The surprising story of the world’s oldest dot-com

14 Mar 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

A look back: 30 years of the dot-com domain.

The Cambridge-headquartered company went out of business about a decade ago (though remnants live on) and in August 2009 the Symbolics.com address was sold for an undisclosed sum to XF.com Investments, whose CEO Aron Meystedt said in a press release: “For us to own the first domain is very special to our company, and we feel blessed for having the ability to obtain this unique property.” Today it looks like more of a white elephant than a blessing, what with a largely empty “cityscape” design and a blog that hasn’t been updated in two years. Back in the mid-to-late 1980s, the Internet was available to a very limited number of users and called ARPANET, the sites largely used for research and defense. Yet Meystedt remains optimistic, at least outwardly. “We created the city concept to make browsing the site fun, but it also could grow into a revenue-generating property if we allow advertisers to sponsor elements in the cityscape,” he says.

With the launch of the domains, though, there was a way to organize and set “domains.” In 1990, the development of HTML and URLs helped make ARPANET obsolete and we moved towards what we think of now as the Internet. The design includes clickable elements that reward the visitor with nuggets of information about the Internet, such as: “Gmail first launched on April 1st, 2004. The mid-’90s launched an obsession with the Internet, AOL bringing chat rooms to live, IRC use exploded, and more and more companies began to launch their own “domains” using the dot-com website. It was widely assumed the service was an April Fools Day joke.” “As far as traffic, the daily visitors can range from several hundred to several thousand,” Meystedt says. “This usually depends on how well Symbolics.com is circulated on social media or news blogs.” The problem here appears obvious: Symbolics.com is not Plymouth Rock; it would appear to be valuable – at least in a business sense – only if you’re running a company called Symbolics. Back then, calling the Internet something akin to the “wild, wild west” wasn’t inaccurate: look at the history of WhiteHouse.com as mentioned above.

And, eventually, technology advanced to the point where you didn’t have to tie up a phone line just to spend and hour downloading three or four photos. (What you downloaded was, of course, entirely up to you.) Now, the Internet moves at lightning speed thanks to more advances, and most people don’t even have to be wired in to use it anymore. And, so, as the dot-com turns 30 years old, we thought we’d use the Wayback Machine and look back at what 30 different sites looked like over the years, from the garish to the simplistic.

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