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What is a Domain?

A domain is a part of the URL that indicates what type of institution, person, organization or company owns the site.

image showing breakdown of the parts of a URL

Common Domain Names
.com Commercial Since this is likely a for-profit company, the content of these web sites may be biased in an effort to encourage visitors to spend money. Be skeptical of what you read! Anyone can purchase a .com domain.
.net Network Since this is likely an Internet service provider who may have many users who have no professional affiliation, the content of these web sites could contain just about any viewpoint or content. Be skeptical of what you read! Anyone can purchase a .net domain.
.org Organization Since this is likely a non-profit organization, the content of these sites may be biased not necessarily for profit; however, a social or political agenda may exist. Be skeptical of what you read! Anyone can purchase a .org domain.
.edu Education Since this is an institution of higher learning in the United States, you may feel somewhat confident that an expert created the material; however, students are often given server space (see notes on .net above).
.gov Government Since this is a United States Government web site, the content is likely pro-United States and should contain accurate information concerning the United States (census date, tax information, etc.).
.mil Military Since this is a United States Military web site, the content is likely pro-military and pro-United States and should contain accurate information concerning the United States Military.


International Domain Names
.fi, .au., .ca, .uk Country Codes Since two letter domains indicate a foreign country then these sites must be evaluated carefully to determine sponsorship and authority.
.us U.S. Government Since this is a United States Government web site, the content is likely pro-United States and should contain accurate information concerning the United States (census data, tax information, etc.).
For more information on Internet Country Codes see:
Internet Assigned Numbers Authority - Top Level Domain Code


Newer Domain Names

Some of these are so new that they have yet to produce many web sites. As such they may be harder to evaluate if your evaluation is based solely on domain name.

.biz Business Since this is likely a for-profit company, the content of these web sites may be biased in an effort to encourage visitors to spend money. Be skeptical of what you read! See .biz registry.
.info Information This is an unrestricted domain. It can be used for any purpose by anyone.
.name Individuals It looks like anything goes on this domain, though it was created to be used for individuals. URLs such as spike.name, abc.name, pmorgan.name or john.smith.name. See .name registry.
.aero Aviation This domain is used exclusively by the aviation community. See .aero registry.
.coop Cooperatives A fairly new domain .coop is used for any and all cooperatives. Cooperatives are businesses that are owned and democratically controlled by their members - the people who buy their goods or use their services such as Credit Unions. See .coop registry.
.museum Museums This domain was created by and for the global museum community (museums, museum associations and museum professionals). See .museum registry.
.pro Professional Created for professional. All registrations are allegedly verified. Example: A registrant seeking a .law.pro domain name must provide license information that can be independently cross-verified in the jurisdiction in which he or she is a licensed attorney. See .pro registry.

Much of the information on this handout is from the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University web site: Content Assumptions and Web Site Location.

Do not hesitate to ask questions -- Librarians are available at the First Floor Reference Desk to help you.

Last Modified 03/25/2014 kk