Purchasing the domain name for your international internet business is an important step, one which will help support your brand and identify your business to your customers. Much attention is paid to the first part of the domain name, because it is generally assumed that the domain name will end in .com.

This is a terrible mistake.

As I have written before, where you register your domain name may land you in jail.

The US Immigrations and Customs Enforcement agency has used the fact that a US-based company acts as the administrator for all .com domains to claim jurisdiction over all websites ending in .com, regardless of where the actual website is located.

Here is the good news.

In the same manner in which you can internationalize your business incorporation or your financial accounts, you can also internationalize your domain names. And it’s easy.

Just choose a domain name that resides in a non-US jurisdiction by picking a different ending component, or TLD, for your domain name. For example, choosing to use a domain name that ends in .co instead of .com offshores the jurisdiction for your domain name from the United States to Colombia.

In this article, I will teach you some basic terms so that you can understand how to choose the jurisdiction of your domain name, as well as make sure that your personal or business information is not leaked out into the public domain.

To start, let’s learn some basic terms:

TLD – Top-Level Domain

A TLD is the part of the domain at the end of the domain name. .com, .net, .org, .co, .ca, and .jp are all examples of TLDs. Each TLD is managed by an organization, whether it’s a government or commercial entity. There are two main types of TLDs that most people will use and purchase for their own use, generic TLDs and country code TLDs.

gTLD – Generic Top-Level Domain

This is the type of TLD that most people are familiar with. Examples of gTLDs are .com, .net, .org, and .biz. The two most common gTLDs, .com and .net, are managed by Verisign, a US-based company and thus fall under US jurisdiction.

Not all gTLDs are managed by US entities, however.

Afilias, an Irish limited company based in Dublin, operates the registries for the .info, .asia, and .mobi gTLDs. Though you need to be careful. Afilias bought RegistryPro, the registrar for the .pro gTLD, but left the jurisdiction for the registry in the US.

ccTLD – Country Code Top-Level Domain

This is a TLD which has been assigned to a country. There is one ccTLD for every country in the world. ccTLDs are usually maintained by a company or organization which is located within that country. There are a few exceptions. For example, the registries for .tv (Tuvalu) and .cc (Cocos Islands) are managed by companies owned by Verisign. Anyone using a .tv or .cc domain for their website has put their website under the jurisdiction of the US government.

A list of all ccTLDs can be found here.

Domain Privacy

Under normal circumstances, when you register a domain name, they ask for:

  1. full name
  2. organization or business
  3. address
  4. phone number
  5. email address

This information is essentially public record, and is easily accessible by anyone. By adding domain privacy, this information is placed in “escrow” and is no longer part of the public record. Unfortunately, not every TLD registry supports domain privacy. This is important for you to check when you choose your domain.

Domain privacy is also marketed using the terms “WHOIS Privacy,” “Contact Privacy,” “Protected Registration,” “WHOISGuard,” or “Private Registration.”

The Best Jurisdictions for Your Domain Name

For people who are looking to purchase a domain name for their international business, I recommend using the following ccTLDs. They have a number of favorable traits in common:

  • All of these ccTLDs are administered by registrars located in the country the ccTLD is assigned to.
  • Any person or organization can register a domain name using these ccTLDs.
  • Any domain name registered using one of these ccTLDs can enable domain privacy.
  • Registration and transfers for domains using one of these ccTLDs is as quick and easy as it is for a .com domain name.
  • Domain names using these ccTLDs are not immediately associated with the countries they are tied to, giving you a lot of flexibility in naming.

Colombia (.co)

The .co ccTLD is administered by .CO Internet S.A.S., a Colombian company located in Bogota. .co Internet has been very aggressive in marketing the .co ccTLD. The .co ccTLD is attractive based on its similarity to .com. Think about using “example.co” instead of “example.com” when purchasing your domain.

Montenegro (.me)

The .me ccTLD is administered by doMEn, d.o.o., a Montenegrin company based in Podgorica. doMEn has also been aggressive in marketing their ccTLD. You can get creative with your naming here. An example: using “atruestoryabout.me” instead of “atruestoryaboutme.com”. This site can help you get some ideas:Words ending in “me.”

Belize (.bz)

The .bz ccTLD is administered by University Management Ltd., a Belizean company based in Belize City. University Management Ltd. has tried to increase awareness and use of the .bz ccTLD by people worldwide, often based on its similarity to the .biz gTLD. An example: using “kingofgold.bz” instead of “kingofgold.biz.”

Why not Switzerland (.ch)?

Switzerland is a great place to plant many different internationalization flags. But registering domain names is not one of them. The reason is that the Swiss ccTLD registrar, Switch, does not allow for domain privacy. If you register a .ch domain, your contact information becomes publicly available. Japan Registry Services, the Japanese ccTLD registrar for .jp also has this limitation.

Be Creative and Diversify

Now that you have the knowledge, go have some fun with your domain name search. Be creative and different, while getting your domain outside of the US and EU jurisdictions. With a little work you can get a more interesting domain name for your web presence while adding another layer of international diversification.

Editor’s Note: In our Going Global publication we have a comprehensive and actionable section on how to diversify all aspects of your digital presence internationally. Whether it’s setting up an offshore email service or cloud file storage, to moving the components of your personal and business websites abroad, using secure encryption, or using a VPN to disguise which country you are accessing the Internet from to get past government blocks, Going Global covers it all.