Tracking the Rise of Dot-Com Dominance, Dot-Bomb Implosions

By John Pallatto  |  Posted 2010-03-12 Print this article Print

title=Former Web Stars Survive as Mere Shells }

Yet another famous IT domain name,, the name of a long-defunct minicomputer manufacturer that was once a major competitor of DEC, is now just a shell site on the Web. Its current owner is apparently just waiting for a buyer who might want to turn it back into a working corporate domain.

Even No. 1 on the list,, is just a shell site with the primary mission of advertising its status to prospective investors as the oldest domain name on the Web. As of March 12, the site was running a clock showing there were only two days and 18 hours before the 25th anniversary of the registration of the first .com domain name.

It was originally the domain name of Symbolics, now long defunct, which used to manufacture computers that were optimized to run the LISP programming language. After it got out of the manufacturing business the company continued to sell the Open Genera Lisp System. However, according to Wikipedia, the domain was sold to its current owner, Investments, in August 2009.

What is important to remember is that when the first 100 domain names were created, the Web was not the highly graphical and easily navigated environment familiar to the millions of computer users around the world today. The Internet was still mainly a text-based environment that was used by government agencies, universities, research centers and government contractors to send messages, transmit files and share information.

This was in the very early days of GUIs, which were found mainly on the Apple Macintosh and on expensive and specialized computer workstations. It would be more than five years before Windows 3.0 brought the graphical interface to millions of PC users in the early 1990s. It wouldn't be until the mid-'90s that Netscape Navigator, a graphical browser running mainly on Windows, would give millions of PC users their first opportunity to visit all the new .com URLs that were springing up on the Web.

Netscape went from its founding in March 1994 to an IPO (initial public offering) that was worth $75 per share in August 1995. But in 1995 Microsoft introduced its Internet Explorer browser built into the Windows operating system as just another add-on utility. It was IEr that ended the meteoric rise of Netscape. By the end of 1997 Netscape had stopped growing and by early in 1998 it was laying off employees. Before the end of 1998, another dot-com dynamo, AOL, bought Netscape in a stock swap worth $4.2 billion.

By that time, millions of Web users were switching to IE, which soon forced AOL to decide that it wasn't worth updating the Netscape browser any more.

So where is Netscape's domain name now after spending the first years of its brief life as one of the most popular sites on the Web? The brand name is now a just sub-address buried inside the vast AOL domain.

John Pallatto John Pallatto is's Managing Editor News/West Coast. He directs eWEEK's news coverage in Silicon Valley and throughout the West Coast region. He has more than 35 years of experience as a professional journalist, which began as a report with the Hartford Courant daily newspaper in Connecticut. He was also a member of the founding staff of PC Week in March 1984. Pallatto was PC Week's West Coast bureau chief, a senior editor at Ziff Davis' Internet Computing magazine and the West Coast bureau chief at Internet World magazine.

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