Google Search Analyst Gary Illyes revealed that as of June, Google no longer treats .ai domains as country code top-level domains (ccTLDs). Due to the ongoing artificial intelligence revolution, .ai domains are now treated as generic top-level domains (gTLDs).
“Should a global company use the .ai domain as their gTLD or is it considered by Google as a ccTLD for the country of Anguilla?” a user asked Illyes during a Google SEO Office hours session
. As a surprise to many, he said .ai domains can target a global audience, and they won’t get localized to the island of Anguilla, a small British Overseas Territory in the Caribbean.
In a LinkedIn post
, Illyes clarified that Google “won’t infer the target country from the ccTLD so targeting Anguilla became a little harder, but then again there are barely any .ai domains that try to do that anyway.”
A gTLD domain is any domain not associated with a country, such as .com, .net, and .org. On the other hand, a ccTLD is associated with a specific country. In addition to .ai pointing to Anguilla, other country-specific domains include .us (United States) and .uk (United Kingdom). Sites that use ccTLDs signal to visitors and search engines that the website is specific to a country.
But occasionally, Google may decide to switch a ccTLD like .ai to the gTLD category due to the majority of website owners and visitors seeing it as more generic rather than country focused. What’s surprising isn’t .ai domains receiving a gTLD status, but how long it took for Google to start treating .ai extension as gTLD. Many users had no idea that .ai was previously – or ever – associated with Anguilla.
Similarly, the small island of Tuvalu has lost its ccTLD .tv as site owners and site visitors associated .tv domains with television. Google published an updated list of the ccTLDs that it treats as gTLDs
, noting that it “may change” over time.
The confusion around the categorization of .ai domains highlights the importance of verifying whether a domain extension is a gTLD or ccTLD prior to assigning it to a website. Using the wrong domain extension can cause unintentional localization and negatively impact the website’s ability to rank globally