A country code top-level domain (ccTLD) is an Internet top-level domain generally used or reserved for a sovereign state or territory. There are currently over 270 such domain extensions— from the Ascension Island (.ac) to Zimbabwe (.zw)—delegated by the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA). A number of the world’s countries have licensed their TLDs for worldwide commercial use—usually when the TLD has coincidental alternative meanings making it especially marketable. Examples include Tuvalu and the Federated States of Micronesia, small island-states in the Pacific, sell domain names using the .tv and .fm TLDs respectively.

The .co top level domain extension is the latest ccTLD to draw interests from domain registrants not located in the country indicated by the domain extension. The .co extension, the country code top-level domain assigned to the nation of Colombia, is significant to brand owners because Internet users searching for brand owners’ Web sites frequently mistype ".com” as ".co."

The .co domain extension will be slowly opened to more and more potential registrants through a multiphase launch plan (PDF), as outlined by the COinternet.co registrar:

  • Grandfathering (3/1/2010–3/31/2010)
    Period during which registrants of existing third level names (yourname.com.co) are given the opportunity to register domain names identical to their existing third level domains names directly under the .co TLD.;
  • Sunrise Local (4/1/2010–4/20/2010)
    Period during which holders of eligible trademarks that have obtained registered status by the Colombian trademark office can apply for their corresponding domain name(s) directly under the .co TLD.
  • Sunrise Global (4/26/2010–6/10/2010)
    Period during which holders of trademarks of national effect that have obtained a registered status in their respective country or region anywhere in the world can apply for their corresponding domain name(s) directly under the .co TLD.
  • Landrush (6/21/2010–7/13/2010)
    Period during which interested parties can seek to register domain names not previously registered or otherwise reserved by the Registry, but where the allocation of domain names is not done on a first-come, first-served basis (instead being subject to a resolution process if the same domain names are requested for registration during this phase by different parties).
  • General Availability (7/20/2010)
    As from the start of this phase, domain names are generally unrestricted and can be registered on a first-come, first-served basis.

Given the likelihood of customers and clients accidentally typing “.co” instead of “.com” into their web browsers, trademark owners and companies generally concerned about protecting their online identity may want to consider seeking registration of their standard .com domain name with a .co domain extension.