Domain names may seem to have been around forever, but even the oldest COM names are only in their 20’s. The first COM wasn’t registered until 1985.
The Domain Name System (DNS) wasn’t introduced until 1984. DNS translates human readable names into their numerical IP addresses and vice-versa.
The first COM name was registered in March 15, 1985 by Massachusetts-based Symbolics Computer Corporation. No longer an active company; Symbolics.com was sold for an unknown sum in 2009.
While the World Wide Web would eventually take the world by storm, it certainly didn’t happen in 1985 or even give an inkling of just how big an impact it would have on global commerce at that point. By the end of 1985, there were only four other.com domain names registered.
EDU domain names outpaced.com registrations in 1985 with 12 universities registering edu names in that year.
According to Wikipedia, the oldest ORG name was also registered in 1985. Mitre.org’s registration occurred in July of that year and the name is still registered to the Mitre Corporation – a private, not-for-profit corporation providing engineering and technical services to the U.S. Federal government.
The oldest COM isn’t the oldest generic TLD however. On January 1, 1985; nordu.net was registered by the Nordic Infrastructure for Research & Education (NORDUnet). It would be nearly two years before the next.net registration would occur; which was nsf.net on November 1, 1986.
It would take until late 1987 before 100 COM domain names were registered and by that time, even tech industry heavyweights such as Microsoft were yet to register their company name as a COM; with Microsoft not doing so until the first of May in 1991.
A factor likely contributing to the initial lacklustre registration of names was the World Wide Web didn’t exist in 1987. It wasn’t until 1989 that Tim Berners-Lee published a paper entitled “Information Management: A Proposal”, that detailed how the World Wide Web would operate. Even by that stage, the term “World Wide Web” didn’t exist – Berners-Lee didn’t come up with the term until the following year.
By the end of 1992, there were only approximately 26 publicly accessible sites available on the World World Wide web.
Ten years after the first registration, there were still only 120,000.com domains- a drop in the ocean compared to the close to 100 million .coms registered by the end of 2011.
Use of the World Wide Web really didn’t start to blossom until the late 90’s and growth in the number of global Internet users would really start rocketing in subsequent years; with approximately 480% growth between 2000 and 2011.