The world can be sliced and diced in many ways, and one of them is by dividing it into the 245 ccTLDs that cover every country and territory in the world. ‘ccTLD’ stands for ‘country code top-level domain’, which refers to the extension behind the final dot in mail addresses and URLs – if they refer to countries or territories. There are about a dozen non-geographic TLDs (such as .com, .org and .edu), which are used extensively but numerically, the ccTLDs are vastly superior.
The 245 ccTLDs, all two-digit codes, cover all UN-recognised countries, plus several non-sovereign islands and territories. This map, designed by John Yunker (website here), presents those codes in a size relative to the population of each country or territory – except China and India, which were restrained by 30% to fit the layout. The smallest type size reflects all countries with 10 million inhabitants or less.
The map includes a list of the most popular ccTLDs, the top 10 being, in descending order: .de (Germany), .cn (China), .uk (UK), .nl (Netherlands), .it (Italy), .us (US), .ar (Argentina), .br (Brazil), .ru (Russia) and .ch (Switzerland).
This sample shows most abbreviations are easily recognisable, with the exception of countries’ abbreviations not related to their English name (.de for Deutschland, German for Germany; .ch for Confoederatio Helvetica, Latin for ‘Swiss Confederation’).
Some small countries (such as Tuvalu – .tv) have made a tidy profit because their country code could be used as a vanity ccTLD, often leading to strange, virtual associations between very disparate places. This list, from Wikipedia:
* ad is a ccTLD for Andorra, but has recently been increasingly used by advertising agencies.
* ag is a ccTLD for Antigua and Barbuda and is sometimes used for agricultural sites. In Germany, AG (short for Aktiengesellschaft) is appended to the name of a stock-based company, similar to Inc. in USA.
* am is a ccTLD for Armenia, but is often used for AM radio stations.
* as is a ccTLD for American Samoa. In Denmark and Norway, AS is appended to the name of a stock-based company, similar to Inc. in USA.
* be is a ccTLD for Belgium. Widely used by small Bulgarian websites because it’s cheaper than a bg ccTLD.
* cc is a ccTLD for Cocos (Keeling) Islands but is used for a wide variety of sites.
* cd is a ccTLD for Democratic Republic of Congo but is used for CD merchants and file sharing sites.
* dj is a ccTLD for Djibouti but is used for CD merchants and disc jockeys.
* fm is a ccTLD for the Federated States of Micronesia but it is often used for FM radio stations.
* gg is a ccTLD for Guernsey but it is often used by the gaming and gambling industry, particularly in relation to horse racing gee-gee.
* in is a ccTLD for India but is widely used in the internet industry.
* je is a ccTLD for Jersey but is often used as a diminutive in Dutch (e.g. “huis.je”), as “you” (“zoek.je” = “search ye!”), or as “I” in French (e.g. “moi.je”)
* la is a ccTLD for Laos but is marketed as the TLD for Los Angeles.
* nu is a ccTLD for Niue but marketed as resembling “new” in English and “now” in Nordic/Dutch. Also meaning “nude” in French/Portuguese.
* sc is a ccTLD for Seychelles but is often used as .Source
* tv is a ccTLD for Tuvalu but it is used for the tv/entertainment industry purposes.
* ws is a ccTLD for Samoa (earlier Western Samoa) is marketed as .Website
* vu is a ccTLD for Vanuatu but means “seen” in French.