In the Internet’s early days, those wishing to register their own domain name had only a few choices of top-level domain to choose from, such as .com, .net, or .org. Today, users, innovators, and companies can get creative and choose from more than a thousand top-level domains, such as .cool, .deals, and .fun. But should they?
It turns out that not every top-level domain is created equal when it comes to protecting the domain holder’s rights. Depending on where you register your domain, a rival, troll, or officious regulator who doesn’t like what you’re doing with it could wrongly take it away, or could unmask your identity as its owner—even if they are from overseas.
To help make it easier to sort the .best top-level domains from the .rest, EFF and Public Knowledge have gotten together to provide this guide to inform you about your choices. There’s no one best choice, since not every domain faces the same challenges. But with the right information in hand, you’ll be able to make the choice that makes sense for you.
Before proceeding it’s worth noting the difference between a registry and a registrar. The domain registry is like a wholesaler, who operates an entire top-level domain (TLD) such as .com. Domain names ending in that TLD are then offered to end-user domain registrants by one of many registrars. The registry sets the mandatory policies for all of the registrars who resell its domains, but the registrar may also have its own policies. Because there are so many registrars, this document focuses on the policies of registries.
Erratum as at August 2, 2017: The schedule to the report has been corrected to remove .adult from the listing of domains operated by Afilias (in fact the domain is operated by ICM Registry), and to update the information on trusted notifier requests to reflect new information received.