Do you ever find yourself musing over the history of the internet?
The answer is domains.
The online world as you know it wouldn’t be the same without domains. It would be practically impossible to find the information you needed without a huge directory. Since the first ever domain name was registered in 1985, the internet has exploded.
In 1985, there was only 6 domain names registered in the world. Now, there are approximately 140 million .com registrations alone. If you consider all the new TLDs like .info and.co.uk, the number of registered domains reaches well over 300 million.
So, where did this incredible journey begin? What was the first ever registered domain name, and is it still alive and kicking today?
The history of the domain name: What you need to know
Everyone enjoys having a place they can call their own.
In the digital world, if you want to carve out your own corner of the internet, you need a domain name.
Before we get into the history of the first ever domain name, it’s worth taking a closer look at how domain names have evolved over the years. The “DNS” or “Domain Name System” is the universal naming system required to assign addresses to web servers and pages. It’s an infinite phone book. A domain name is how you find the content you’re looking for online. Without domain names, the internet would be useless.
Let’s explore some of the most significant events to take place in the history of domain names.
- 1985: The first ever domain name is registered: The world’s first domain name is registered, paving the way for millions of .com domains.
- 1995: Registering a domain name is no longer free: The National Science Foundation provides Network Solutions with the ability to charge for domain registration. Domain prices start at $50 per year.
- 1997: No more 3-letter .com domain names: Every possible 3-letter .com domain is already registered, from AAA.com to ZZZ.com.
- 1998: The Privatisation of the DNS: The Department of Commerce in the US issues a proposal to privatise the domain naming system. The DNS was previously controlled by the US government. The Green Paper document was created to improve participation on the internet. Public criticism of the proposal led to the formation of ICANN.
- 2003: Truth in Domain Names Act: The Truth in Domain Names Act pushes website owners to create domain names that describe the nature of the website. This reduces the risk of people being lured to inappropriate sites by innocent-sounding names.
- 2007: Most Expensive Domain Name is sold: In 2007, the most expensive domain name to date was sold at the price of $35 million. The VacationRentals.com domain was purchased by Ben Sharples.
- 2012: 15,000 Domain Names Registered in one day: Mike Mann registers almost 15,000 domain names over 24 hours. He said, in a statement, the reason for his actions was that he was “really greedy” and wanted to “own the world.”
- 2013: Internet runs out of four-letter .com domains: WhoAPI, a data analysis start-up revealed in 2013 that every possible four-letter .com domain was registered.
- 2014: More than 100 new TLDs Added: More than 100 suffixes, like .org, .edu, and even .music appear to give people more options for naming their website.
The story of the first ever domain name
A lot of interesting things have happened throughout the history of the domain name. However, the whole story begins with one crucial act: the registration of the first domain. So, what was the first ever registered domain name?
According to experts, Symbolics.com earns the title of the oldest registered domain. Symbolics.com was officially bought on the 15th of March in 1985. That’s the same year that the first Calvin and Hobbes strip was published, and Mike Tyson debuted as a boxer. Although the first domain title was actually created in the January of 1985 (Nordu.net), Symbolics was the first name to be registered with the correct DNS process.
Symbolics.com was the digital home of a Massachusetts-based business called Symbolics Computer Corp. The company was well-known for the development of a computer language called Lisp. This is the second oldest programming language that’s still used today. Back in 1985, Symbolics was an incredibly popular brand. The syntax of Lisp was also highly praised by industry legends at the time.
Unfortunately, the personal computing boom had a complicated impact on Symbolics.com. In 1993, they were forced to file for bankruptcy. Although the company continued to exist, they needed to change their entire operating strategy.
Eventually, the CEO of XF Investments, Aron Meystedt reached out to the team behind Symbolics.com and asked them whether they’d be willing to sell their domain name. Since Symbolics was amid a financial crisis, the offer to sell their domain name was one they were ready to jump at. The digital business handed their name over to Aron Meystedt and continued trading via symbolics-dks.com instead.
You’re probably wondering why someone would want to buy the domain name of a struggling company at that time. After all, there were still plenty of other domains out there. The simple answer is that even though Symbolics started to lose popularity as a brand, the domain name was still very compelling. People were drawn to Symbolics.com because it was the first ever domain name. Hundreds of thousands of people began to visit Symbolics each day, just to see what the website looked like.
