A domain suffix is the end portion of a domain name. This is often referred to as a "top level domain" or TLD. Each domain suffix defines the type of website represented by the domain name. This should be one of the first points of evaluation as you are looking at websites.
Some common domain suffixes are described in the chart below but there are numerous other domain suffixes out there. An organization, ICANN, coordinates the Internet's naming system, including domain suffixes.
This tab highlights some of the most used website domains. For additional information, visit Worldstandard's list of domain suffixes.
.com = Commercial Site. The information provided by commercial interests is generally going to shed a positive light on the product it promotes. While this information might not necessarily be false, you might be getting only part of the picture. Remember, there's a monetary incentive behind every commercial site in providing you with information, whether it is for good public relations or to sell you a product outright.
.edu = Educational Institution. Sites using this domain name are schools ranging from kindergarten to higher education. If you take a look at your school's URL you'll notice that it ends with the domain .edu. Information from sites within this domain must be examined very carefully. If it is from a department or research center at an educational institution, it can generally be taken as credible. However, students' personal Web sites are not usually monitored by the school even though they are on the school's server and use the .edu domain.
.gov = Government. If you come across a site with this domain, then you're viewing a federal government site. All branches of the United States federal government use this domain. Information such as Census statistics, Congressional hearings, and Supreme Court rulings would be included in sites with this domain. The information is considered to be from a credible source.
.org = Traditionally a non-profit organization. Organizations such as the American Red Cross or PBS (Public Broadcasting System) use this domain suffix. Generally, the information in these types of sites is credible and unbiased, but there are examples of organizations that strongly advocate specific points of view over others, such as the National Right to Life Committee and Planned Parenthood. You want to give this domain scrutiny. Some commercial interests might be the ultimate sponsors of a site with this suffix.
.net = Network. You might find any kind of site under this domain suffix. It acts as a catch-all for sites that don't fit into any of the preceding domain suffixes. Information from these sites should be given careful scrutiny.
Source: University of South Carolina
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