Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Happy Birthday Dot-Com

The dot-com era just reached its Silver Anniversary – 25-years ago yesterday the first dot-com on the Internet debuted amidst the beeps and buzzes of dial-up modem users everywhere.

On March 15, 1985, the Symbolics Computer Company registered symbolics.com, making history, changing forever the way we live.

Previously, to go anyplace in cyberspace you had to enter hard to remember Internet Protocol (IP) addresses directly, such as We have it easy now, just think of any company, and generally you can access it simply by typing the company_name.com.

These days, everyone is getting their own names registered as a domain name – there is even a trend among the ultra-nutty-types to register their newborn baby’s name on the Internet within a mere number of days of the child appearing from the womb. You don’t want your son or daughter to grow up not being able to have their namesake online – the horror!

But back in 1985, when big hair bands were rocking out on their synthesizers, while their fans were playing Pac Man, or trying to figure out the Rubik Cube, the Internet was the unimaginable stuff of science fiction.

Development of the Internet was slower than a dial-up connection on a party line, taking over two years to reach 100 dot-com registered names. Within ten years, that number had exploded to 18,000 registered names, in part due to dot-com boom.

Today there are over 80 million dot-com domain names, according to the Information Technology & Innovation Foundation (ITIF) which keeps track of these things. That doesn’t even come close to just how many registered domain names there are in total, when you consider all the dot-ca, dot-org, dot-biz, dot-tv, dot-gov, dot-this-that-and-the-other-thing . . .

Despite the bust of the dot-com boom in the late 1990’s when investors lost billions of dollars, the Internet has been one of the most steadily growing investments in our life time. Most of that growth has happened just after the failure of the initial dot-com boom, occurring within the past ten years.

Which makes sense – investors learned from their mistakes, and began investing in technologies which could actually be proven. Previously, many invested in what became known as vapourware – someone with a lot of drive and ambition sold them on an idea, which had not been turned into a solid product or service. When that idea turned out to be nothing more than just that – an idea -- that investor lost his shirt.

You can’t do business today unless you are on the Internet – all “real” companies have some sort of presence on the international network of computer networks.

Then again, there are always all those pseudo companies or people telling you about your long lost relative that no one has ever heard of, leaving you an inheritance in the millions. All you have to do is email your banking information to some complete stranger in some third-world country to claim your fortune.

As with all things in our world, just as there are honest people online, there are also dishonest ones too. Internet fraud has tripled over the past five years, according to the Internet Crime Complaint Center, which reported over 337, 000 complaints of losses totalling almost $560 million last year.

However shady some are online, the virtual worlds we create for our entertainment and joy, our business and prosperity, and our friends and family are remarkable.

From surfing the net to catch up on our latest television shows, to participating in highly addictive online games, to just looking up how to cook a turkey or build a solar powered home, to checking out our bank balances, to buying just about anything imaginable online, to sharing pictures of your ski trip with your friends and family on a social networking site, the dot-com world – and all of its dot-brothers and dot-sisters – is fundamentally our world.

Happy 25 birthday dot-com!

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