When Meystedt decided to purchase Symbolics.com, he saw a tremendous opportunity to increase his company’s revenue and support the “betterment of humanity” as he put it. According to Aron, he was excited to own the Symbolics.com domain because it was a part of history. As such, Meystedt’s company chose to turn the domain into a sort of virtual museum. Today, it exists as a tribute to the world’s first domain name and the growth of the internet.
From first domain name to virtual museum
Today, anyone with the question: “What was the first ever registered domain name?” can learn everything they need to know just by visiting Symbolics.com. The website today is about as simple as they come. There’s a dark background, a simple navigation bar, and a couple of social media buttons to get you started.
When Aron Meystedt bought Symbolics.com, he had no plans to sell it or use it for aggressive advertising purposes. Instead, the website has become a hub of education for people who are interested in the early days of the internet. You can also visit the collection for the “Big Internet Museum” here.
The great thing about the Big Internet Museum is that it’s packed full of interesting information, including a permanent collection, limited-time exhibitions, and even the option for visitors to donate if they want to. It’s just like a standard museum, except that you can visit whenever you like since it’s hosted online. When you navigate through the site, you’ll find everything from an audio-visual history wing, to a social media wing and more.
Every individual wing comes with numerous exhibits and exciting lessons to learn. This is a fantastic overview of some of the most critical moments in Internet history. Ultimately, we can’t think of a better way to use the world’s first domain name. There are even links within the museum that can lead you to other resources if you need additional information about a specific topic.
Not only has the first ever domain name become a valuable insight into the history of the internet, but it’s also highly interactive too. Visitors have the option to fill out contact forms and submit their ideas for future exhibits. If you can’t think of anything to add to the site, then you can simply find out more about the answer to “What was the first ever registered domain name?” Or, you can head over to the ‘vote’ section of the site, where you can check out ideas submitted by other users. Once you find one that you like, you’ll be able to vote to support your preferred exhibits.
The oldest domain names in internet history
Today, it’s difficult to imagine what the world as we know it would be like if we didn’t have the Internet. So many activities that we rely on today are dependent on the world wide web. You go online to connect with members of your family, complete important work for your career, and more. There are some young teenagers today that can’t even remember a time before the internet existed.
The first ever domain names were registered in the 1980s and 90s when personal computers were just making their way into people’s homes for the first time. Some of the oldest domains in the world include:
- BBN.com – 24th of April 1985
- Think.com – 24th of May 1985
- MCC.com – 11th of July 1985
- DEC.com – 30th of September 1985
- Northrop.com – 7th of November 1985
Perhaps surprisingly to some, some of the first domain names to be registered in the world are still alive and kicking today.
What’s more, they’re home to some of the world’s biggest brands too. Here are a handful of popular domain names that are much older than you’d expect:
1. Intel.com - March 25th, 1986
Intel is one of the best-known technology companies in the world, renowned for its processors and microchips. However, you may not know that Intel was also one of the first companies to get their hands on a domain name in 1986. The company registered Intel.com only a year after the first domain name was bought, and they’ve been growing ever since.
2. IBM - March 19th, 1986
Another computing company that was quick to adopt the online world is IBM. Today, IBM has earned a reputation as a pioneer in the industry, innovating in everything from artificial intelligence to automation. IBM has been around since 1911, and they registered their domain name in March 1986. IBM.com has been around ever since.
3. HP.com - March 3rd, 1986
You might notice that many of the oldest domain names in history were claimed by digital and computing companies like HP, the Hewlett-Packard company. The reason for this is that tech organisations were early adopters of the internet era. When HP launched their domain name (the ninth .com domain in the world), the Palo Alto Garage where the business first began was also declared a historical landmark.
4. SRI.com - January 17th, 1986
Once known as the Stanford Research Institute, SRI International is a non-profit scientific analysis company founded in 1946. The organisation was the eighth company in the world to register a .com domain on January 17th, 1986. They launched their website when the SRI artificial intelligence centre developed its Procedural Reasoning System, or “PRS.”
5. Xerox.com - January 9th, 1986
Xerox, one of the best-known brands in the world for printing solutions, purchased the domain name for their website in the early days of 1986. The company still holds the rights to Xerox.com, and they’re going just as strong as ever.
6. BBN.com - April 24th, 1985
The BBN.com domain name was first registered on April 24th, 1985 by Bolt Beranek and Newman Tech. BBN was an American technology brand located in Massachusetts. The business also claims to be responsible for inventing email in 1971. When BBN became a subsidiary of Raytheon, the organisation held onto the domain name, although it now leads you to Raytheon.com instead.
