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gTLD or ccTLD – 10 ambiguous TLDs

Several ccTLDs are not popular because of the country they stand for, but because the two characters of the domain extension connect to other meanings or abbreviations. This form of domain hack holds a great deal of marketing potential.


There are 315 different ccTLDs worldwide, under which 162 million domains are registered. However, not all of these were registered based on the respective regions. Some ccTLDs were often registered thanks to a second meaning. So, the way in which the relevant domain is used is not associated with the respective country, but to the linguistic meaning – these are TLDs with two facets.

 

Google even treats some of these TLDs like gTLDs. Which means that one could actually classify them as generic ccTLDs. These include .fm, .me or .tk, among others. With regard to search engine rankings, in principle, it is not problematic to use country-specific TLDs as generic ones. However, Google has previously emphasized the initial assumption that websites under ccTLDs contain content specifically intended for that country.

We have selected ten examples of such ambiguous TLDs that are already typically used as gTLDs.

.ac

The country-specific top-level domain .ac, for the British territory of Ascension Island in the Atlantic Ocean, achieved a growth rate of 130 % in 2019. This skyward rise in interest for the ccTLD .ac is due to the use of the same abbreviation for “academic community”.

.ai

The extension .ai is the official ccTLD for Anguilla. .ai is the perfect short form for “Artificial Intelligence”, which is why the Caribbean domain suffix is predominantly used by users and companies in the artificial intelligence business.
.ai was the newcomer of the year in 2019 on the secondary domain markets with regard to sales prices. At 2,576 US dollars, .ai domains had the highest median value.

.co

As the country-specific TLD for Colombia, .co is often used in connection with ideas like community, corporation, content or connection. The registry also markets the domain extension as an alternative to .com due the similarity.
The highest public sales price for a .co domain on the sales platform Sedo last year  was 30,586 US dollars for Odds.co. Certainly the most well-known and most frequently visited .co address is t.co of twitter.

.fm

The country-specific TLD of the Federated States of Micronesia is often used for different purposes in the radio broadcasting sector, as the abbreviation “FM” is associated with the frequency modulation method of broadcasting. For example, the Internet radio last.fm unter operates under this domain extension.
The most expensive sales of .fm domains also came from the radio broadcasting sector with, e.g. beat.fm, which sold for 8,500 US dollars in 2011.

.gg

One of the biggest newcomers of the past year is the ccTLD of Guernsey. .gg grew by 107 % and is very popular, mostly used as a domain extension for video gaming and eSport websites. The reason being that “gg" not only stands for Guernsey, but is also a commonly-used  abbreviation for “good game".

.io

.IO is the ccTLD for the British Indian Ocean Territory, which consists of several uninhabited islands. The popularity of this domain extension clearly does not stem from the inhabitants, but rather from the use of  “I/0” in informatics as the short form for “Input/Output”. Input is the signal or data that a system receives, while output is sent by the system.  
This proximity to informatics has increased the popularity of .IO domains in the tech scene. At the beginning of the year, the TLD .IO ranked fourth on the Cisco Umbrella Popularity List for TLDs. The domain home.IO was sold for 25,000 US dollars last year.

.la

The domain extension .la could very well be the geoTLD for Los Angeles, although it is not. It is actually the ccTLD for Laos. Until 2011, .la was even marketed as the abbreviation for Los Angeles. This was not problematic, as any individual or legal entity may register .la domains and proof of residency or a subsidiary in Laos is not required. However, as of 2011, the administration called for .la to be used for Laos again.

.me

.me is the country-code top-level domain (ccTLD) of the country Montenegro. Apart from its use as ccTLD, .me can also be used as a gTLD.
With .me standing for the first-person pronoun “me” in English, it allows for a multitude of successful domain hacks. The most prominent example of a .me domain is probably meet.me, which was sold for the record sum of 450,000 US dollars in 2011.
Sales of the most personal domain extension in the world rose by 4.8 % last year.

.tv

The island state of Tuvalu in the Pacific Ocean is the fourth-smallest country in the world and lies halfway between Hawaii and Australia. However, the size of the domain extension has become quite considerable and contributes a significant chunk towards the income of the small island state with its population of 11,000. The island state earns one twelfth of its national income through licensing of the top-level domain .tv.
This is not due to its inhabitants enthusiastically registering domains, but as a result of the abbreviation TV being used internationally for “television”. For this reason, it is not surprising that the extension is particularly popular with organizations that are active in the television and film sector.  
In the German-speaking European regions, this ccTLD is used by established broadcasting companies like arte.tv, spiegel.tv or Loewe.tv.

.ws

The ccTLD for Samoa, officially known as West Samoa until 1997, has been marketed as an abbreviation for website since the turn of the century. As there are no specific restrictions for allocation, anybody can register a .ws domain.

Of course there are many more examples of ccTLDs with double meanings – and there are no limits to creativity here. In our new AutoDNS, you can see whether the domain you want is still available or up for purchase on a secondary market.

Read more about popular ccTLDs used as gTLDs in the Global Domain Report.

 

Download the Global Domain Report