Dot-Com: ‘Three Letters and a Punctuation Mark’ That Changed the World
Twenty five years ago, on March 15, 1985, the first commercial dot-com domain name – Symbolics.com – was born. It was one of only six dot-com domain names registered that year (Among the 15 oldest are Northrop.com, Xerox.com, HP.com, IBM.com, Sun.com, Intel.com, TI.com and ATT.com.)
A lot has happened between then and now: the fall of the Berlin wall, the dot com boom and bust, two Gulf wars, Sept. 11, at least one major global economic crisis and the creations of YouTube and Facebook. To give you an impression of the passage of time, REO Speedwagon’s “Can’t Fight This Feeling” had just succeeded “Careless Whisper” by Wham! on the U.S. pop charts.
Today there are more than 80 million websites and the Internet, for many, is nearly as omnipresent as air.
What’s next for the Internet? We posed a few questions to Ken Silva, chief technology officer of VeriSign, which serves as the global registry for .com, .net, .tv, .cc, .name and .jobs domain names.
When was the tipping point for dot-com registrations and what caused it?
A tipping point for .com was in the early- to mid-1990’s with the advent of Internet browsers and consumer PC operating systems. Prior to the mass adoption of these tools by consumers, there was no compelling reason for organizations to have an Internet presence. Browsers had a significant impact as people now had a graphical user interface to view Web content. In addition, operating systems such as Windows 95 had built-in TCP/IP functionality for the user, making it much easier to access the Internet.
Looking back at the last 25 years, what are the most impressive changes the Internet has brought about?
The Internet has allowed people to overcome the challenges of time and distance to connect and communicate with each other. Nothing in this era has had such a widespread impact on the economy, nor has any medium shown the ability to bring about [more] social change than the Internet.
What are the biggest issues with the Internet?
There are a number of pressing issues, including maintaining the same high level of experience and performance of the Internet around the world and in different languages; enhancing and investing in the Internet infrastructure to stay ahead of growing usage and increasing cyber threats; and collaborating with the global Internet community to ensure we have the right tech policies in place for the future.
What are the top concerns people have about the Internet?
The average consumer or Internet user is finding it tough to stay ahead of the bad guys. Cyber attacks are becoming increasingly more sophisticated and malicious. Several of people’s top concerns about the Internet include preventing their identities from being stolen, having confidence in their e-commerce transactions, avoiding new threats posed by social networking sites, and questioning the security of cloud-based services.
What do the next 25 years hold for the dot com?
In looking ahead to the next chapter in the history of .com and its integral role in the Internet, there will be incredible new ways that people use and interact with .com and other Web sites. Not only people, but computers and other types of mobile devices. Over the next three years alone, the Internet will see the number of users increase by 500 million to 2.2 billion worldwide, and devices accessing the Internet increase from 1.6 billion devices to 2.7 billion devices. Based on the emergence of innovations like smart grids, electronic health care and radio frequency ID (RFID) tags, the Internet and associated technology systems will undergo profound changes over the next 25 years.
What is the next big thing for the dot com?
The next big innovation for .com is anyone’s guess. That is the beauty of .com. It enables innovations and advancements that no one could have predicted just a few years ago.
(Photo: Michael Dell in this 2007 photo shows you what a typical PC looked like in 1985, the year that Symbolics.com registered its domain name. That computer is now in the Smithsonian National Museum of American History, effectively mothballed. Photo: Reuters)