Domain names and the evolution of the Internet
Answering the question of “What was the first ever registered domain name” and examining the titles that emerged in the initial days of the internet is a great way to look back on our digital history. A lot has changed in the domain name space over the years.
Almost every company that has ever registered online has attempted to get a .com domain name. Perhaps that’s why many of the shorter .com names were utterly used up within a few years of the internet going live. It’s not just companies that have seen value in .com domains either. Investors like Kevin Ham (otherwise known as the man who owns the internet), are responsible for snapping up dozens of attractive domains. One of the world’s best-known artists, Lana Del Ray is the daughter of a man who also invests heavily in domain names.
With people, brands, and organisations all rushing to get the domain name that will help them to grow and thrive in the digital world, it’s easy to see why it’s so hard to register the right title today. We’re edging towards an increasingly restricted number of potential domain names, as countless companies struggle to claim their corner of the internet. Recently, hosting company, GoDaddy spent over $100 million buying portfolios of premium domain names from private sellers.
It’s hard to believe that there was only a handful of domain names in the world in 1986.
The biggest problem with the digital world is limited supply for an excessive demand. There’s only a finite number of .com domain names that can be created in the world today. The number of simple, and memorable domain names with 3 syllables or less is even smaller. Despite this, the potential for innovation is limitless. There are currently 3.4 million sole proprietors in the UK, and business ideas are being dreamed up every second.
As the digital world becomes more competitive, buying the best domain name isn’t just about having a space for your company online anymore. A domain name is becoming a lucrative asset for any brand to have, and an essential part of your growth strategy.
Choosing your first domain name: Learning from Symbolics.com
In an era when domain name options are becoming increasingly limited, now is our chance to learn from the history of the first domain name. Symbolics.com was there when the Internet was first established, and it formed part of the initial foundations of the digital world. Symbolics.com has witnessed all of the major events and achievements that have been accomplished in the age of the Internet. As such, it’s a fantastic home for a chronicle of the world wide web. As an Internet museum, Symbolics.com reminds of how diverse and transformative the online world can be.
Perhaps most importantly of all, Symbolics.com shows us that choosing a domain name isn’t something that today’s companies can afford to underestimate. After all, long after the Symbolics brand began to struggle, Symbolics.com continues to draw hundreds of thousands of visitors each day. The domain name took on a unique value of its own. Memorable, short and simple, Symbolics.com is a title that remains relevant today, years after the business owners became irrelevant.
Now that Symbolics.com is a museum, it stands as a symbol of the changes the Internet has been through. When you’re choosing your own domain name, it pays to think about how you can create something that’s just as timeless and transformative.
You can never have the same history and heritage as the world’s first ever domain name. However, that doesn’t mean that you can’t create something incredibly by choosing the right URL. Selecting a name that’s brandable, memorable and authentic gives you roots that you can embed into the digital landscape. With those roots, your business can continue to grow and evolve over the years. Your domain name continues to provide value, regardless of what’s happening with your organisation.
Remember, domain names:
- Deliver credibility: The right title is an introduction to your business in today’s digital world. It’s similar to a virtual street address, giving credibility to your brand, and helping your audience trust you. Without the right domain name, you’d struggle to create a relationship with your audience, regardless of what you sell.
- Provide you with a brandable space on the Internet: Today’s businesses need to be active online if they want to thrive. Your domain name is how you continue to attract valuable attention and engagement from audience members from around the world. The potential of a company with the right domain name is limitless.
- Provide value: Look at how Symbolics.com managed to earn money from their domain name even after their business began to falter. Domain names are valuable pieces of digital real estate. Used correctly, they can deliver value that’s either connected to your products and services or completely separate.
Is it time to choose your first domain name?
Your first domain name might not be a part of the story of the Internet like Symbolics.com. However, it is a crucial component in your brand’s narrative. Your domain name, just like your company name, is a critical representation of your business and what it stands for. Get it right, and you’ll continue to see the benefits for years to come. Get it wrong, and you could find yourself falling into obscurity, like so many unsuccessful domains in the past.
In an age where domain names have become a precious commodity for business owners, it’s important not to take yours for granted.
With help from an agency like Naimeo, you ensure that you have both a company and domain name that contributes to the evolution of your organisation. We’ll provide you with a memorable domain name that you can hold onto throughout the decades. What’s more, you’ll also get an increasingly rare .com domain with the title that you choose.
Invest in your place in history with the right domain name. Contact Naimeo today.