I just noticed a domain name auction where the seller was claiming that the .mn domain extension is a Minnesota domain. You may have also seen people selling .ws domains as a domain meaning “web site” or a domain ending in .tv for “television station” or .md as meaning “medical doctor.” What do all of these have in common? If they are being sold with that type of claim, they may be misrepresented.
All of these domain extensions, and many more that seemingly represent common business terms or states, are called ccTLDs, which stands for country code top level domains. Standard, common use domain extensions, such as .com, .net, .org, .gov, .us, .biz and 15 other extensions are known as gTLDs, or generic top level domains. The main difference between a gTLD and a ccTLD is that the ccTLDs are each assigned to specific countries.
It needs to be made clear that the use of these ccTLDs is in no way illegal. Many small countries have licensed their TLDs for worldwide commercial use. This is therefore a legally legitimate use of these domains. It is safe to assume that the countries get a piece of the registration price without having to manage the domain registrations. This expands the business for domain registrars and generates income for small counties. Because of their potential dual purpose, licensed ccTLDs are referred to as vanity domains.
So what do these ccTLD extensions really mean?
.mn does not actually stand for Minnesota. It represents Mongolia.
.tv does not actually stand for television. It represents Tuvalu.
.ws does not actually stand for web site. It represents Western Samolia.
.md does not actually stand for medical doctor. It represents Moldova.
Some large companies actively use the vanity domains. It is fairly common to see television stations use the .tv extension. Microsoft uses the .ms extension with some of their sites. .ms is actually the ccTLD for Montserrat. Someone could also use it to represent Mississippi.
So is this sale of domains using the ccTLD vanity domains a scam? Nope. Nor does there appear to be anything detrimental about using these domains. But it may cross a line into misrepresentation when a domain name purchaser is not informed about the real meaning of a domain extension, or when they are told that .mn is assigned to the state of Minnesota, when it is not. It may be marketed as a domain that could be used to represent a Minnesota site, but the extension is not assigned to Minnesota.
Just be aware of this if you purchase a domain name with an unusual extension. Check the links provided in the text above to find out what the extensions really stand for.