The Internet's been around in some form for decades. It wasn't until the mid-80s, though, that the Web as we know it started coming together -- and those precious dot-com domains started getting snatched up.
As we finish out the tech-centric year of 2008, we thought we'd take a look back at the Internet's oldest commercial Web sites -- the ones registered back when chatting about "the Net" was as socially acceptable as wearing Jedi garb into a crowded nightclub. So grab your light sabers, dear friends -- we're boarding the Millennium Falcon and heading back to a virtual galaxy far, far away.
The Internet's First Dot-Com
Let me set the scene for you: The year was 1985. MS-DOS 3.0 was the PC operating system of choice, most commonly run on the top-selling Tandy 1000 personal computer.
A newly formed company called Dell was getting ready to release its first machine, the "Turbo PC." The Commodore Amiga 1000 was also about to hit the market.
That same spring, the first dot-com domain was registered with the sale of symbolics.com on March 15, 1985. The site belonged to a computer manufacturer known for its Open Genera Lisp and Macsyma computer algebra systems.
Symbolics declared bankruptcy in the early 90s but is still under operation with new owners. That means symbolics.com is the Internet's oldest still-functioning dot-com domain -- and, I must say, it still looks like it was designed in 1985.
Some of the other early dot-coms are domains we know well. The ninth recorded registration went to hp.com on March 3, 1986. IBM bought its domain a couple of weeks later. AT&T followed in April, and Apple joined the club after another year. Unfortunately, the Internet Archive's Wayback Machine only goes back to the mid-90s, but even in 1997, you can see how relatively low-tech apple.com looked compared to the snazzy standards we enjoy today.
Some other noteworthy notches on the dot-com timeline that didn't make the first 100: Microsoft bought microsoft.com in May of 1991; PC World entered the online world in April '92; Yahoo reserved its dot-com home in January of 1995; and Google grabbed google.com in September of 1997.
As a heads-up, one conspicuous omission that may catch your eye: anything remotely pornographic. (Those 2400 BPS modems didn't make for great image transmission.) Allow me to satisfy your curiosity, though: Sex.com first surfaced in 1994. Porn.com came into existence about a year later.
(Click to the next page for the full list.)
The Full List
All right, prurient interests addressed, ready to check out the full list of dot-com pioneers? Brace yourself, and dig in.
1. symbolics.com: March 15, 1985
2. bbn.com: April 24, 1985
3. think.com: May 24, 1985
4. mcc.com: July 11, 1985
5. dec.com: September 30, 1985
6. northrop.com: November 7, 1985
7. xerox.com: January 9, 1986
8. sri.com: January 17, 1986
9. hp.com: March 3, 1986
10. bellcore.com: March 5, 1986
11. ibm.com: March 19, 1986
12. sun.com: March 19, 1986
13. intel.com: March 25, 1986
14. ti.com: March 25, 1986
15. att.com: April 25, 1986
16. gmr.com: May 8, 1986
17. tek.com: May 8, 1986
18. fmc.com: July 10, 1986
19. ub.com: July 10, 1986
20. bell-atl.com: August 5, 1986
21. ge.com: August 5, 1986
22. grebyn.com: August 5, 1986
23. isc.com: August 5, 1986
24. nsc.com: August 5, 1986
25. stargate.com: August 5, 1986