Attempting to pinpoint the first domain name ever registered is a challenging task. While the public often assumes the internet was born in 1991 when Sir Tim Berners-Lee devised the World Wide Web, anyone with a computing background knows the internet’s origins date back to the 1960s and a very different world...
Blowing hot and cold
The Cold War inspired many technological breakthroughs. American military leaders needed to ensure nuclear missile bases could remain in contact with operational headquarters, even after the wholesale destruction of ground-level infrastructure. An early concept of an Intergalactic Computer Network gradually evolved into the world’s first wide area packet switching network, using TCP to transfer and reassemble data packets.
It could, therefore, be argued that the first domain name ever registered belonged to one of four computers in a modest west coast military network, in 1969. Each computer had a dedicated domain name to identify it, and this fledgling network gradually expanded during the 1970s into the Advanced Research Projects Agency Network (or ARPANET). The UK was connected via University College London in 1971 – the same year electronic mail was being distributed by ARPANET staff.
A symbolic act
However, some people believe the first domain name ever registered should officially belong to a commercial business, rather than a military division. That leads us to the Symbolics Computer Corporation in Massachusetts, who on March 15, 1985, acquired symbolics.com. Their modest site was used to promote their hardware, to a tiny audience almost entirely comprised of programmers and military personnel.
The IT community instinctively grasped the appeal of domain names. Within 18 months of Symbolics’ groundbreaking act, twenty other .com addresses had been registered. Some are in use to this day – brands like HP, IBM, Intel and Xerox still use the .com suffixes of their brand names registered back in 1986. Remember this was five years before the World Wide Web made its debut, and a full ten years before the public began migrating online in significant numbers. It also predated cybersquatting and the availability of country code TLDs.
33 years and counting
It’s worth paying a visit to symbolics.com today. The first domain name ever registered now celebrates its pioneering role by displaying live confirmations of new .com and .net addresses as they’re registered. Being able to watch an endless array of new domain names being born is bizarre, yet it shows how far we’ve come from the days when there was only one website in existence…