‘Dot com’ turns 30

Chuck Bednar for redOrbit.com – @BednarChuck

Anyone who has ever so much as briefly browsed the World Wide Web will be familiar with “dot com” as both a term and as the most commonly-used website extension in the world today, and the iconic symbol of the Internet celebrated its 30th birthday on Sunday.

As hard as it is to picture the Web without “dot com” (because, let’s face it, redOrbit.net or redOrbit.org just doesn’t have the same ring to it), a VentureBeat story published this past weekend points out that that things started off rather slowly for the extension. In fact, by 1987, two years after the first “dot com”page went online, only 100 domains had been registered.

So what was the first ‘dot com’ website?

According to Business Insider, that honor belongs to Symbolics.com, which is still in existence today and even touts itself as the “first and oldest registered domain name on the Internet.” It was originally purchased by a company with the same name, Symbolics, on March 15, 1985.

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The website goes on to explain that Symbolics was a company best known for developing Lisp, a computer programming language invented in 1958. The company, which had even gone public at one point, filed for bankruptcy in 1993 and is now privately held. The firm sold the website to a company called XF.com Investments 16 years later, and relocated to symbolics-dks.com.

‘Dot com’ – the early years

At first, the US Department of Defense was in charge of the domain registration process, and while there were few ‘dot com’ websites at first, VentureBeat notes that some prominent firms were among those early adopters. Websites founded between 1985 and the end of 1987 include Xerox.com, HP.com, IBM.com, Intel.com, Adobe.com and Apple.com

The website describes 1990 as “a key year for the Internet,” as the World Wide Web came into existence at the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN) in Switzerland – yes, the same organization responsible for the discovery of the Higgs boson. The advent of the Web gave users an easy-to-use, accessible interface and led to the Internet’s eventual popularity explosion.

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In the years that followed, many “milestone dot com moments have taken place,” VentureBeat added, starting with Microsoft.com in 1993. In 1995, AOL.com, Amazon.com and eBay.com came into existence, followed two years later by Google.com. In 2004, thefacebook.com (now Facebook.com) was founded, followed by YouTube.com in 2005 and Twitter.com in 2006.

The present – and future – of the ‘dot com’ domain

Sophie Curtis of The Telegraph reports that ‘dot com’ is currently “ the world’s most recognized web suffix,” with more than 115 such domains registered globally. Approximately 42 percent of all web addresses end in the extension. In all, these pages are viewed trillions of times every day, leading Curtis to state that the suffix “is now almost synonymous with the internet.”

“Dot com is more than just an address. It’s a globally recognized and respected brand itself that nearly every major global brand, including 100 per cent of the Fortune 500, has entrusted with their online presence,” added Jim Bidzos, executive chairman, president and CEO of Verisign, the authoritative registry operator of the dot com domain. Yet its future may be in doubt.

The reason is its popularity. With so many ‘dot com’ domains having been registered, it can be difficult and costly for businesses and consumers to secure the ‘dot com’ website of their choice. Some firms have taken to adding country codes to their websites, while the industry regulators at ICANN are looking to reorganize the online world by introducing more than one thousand new top-level domains (TLDs) or web address endings.

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“The aim of releasing these new TLDs is not just to free up more space on the internet, but to encourage greater competition and consumer choice,” Curtis explained. “Although the adoption of these new domains is still in its infancy, the numbers are rising and are anticipated to increase as awareness of new TLDs continues to spread.”

However, she adds that Verisign “insists that the emergence of new TLDs will not hinder the growth of dot-com. The total number of possible dot-com domain names tallied at over 1098, it said, so there is still plenty of scope for registering original domain names on dot-com.” In short, the Web’s most popular address ending should live to see its 40th birthday after all.


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