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An official website is one that has been sanctioned by an authority to represent itself or its properties online. Individuals, companies, governments, and other organizations can be such an authority. An official celebrity website, for example, could be one that has been authorized or created by the celebrity. It could not, however, be one that has been set up by a fan who has never asked the celebrity to acknowledge it as official.
Any kind of domain might be used by official websites. Top-level domains, such as .com, .org, or .edu, are the most common. An official website for a government entity will frequently identify itself as sanctioned by that government with a specific second-level domain — .gov.ca, for example, is owned and managed exclusively by the government of Canada. The United States is the only country in the world whose government uses its own restricted top-level domain, .gov, for this purpose.
Another top-level domain controlled by the US government is .edu. This is used by post-secondary institutions that have been accredited by an agency recognized by the US Department of Education. In other nations, second-level domains are often used to indicate higher educational institutions. The UK's .ac.uk is one example of this.
Official websites vary in terms of their purposes. An official website might be primarily commercial, educational, news- or entertainment-related, governmental, or have another or a mixed objective. A commercial site belongs to a company that has created the site to help sell its products or services, for instance. The official website of an educational institution is often both promotional as well as informational, and several institutions have also integrated learning features into their sites.
Many older types of news sources — such as newspapers, magazines, and television or radio broadcasting — now also deliver news via an official website. Most governments today use official sites to communicate with their citizens as well as within their own departments, to collect information or provide forms, and to organize activities. In the case of a very large organization, it is perhaps most common that organization leaders seek to accomplish a variety of goals by launching an official website.
In some cases, an official website might be launched simply to provide an air of professionalism. In many countries, people now tend to expect major organizations and public figures to have official websites. Some people might even question the status or value of a business that lacks an online presence.