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Domain Names Revisited

Domain Names Revisited

Every website has its own domain name which identifies one or more IP addresses. A distinction is made between top level domain (TLD) and second level domain (SLD). Suppose you have a have website called MyAwesomeWebsite.com then the .com part is the TLD part of the URL and MyAwesomeWebsite the SLD. These days it is very easy to purchase domains on the internet unlike during the 1980’s when the term domain name was introduced.

When the military during the 1960’s first began connecting computers to each other over Wide Area Networks a need for unique identifiers was born. Enter the IP address (Internet Protocol) in the early 1970’s. The IP address of any website is a string of numbers and as you may know simply typing this number into your web browser will take you to the requested page.

With the ever increasing amount of network users a demand for a simpler, more user-friendly system was called for. Enter the Domain Name System (DNS). This system, developed in 1984 at the University of Wisconsin, allows for a DNS server to assign a name to an IP number. This allowed for the use of website addresses which consisted of words instead of numbers. In case you would ever get a DNS server error when trying to access a website you may find that if you were to know the IP address you can still access the page!

Now that websites could have names in plain English a standard had to be agreed on. In 1985 7 top level domains where introduced: GOV, EDU, COM, MIL, ORG, NET and INT. The very first registered commercial domain name was Symbolics.com by Symbolics Inc. in 1985. Initially the registration of domain names was free and the number of new domains increased slowly during the mid 80’s. By 1992 only 15,000 dot.com domains were registered.

The 90’s saw a boom of commercial activity on the internet and the domain name registration became a paid service. This also led to the formation of a non-profit regulatory body overseeing the domain name system: the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN). This organization sees to it that there is a healthy competition between companies in the domain registration industry which is huge considering that at present more than 19 million domain names are registered. These days domain names can be big business, e.g. in 2010 Sex.com sold for $ 13 million.

The freedom of choosing a domain name has led to several at times unintended hilarious domain names. See if you can spot the problems with the website for Who Represents (whorepresents.com) and for the Therapists’ Network (therapistfinder.com). In such cases it is sometimes best to buy a new domain. Experts Exchange chose experts-exchange.com. Prior to that their domain did not feature a hyphen between experts and exchange.

One would think that with over 19 million addresses available in 2011 the demand is satisfied. Not so. ICANN is now offering companies to apply for a top domain of their own choosing. However, it does come at a price: $ 185,000 per domain name. It is to be expected that soon you will be able to visit websites such as windows.microsoft and iPod.apple.

Alex Aachen writes about domain names

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