At the end of 1985, there were a whopping total of six domain names registered in the world. That number has expanded to 265 million names registered globally, according to Verisign’s Q3 industry brief.
As the world celebrates the web’s 25th anniversary, it seems fitting to acknowledge the network addresses that help us navigate through the robustness of the Internet today.
Below, we’ve listed a few of the most influential and interesting moments in the history of domain names.
1985: The first .com domain
Image: Screenshot Symbolics.com
On March 15, 1985, Symbolics Inc., a computer manufacturer in Massachusetts, registered the domain name Symbolics.com, making it the first appropriately registered .com domain in the world. Symbolics.com remained under the same ownership until 25 years later, in 2009, when it was purchased for an undisclosed sum by XF.com Investments. As it stands today, Symbolics.com is a strange hybrid: part-online museum, part-advertising space.
1995: Domain name registration is no longer free
Before 1995, anyone who wanted a domain name could register it free of charge. That all changed when the National Science Foundation awarded tech consulting company Network Solutions the ability to charge for registration. Domain prices began at $100 for a two-year registration.
1998: Privatization of the DNS and ICANN
In 1998, the Department of Commerce, under President Clinton’s urging, issued a proposal for privatizing the Domain Naming System (DNS), which was then controlled by the U.S. government. The document — known as the “Green Paper” — was created with the goal to both increase competition in the market and encourage more participation internationally. Public criticism of the proposal led to the creation of the “White Paper,” which addressed many concerns with the original document and led to the formation of ICANN.
2003: Truth in Domain Names Act
Incorporated into the PROTECT Act of 2003, this piece of legislation set a punishment for the creators of deceptive domain names, which lure users to a pornographic website without their consent. Early offenders included “Bobthebiulder.com” and “Teltubbies.com,” both of which led visitors to a pornographic site called “Hanky Panky College.”
2007: Most expensive domain sale
Image: Screenshot vacationrentals.com
The most expensive domain ever sold was VacationRentals.com, which was scooped up for the low, low price of $35 million. What’s more interesting is that its buyer, Ben Sharples, purchased the site primarily to keep it out of the hands of its competitor, Expedia. Another high-end domain sale occurred when ownership of the sex.com domain was sold for a whopping $13 million in 2010.
2012: Man registers 14,962 domains in 24 hours
In April 2012, Mike Mann, a domain speculator registered nearly 15,000 domain names in a span of 24 hours. In explanation of his actions, he said, simply, “I’m just really greedy. I want to own the world.”
— Nystrom, Andrew (@adnys) March 11, 2014
2013: Internet runs out of four letter .com-domains
In December 2013, WhoAPI, a domain data analysis startup, revealed that every possible combination of four-letter .com domain names had been registered. From AAAA.com to ZZZZ.com, all 456,976 combinations have been exhausted. The three-character .com domains have been used up since 1997.
Editor’s note: An earlier version stated that all combinations of four-character domains have been registered. In fact, 1.8 million four-character domains remain available. All four-letter combinations have been registered.
2014: More than 100 new generic top-level domains added
Generic top-level domains (gLTDs) are recognizable to the casual web user as the text coming at the end of a URL — .com, .org, .edu, etc. Recently, more than 100 new gLTDs were added, increasing the possibilities for new websites exponentially. Some of the new possibilities include generic words such as .cars and .music, as well as company names such as .apple and .hyundai.
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