We all know .COM, .NET, and .ORG, but a spate of link shortening services have cropped up with unfamiliar endings, most famously Bit.ly. Twitter may have pushed this fad the hardest, because it limits posts to a mere 140 characters and sharing long links is impossible. So where did these link shrinkers get such personalized names?

The domains we all know are generic top level domains, but websites in other countries have their own country code top-level domains (ccTLDs) as well. While some countries won’t let you use a ccTLD without residency, most have no restrictions, which opens up a lot of new domains to companys and people looking for a way to distinguish their URL.

Bit.ly, and its cousin ow.ly both use the .ly ccTLD which comes from Libya. Here’s a quick tour of some of these trendy URLs and where they come from:

  • Awe.sm – general link shortening service: San Marino
  • Tcrn.ch – tracked links from Tech Crunch: Switzerland
  • nyti.ms – New York Times short links: Monserrat
  • shopsocial.ly – social network meets shopping: Lybia
  • WE.tv – website for WE television network: Tuvalu

The .tv domain name has been marketed to media companies as a way to better describe video based sites online. It’s a neat idea, and it’s also helping economic development in the small island nation of Tuvalu. Unfortunately, the island may be headed for a life underwater, which could theoretically invalidate all .tv addresses.

Thinking about how you could use a ccTLD to make your website address more unique? Check out the full list of approved domains. Or better yet, order a Domains of the World map, which not only has the whole list, but shows the geographic location of each domain!