 19 million
cn (China) 19 million
net (Network) 16 million
de (Germany) 13 million

Source:, as of 2020, rounded figures

In the case of the British uk TLD, there was a special feature until 2014 in that it was not permissible to register a second-level domain with Nominet (the British equivalent of Denic) immediately below the TLD. Second-level domains had to be used for identification (for example, or

New top-level domains

In 2013, a small revolution occurred on the Internet. Because until then, international generic domain endings were severely limited. Not only because of this, endings for online addresses such as com, info or biz were in high demand by companies and private individuals. Since 2013, more than a thousand new domain endings have been introduced worldwide, offering companies new opportunities to establish a presence on the Internet. Thus, the TLD alone can already convey information about the business. New top-level domains are for example cloud (interesting for cloud computing providers), store (for example for online stores) or blog (ideal for the private blog).

The new generic TLDs are controlled by the Internet administration ICANN. They give companies the chance to establish a new online presence under short, apt and concise names, which are usually already taken under the classic TLDs. However, anyone who registers a domain with an unknown domain extension runs the risk that it will not inspire confidence in visitors. Reputation and awareness are the decisive criteria for choosing a domain for a website, especially in the business sector.

New TLDs that refer to a region or city, for example berlin, are popular. The new TLDs most in demand worldwide are icu, top, xyz, site and online (source:

Second-level domains

The second-level domain refers to the actual domain name that comes before the top-level domain. For a company’s website, this is usually the company name. So-called premium domains have a coveted domain name. They have a high value and fetch good prices on the market. Premium domains are characterized by the following features, among others:

The name is short, distinctive and therefore easy to remember.
It contains keywords that are frequently searched for on Google.
It is suitable as a brand name that is not yet protected.

The name of a domain also plays a major role in search engine optimization. If, for example, a highly contested keyword is part of a second-level domain, Google takes this as an indication of relevance. Thus, the five most expensive domain names in Germany are all everyday terms without trademark rights:,,, and achieved euro prices in the six-digit range.

How to register a domain?

First of all, the principle of “first come, first serve” applies to domains. The person who registers a domain first is entitled to it. However, domain disputes often arise when, for example, the infringement of a name right is alleged through the use of a website address on the Internet. For example, the use of another person’s trademark in one’s own domain name is generally subject to the trademark holder’s consent.

Contractual terms for the registration of domains generally run for 12 months. Relevant information on registered domains is stored in WHOIS databases. This data can be accessed online. Until the introduction of the GDPR, information about the owner of a domain, the administrative contact (Admin-C) and the registrar could be found here. Registrars are Internet service providers that offer web hosting services in addition to the service for registering a domain.

 The domain is the memorable name of an internet address and has a high recognition value. The domain name system has contributed significantly to the fact that private individuals and companies use the Internet as a medium for the online publication of information. In order to register a domain, trademark, name and competition rights must be observed. High prices are often paid for attractive domain names used for business purposes.


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