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History of domain names

The History of Domain Names


Before the 1960s computers were large and expensive machines, housed in air conditioned rooms and maintained by teams of white-coated technicians and operators. In 1958 the United States of America set-up an organisation called the Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA), largely in response to the Soviet launch of Sputnik the previous year.

ARPA's role was to carry out research and development in technologies associated with space-flight, ballistic missile defence, and nuclear test detection. ARPA made extensive use of computing machines and was interested in linking computers to output devices such as Teletypes. In 1962 J.C.R. Licklider was hired by ARPA and developed a working group he called the Intergalactic Network, which later became the ARPANet group.

In 1969 the ARPANet network (Arpanet) was created by linking the University of California (Los Angeles), Stanford Research Institute (SRI), the University of California (Santa Barbara), and the University of Utah. In these early days, computers were identified by individual labels (host-names) and there was no set standard or central agency who controlled these names they were simply allocated by the staff at the particular institution.

How do you address a machine?

No, that isn't the start of a bad joke, it was a real problem for the early Arpanet.

Throughout the 1970s Arpanet grew, as military and educational establishments linked their computers into the network. By 1973 a common system of addresses was implemented, so that each computer on the network could be identified by a unique address. These addresses were given out by a central agency - the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA).

Each address the Internet Protocol (IP) address consisted of 4 bytes* of data and was used by the hardware and software to route data to the correct computer. (At this point we can begin to talk about this early network of computers as the Internet, rather than the Arpanet).

A typical IP address, written in decimal, would look like this :

* A byte is the unit of data. It consists of eight binary digits, or bits (1s and 0s) which can be arranged in 256 different patterns 00000000,00000001,00000010,00000011,00000100,00000101,00000110,00000111...etc

What's in a name?

The problem was that these addresses are difficult to remember we find it much easier to remember names than numbers so each machine was also given a host-name which corresponded to the IP address, and a file was used to store the name of each computer and it's corresponding address. At first this file (HOSTS.TXT) was held on a computer at SRI, but in 1984 researchers at the University of Wisconsin developed a Name Server specially designed to hold this list of addresses and names. The next year (1985) a system of domains was established, with computers being organised into groups or Domains, where a Domain would typically be all the computers in a particular establishment. The first domains were organised under the following headings:
  • com (commercial organisations)
  • edu (educational organisations)
  • gov (government use)
  • mil (military use)
  • net (networking companies)
  • org (non profit-making organisations)
  • arpa (reserved for technical uses)

These headings are known as Top Level Domains (TLDs)

Out of your tree?

The new domain name space was arranged in a tree structure as follows:

Each node of the tree has a label (Domain Name) and each Domain Name can be up to 63 characters in length. The Domain Names are not case sensitive and can contain any alphanumeric characters (and the sign).

The root node of the tree (NULL) can be ignored for most purposes and the leaf nodes are the individual machine names (host-names). The full set of domain names, from leaf to root, separated by periods (.), is called the Fully Qualified Domain Name (FQDN). So, in the above example yahoo, cs, www and xbalance are all technically Domain Names (though most people call them host names), and is a FQDN. yahoo is a second level domain name (SLD), cs is a third level domain name, and so on. A Domain is just a sub-tree of Domain Name Space, so again using the above example, is in the domain and both are in the edu domain.

Room at the top?

The TLDs above have been added to since the early days. Soon after the first seven, a second batch were introduced based on country. These are two letter codes corresponding to a country, and examples include uk, us, The first six (above) are now known as Generic Top Level Domains (gTLDs), the arpa domain is known as an Infrastructure Top Level Domain (iTLD), and the country codes are known as Country-code Top Level Domains (cTLDs).

In 2004 a new set of Generic TLDs was introduced:
  • aero for the air transport industry
  • biz for businesses
  • coop for cooperatives
  • info for informational sites (unrestricted)
  • museum for museums
  • name for individuals and families
  • pro for professionals including certified pubic accountants, lawyers, and physicians.

Click HERE for a full list of TLDs.

The Fact Domain

In December 2009 there were 192 million domain names.
As of March 15, 2010, the com TLD had 84 million domain names, including 11.9 million on-line business and e-commerce sites, 4.3 million entertainment sites, 3.1 million finance related sites, and 1.8 million sports sites.

Top Ten - most valuable domain names in the world
  • 1., sold to QuinStreet for $16 million in 2009.
  • 2., sold for $12-$14 million in 2006.
  • 3., sold for $9.99 million in 2008.
  • 4., sold for $9.5 million in 2007.
  • 5., sold for $7.5 million in 1999.
  • 6., sold to for $7.5 million in 2006.
  • 7., sold for $7 million in 2004.
  • 8., sold for $5.88 million in 2004.
  • 9., sold for $5.5 million in 2003.
  • 10., sold to Toys R Us for $5.1 million in 2009.

Domain Avenue
This is an entry in the essay competition located at .
broken link in article:

Thanks Bikerman for the history lesson.
Very welcome. Thanks for spotting the broken line - sorted now I hope.
Awesome!Thanks for the information.....Premium domain names of various extension can be registered from the website instantly.Give the keyword,name to the tab you will get so many suggestions.From that you can select your desired name.Also for low cost domain names log on to the website
thanks for sharing all ...
I heard they are opening up all possible extensions for domain names.

Think of the possibilities!!!

gandalfthegrey Surprised That soounds interesting, I gotta get prepared with a good name if that happens!
Thanks, that was a very interesting post. I thought it might be interesting to add that there's been a recent sale that is well up the charts, Nissan sold to GMO for $6.8M. This is obviously a very rare domain name, the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority own most of the single number and letter domains but there are three out there, (owned by Quest), (owned by Paypal) and (owned by GMO).
Thanks for the post. I've never heard about it. Good Wink coque ipad mini 3 etui ipad air 2
This is a very interesting topic indeed ! thx @KurtAlden for putting it on top again. And @Bikerman for the info..

Meanwhile, TLD's were made free to register. I can add a link..
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