After 30 years, the dot-com (.com) top-level domain (TLD) continues to dominate the Internet, but now faces more challengers than ever.
On March 15, 1985, the very first dot-com domain was registered by Symbolics, a now defunct technology vendor. The symbolics.com domain itself is still alive and is now owned by virtual real estate firm xf.com. Although the first company to register a dot-com domain did not survive the last 30 years, the dot-com domain has prospered significantly beyond that first domain registered in 1985.
As of Dec. 31, 2014, there were 115.6 million registered dot-com names, according to VeriSign's fourth-quarter 2014 Domain Name Industry Brief (DNIB).
VeriSign has managed the dot-com registry since 2000, when it acquired Network Solutions in a deal valued at $21 billion. VeriSign sold most of the Network Solutions business in 2003, but it continued to retain control of the dot-com registry, which is still managed by VeriSign today, under a deal with the Internet Cororation for Assigned Names and Numbers ICANN) that was last renewed in 2012.
Back when Symbolics registered the very first dot-com, there was little domain choice. That's no longer true in 2015. Though the dot-com TLD remains the largest domain based on the number of registered domains, there are other choices.
VeriSign reported that there were 288 million domains registered across all TLDs at the end of 2014. After dot-com, the second most popular domain is dot-tk (.tk) which is the country code top-level domain (ccTLD) for Tokelau, a territory in New Zealand.
As to why .tk is so popular, the reason is simple: It's a domain that is available to anyone to register for free. The .tk TLD is operated by freenom with the aim of making money from expired domains and other services.
The dot de (.de) ccTLD for Germany is in third place, followed by dot-net (.net) in fourth and dot-cn (.cn) from China in fourth.
There has been a dramatic expansion in the availability of TLDs in the past few years. In 2011, there were only 22 TLDs from which to choose. In June 2011, ICANN approved a proposal to overhaul the TLD system, enabling a new era of generic TLDs (gTLDs).
According to VeriSign, at the end of 2014, there were 478 new gTLDs, with 65 being delegated in the fourth quarter of 2014 alone. Among the most popular gTLDs are .xyz, .club and .berlin.
All those new gTLDs represent new competition for dot-com, though I suspect that there is little for VeriSign to worry about. Simply put, dot-com has a 30 year head start in the domain business. While being the first mover is not always an advantage in technology, when it comes to branding, longevity and trust are always key attributes. For the past 30 years, dot-com has been the most dominant TLD on the Internet, and it's the TLD that most Internet users are familiar with for the sites they use and visit every day.
That's not to say that the new gTLDs won't gain traction and that dot-com's dominance will last forever. The next 30 years of dot-com will be different, as organizations and users have more choice than ever when it comes to domains. As such, over the next 30 years, the true value of the enduring brand of dot-com will be measured.
Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at eWEEK and InternetNews.com. Follow him on Twitter @TechJournalist.