The importance of domain names is often overlooked. People are accustomed to entering terms like ‘http’ and ‘www’ into browser bars, but they rarely stop to consider what these terms mean or how they came about.
Below, we’ve listed ten things you might not know about domain names, starting with a common misconception…
#1. The internet wasn’t created in 1991. This was the year that British scientist Sir Tim Berners-Lee devised the World Wide Web at CERN in Switzerland, as a file sharing resource. His creation subsequently became the default platform for online content. However, the internet itself has been around since the 1960s when it was called ARPANET, and used for covert communications between American military bases.
#2. The first website domain name was registered in 1985. Six years before Sir Tim’s brainwave, the internet was already being seen as a future method of communication. Massachusetts IT firm Symbolics Computer Corporation registered symbolics.com to promote their services to the handful of geeks and gurus with internet-enabled desktop computers. Tablets and smartphones were still the stuff of science fiction back then
#3. Many of the domains registered in the 1980s are still in use. By the end of 1986, companies such as IBM, Intel and HP had registered the .com domains for their names and constructed rudimentary websites. Noisy computers slowly loaded text-based pages onto monochrome monitors, via modems capable of processing just 300 bits per second. Even 1990s’ dial-up modems could process 56,000 bits per second.
#4. In 1991, there was only one website visible on the World Wide Web. It was the World Wide Web Project, which described itself as “a wide-area hypermedia information retrieval initiative, aiming to give universal access to a large universe of documents”. This was three years before Yahoo was launched (with a business model requiring payment for listings) and seven years before Google began indexing websites for free.
#5. The sites we take for granted today haven’t always been around. When the millennium celebrations took place and computers defied predictions of a Y2K meltdown, many of today’s biggest websites didn’t exist. Wikipedia arrived in 2001, WordPress and LinkedIn followed in 2003, and it was this decade before Pinterest and Instagram signaled the social media revolution was in full swing.
#6. In the beginning, there was only a handful of top level domains. The internet was intended as a corporate resource, so TLDs including .com and .org were obvious additions. Before long, every country in the world received a country code TLD like .us or .uk. But it was 2001 when ICANN (the internet’s regulatory body) began batch-releasing generic TLDs like .site and .store to alleviate demand for .com domains.
#7. Before ICANN was founded in 1998, cybersquatting was a major problem. The first seven years of the World Wide Web saw speculative investors bulk-buying thousands of company-themed domain names, and then advertising them at inflated prices. Companies had little choice but to pay over the odds for their own domains. Nowadays, the sheer diversity of TLDs makes cybersquatting impractical.
#8. Country code TLDs perform poorly overseas. There’s a trend for spelling out words and phrases where ccTLDs form the last two letters. However, search engines rate a website’s relevance based partly on whether it has a domestic or foreign ccTLD. So a European company registering www.comeflywith.us would be regarded as an American platform, but wouldn’t perform well in searches in its own country.
#9. Iconic domains command huge premiums. The highest price ever paid for a single domain name was $13 million for sex.com in 2010. (It’s important to note insurance.com’s $35.6 million sale the same year included other assets and therefore isn’t directly comparable.) Other domains to approach the $10 million mark include porn.com and porno.com, indicating a healthy market for certain types of domain.
#10. It’s still possible to buy affordable domain names. Midphase is currently selling .online domains for just $1.49 a year – less than you’d pay for a coffee. We can also provide add-on services at low prices, from website building tools to domain privacy. This replaces your ownership details on the global WHOIS database with those of a proxy, preserving the anonymity of non-commercial site owners.
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