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Celebrating the Rise of the Modern Internet: The First Dot Com Domain Name Turns 30

30th anniversary 750x425 16mar15

Thirty years ago in 1985, the Internet was in its infancy. Apple's personal computer, the Macintosh, had only been on the market for a year, and the online service that eventually became AOL was readying its launch. It was during this time, on March 15th, that the first second-level dot com domain,, was introduced online, marking the beginning of the modern Internet.

Despite enormous promise, the future of the Internet at this time was uncertain. According to a report from ITIF [PDF, 2.2 MB], a non-profit and non-partisan think tank, a lack of subscribers and underdeveloped technical infrastructure hindered widespread adoption of the Internet. It was not until a decade later in the mid-to-late 90's, when consumer demand and Internet speeds for home and business use had significantly improved, that usage rates began to steadily grow and the Internet began its trajectory toward becoming entrenched in people's everyday lives. Now, we have an entire generation of people who do not know life without the Internet.

Today, the Internet helps connect around 3 billion people. This rapid pace of growth is expected to increase, particularly in developing countries where growth rates continue to be three times as high [PDF, 1.7 MB] as those in developed countries.

In 2013, we began to expand the Domain Name System through the New gTLD Program in an effort to expand choices available to Internet users as they claim their online identities. Now, over 500 top-level domains, nearly half of those expected, have been delegated globally. Through the New gTLD Program, we've seen new domains of every type and flavor, serving to enhance innovation, competition and consumer trust. The presence of new regional domains (e.g., .amsterdam, .osaka, etc.) instantly lets users know where businesses and organizations are located, while cause-focused domains allow visitors to raise funds and awareness for their issues with the click of a button. Most meaningful for new users from developing countries are the introduction of Internationalized Domain Names (IDNs) in scripts such as Arabic, Chinese and Cyrillic, which now allow millions of Internet users to communicate on the web in their native languages. The first domain through the New gTLD Program, dot shabaka - meaning "web" in Arabic - was an IDN.

As we celebrate 30 years of second-level domain names, and think about how far we've come, it's exciting to know that we as a global Internet community are working together to again make history.


    Domain Name System
    Internationalized Domain Name ,IDN,"IDNs are domain names that include characters used in the local representation of languages that are not written with the twenty-six letters of the basic Latin alphabet ""a-z"". An IDN can contain Latin letters with diacritical marks, as required by many European languages, or may consist of characters from non-Latin scripts such as Arabic or Chinese. Many languages also use other types of digits than the European ""0-9"". The basic Latin alphabet together with the European-Arabic digits are, for the purpose of domain names, termed ""ASCII characters"" (ASCII = American Standard Code for Information Interchange). These are also included in the broader range of ""Unicode characters"" that provides the basis for IDNs. The ""hostname rule"" requires that all domain names of the type under consideration here are stored in the DNS using only the ASCII characters listed above, with the one further addition of the hyphen ""-"". The Unicode form of an IDN therefore requires special encoding before it is entered into the DNS. The following terminology is used when distinguishing between these forms: A domain name consists of a series of ""labels"" (separated by ""dots""). The ASCII form of an IDN label is termed an ""A-label"". All operations defined in the DNS protocol use A-labels exclusively. The Unicode form, which a user expects to be displayed, is termed a ""U-label"". The difference may be illustrated with the Hindi word for ""test"" — परीका — appearing here as a U-label would (in the Devanagari script). A special form of ""ASCII compatible encoding"" (abbreviated ACE) is applied to this to produce the corresponding A-label: xn--11b5bs1di. A domain name that only includes ASCII letters, digits, and hyphens is termed an ""LDH label"". Although the definitions of A-labels and LDH-labels overlap, a name consisting exclusively of LDH labels, such as"""" is not an IDN."