Apr15

Where Are All the Single Letter Domains?

Posted by Kelly Kirkham

Ever notice that we don’t have a brand in mind for A.com? What about B.com? Read on for the answer to all single letter domains, from A.com to Z.com…

In-demand web addresses don’t come cheap: in fact they can cost millions. The normal protocol is the shorter the name, the higher the price. This got me thinking as to why we never see single letter domain names like a.com or f.com. It would seem that these short, easy-to-remember domains would go for a pretty penny. After some digging I found the answer…

In 1993 the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) explicitly and officially reserved all one and two digit domains in .com, .net and .org. The few domains that were previously registered were then grandfathered in. This left very few single and double digit domains available – only eight single digit domains actually – but most have interesting stories behind them.

An American computer scientist and administer to IANA reportedly registered the remaining 23 single-letter .com domains on January 1, 1992 with the intention of preventing a company from commercially controlling a letter of the alphabet. Ironically, the only three single-letter .coms to be registered are also the least used letters of the alphabet.

For example, Q.com is a redirect to a Centurylink setup page. This seems like a strange way to use such a unique domain but I digress… The address was originally bought by a company called JG and then sold to Quest, which later became Centurylink.

HomePage.com originally registered Z.com, only to sell to Nissan Motors. This makes much more sense considering their line of Nissan Z. If you check the address today though you will most likely not understand a word without a translation. GMO Global now owns the domain as a part of their international strategy.

Weinstein & DePaolis, a somewhat mysterious business, owned x.com, but showed content for someone named Rob Walker who apparently worked for Netscape. There is little to no information about Weinstein & DePaolis and Rob Walker after this point. The domain is now owned by Elon Musk, a billionaire entrepreneur, as a part of his PayPal venture, although it doesn’t show any content currently.

The question remains as to why IANA decided to reserve these domains. In an announcement from 2007, ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) stated that “ICANN intends to synthesize responses to the forum and present proposed methods for allocation of single-letter and single-digit domain names at the second level for community consideration.”.  The statement also reserves all future gTLDs that could be released in the future.

The ICANN rules do not affect .org domains; they have been set aside separately to be registered with special permissions. Project 94 is an organization that allocates the distribution of the 94 one- and two-character .org domain names that were never released. They have teamed up with domain registrars to create availability “to registrants who not only reflect the core attributes of the .ORG domain but also reinforce the trust and value of the .ORG brand.”. Learn more at Project94.org.

Another somewhat strange idea in domain rules is the concept of the dash (-). Dashes are often seen in web addresses which is fine  as long as the address does not begin or end with a dash. For example, I-Love-Dash.com is acceptable, whereas -Go-Dash.com or Go-Dash-.com is not. There is most likely a reasonable idea behind the heavily mandated dash, but I have yet to discover it.

According to the Associated Press on November 28, 2005, ICANN was at one time considering the release of single character domains (excluding the dash, of course). The rumored reports stated that each domain could be worth over a million dollars each. After much deliberation and controversy, ICANN decided against the release, leaving the world scratching their heads…Rumor has it that perhaps someday we will see the return of single letter domains but until then we will browse Centurylink’s strange use for q.com and imagine what could have been.

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