The internet has become an integral part of our daily lives. But have you ever wondered how it all started and what the first ever registered domain name was? Join us as we take a walk down memory lane and learn about the history of domain names and the origins of the internet.
The Beginning of the Internet and ARPANET
The early beginnings of the internet can be traced back to ARPANET (Advanced Research Projects Agency Network), which was funded by the U.S. Department of Defense in the 1960s. ARPANET was a very basic version of a network that allowed multiple computers to communicate with each other. The goal was to develop a network that could continue to function even if part of it was taken out by an attack or disaster.
In the early days, ARPANET consisted only of four host computers that could transfer data between each other. However, as more universities and organizations joined, it grew into a larger network. This laid the foundation for the Internet as we know it today.
Birth of Domain Names and the DNS
The domain name system (DNS) was introduced in 1984, which associated website names with their numerical IP addresses. This made it easier for people to remember website addresses rather than numbers.
The first ever domain name registered was Symbolics.com on March 15, 1985. Symbolics was a computer manufacturer and the domain was registered by the company for its website. This marked the beginning of the use of domain names.
Growth of Domain Registrations in the Early Days
In the first few years after the creation of the DNS, domain registrations were limited to companies, organizations, and educational institutions that were part of ARPANET. Some of the early domains included mit.edu, northrop.com, bellcore.com, cmu.edu, and nasa.gov.
Domain registrations picked up pace in 1993 after the launch of the World Wide Web and internet browsers. More companies and individuals could now see the value of having an online presence and started purchasing domain names. From just 150+ domains in 1985, the number grew to over 10,000 registered domains by 1993.
The Role of Network Solutions in Early Domain Registrations
In the early 1990s, Network Solutions played an important role in domain name registrations and controlling the market. They were handed the responsibility of managing domain name registrations by the National Science Foundation.
During this time, Network Solutions charged a fee of $100 for a two-year domain registration period. This fee remained fixed between 1993 to 1995 which helped them register millions of .com, .net, .org, and .edu domains.
How Domain Registrations Worked in the Early Days
Registering a domain name today just takes a few minutes. But in the early days, the process was manual and required paperwork to be mailed or faxed to Network Solutions. After registering the domain and receiving confirmation, the rest of setting up DNS records had to be handled independently.
Since the process was manual, it meant processing delays were common. It could take anywhere from 3 weeks to several months for a domain registration request to go through. The Weber brothers who launched MacWarehouse in 1984 have said it took them almost a year to get their macwarehouse.com domain name.
Other Early Domains Worth Mentioning
Here are some other notable early domain names and their registration dates that are worth mentioning:
- McDonalds.com: January 1985
- Nissan.com: September 1987
- Amazon.com: November 1994
- eBay.com: September 1995
- Yahoo.com: January 1995
Many of these early pioneers have gone on to become giant corporations and household brand names. The value of these early domains today is immense considering the online dominance of these companies.
The Domain Registration Market Opens Up
Until 1994, Network Solutions had a complete monopoly on domain registrations. This allowed them to charge a fixed rate for registrations without worrying about competition. However, in September 1995 registrations were opened up to other companies by the National Science Foundation.
This was a pivotal movement that shaped how domain registrations work today. It opened up the domain registration market and led to competitive pricing and more choices for customers.
Rise in Speculative Domain Registrations in the 1990s
After domain registrations opened up in 1995, speculative buying of domain names became very common. People registered domains related to companies, products, sports, and more with the hope of selling them for a huge profit later.
Some popular culture names registered speculatively included names like drugs.com, loans.com, and baseball.com. In the 1990s, domain name speculation was like the modern-day cryptocurrency mania and companies spent millions to acquire domains.
How DNS Architecture Evolved Over Time
The initial DNS architecture developed by Paul Mockapetris in 1983 is still largely followed today. Over the years enhancements have been made but the basic functionality remains the same.
Some things that have evolved include:
- Expansion of TLDs beyond early ones like .com and .org
- Introduction of IDNs that allow non-English characters
- IPv6 to deal with IP scarcity
- Security mechanisms like DNSSEC
However, Mockapetris designed the system well and it has withstood almost 40 years of exponential internet growth.
The First Website Ever Created
It’s impossible to talk about internet history without mentioning the first-ever website. We have domain names today because the internet revolutionized communication by connecting computers. However, the World Wide Web took things even further by making information accessible through a graphical interface.
The first ever website in the world was created by Tim Berners-Lee in August 1991 on the CERN institutional servers in Switzerland. The website provided information on the World Wide Web project that aimed to connect hypertext documents over the Internet.
Since then, the World Wide Web has transformed human civilization and completely reshaped how we communicate and consume information. Today there are over 1.7 billion websites, but it all traces back to that server at CERN.
We hope you enjoyed this nostalgic walk down memory lane from the early beginnings of ARPANET to the first-ever .com domain name and website. It’s amazing to see how exponentially both the Internet and the World Wide Web have grown since their humble beginnings.
The early pioneers of domains and websites laid the foundation that has allowed us to be more connected than ever before. And with 5G, AI, VR, and other technologies maturing, it will be exciting to see what the next 40 years bring!