Lessons Learned From The Internet’s First Domain Names

Lessons Learned From The Internet’s First Domain Names

Jeffrey is the Co-Founder of Saw.com, focusing on domain sales and acquisitions. Visit Saw.com if you want to purchase a domain.

I love the internet. I love domain names, and I also love history. Being at the age I am, I had the opportunity to see the internet start as the wild west when it was thousands of message boards, chatrooms and loads of pirated music. The good old days were back when one of the most well-known taglines was “You’ve got mail,” Netscape was your browser, Clippy was crashing computers everywhere, Napster/Limewire was pumping music through Winamp, and Minesweeper was the staple game on every Windows Operating system.

This was a place where large corporations didn’t know what to do about the internet or perhaps even attempt to understand it. Some of these companies saw the internet as a fad and did not capitalize on the opportunity that many of the established internet brands did that lead the market today. Like me, the internet has grown up, and it is a totally different place than it was more than 25 years ago when many of us think it started.

It didn’t start in the mid to late ’90s or early 2000s. It happened even earlier — much earlier. Try more than 15 years earlier. On March 15, 1985, the first domain ever was registered: Symbolics.com. If you go to the domain today, the owners of it have turned it into an online museum of the internet focusing on the innovation, technology and science that got us where we are today.

The next nine domains took just under a year to get registered:

1. April 14, 1985: BBN.com

2. May 24, 1985: Think.com

3. July 11, 1985: MCC.com

4. Sept. 30, 1985: DEC.com

5. Nov. 7, 1985: Northrop.com

6. Jan. 9, 1986: Xerox.com

7. Jan. 17, 1986: SRI.com

8. March 3, 1986: HP.com

9. March 5, 1986: BellCore.com 

Domain valuations are based on many metrics, ranging from the extension, length, industry the domain falls into, how easy it is to spell and how easy it is to remember, along with some additional factors.

Of every word available to register, the first one was Symbolics.com. I think it is fitting for the first domain ever to be a word one has probably never heard or has rarely heard since the internet is its own quirky unique place. But as a raw domain, it is hard to spell, not so easy to remember and really does not fit in any specific industry. I find that BBN, MCC, DEC, SRI and HP are all reasonably valuable, but it’s extremely interesting that all of these domains are initials of companies, and the companies that registered them did not also register the entire name of their business. HP.com is a great domain, and if the company called HP did not exist, the domain would still be worth close to a million dollars. When creating this domain name, why did this other company not register as HewlettPackard.com? They didn’t get around to that until 10 years later. Sorry, SRI.com is not short for Siri; Apple.com wouldn’t be registered for another year. The same applies to Northrop.com. Wouldn’t they want to register their entire company name NorthropGrummond.com? Or what about North.com or NG.com?

Rounding out our first 10 registered names, we finish with BellCore.com. To have the opportunity to own Bell.com, Ring.com, Ding.com, or even BC.com and register BellCore.com over those leaves me scratching my head. When looking at the first 100 names ever registered, you can see where some of the most famous brands showed up to the party — Intel.com (13) Att.com (15), GE.com (21) — and more that do not make much sense — Bell-Atl.com (20), ParcPlace.com (76), Mentat.com (93).

The internet is the last bastion of the American Dream, where anyone can buy a domain name, build a website and be open for business, making money in days. With so many regulations, permitting and licensing, trying to enter the more traditional ways of conducting business like opening a restaurant, a florist or a corner store does not make as much sense as it used to in previous generations. If you are going to open a business and take advantage of the opportunity the internet can give you, make sure to buy a high-quality domain name. It is easy to say hindsight is 20/20, but 20 years from now, we will be saying the same thing about what is happening now.

Buy a domain that is short, sweet, easy to spell and easy to remember. Even if it costs a few hundred or a couple thousand dollars more, buying your HP.com or Think.com now over BellCore.com can make all the difference over the life of your business. I guarantee it.


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