There are millions of active domain names out there and thousands of new ones are being registered every day with more than 1500 different extensions. It is very likely that you own one yourself. The domain world is huge and full of peculiarities. Here are ten little-known facts about domains.
1. .SU is the only historical country-code top-level domain (ccTLD) that is still active today.
"Historical ccTLDs" is the name of a group of extensions that were created in the past for countries that no longer exist. Other examples are .CS (Czechoslovakia), .YU (Yugoslavia) and .DD (East Germany). The .SU one was assigned to the Soviet Union in September 1990, 15 months before the country was dissolved. The initial plan was to create .USSR, but the 19-year old Finnish student Petri Ojala suggested the shorter .SU.
The ccTLD is operated by the Russian Institute for Public Networks. Currently, there are more than 100,000 active .SU domain names. The vast majority of them are registered in Russia, but curiously, the second country with the most registered .SU domains is the United States.
2. "Domain twins" is the term to describe names where the second-level domain is the same as the first-level domain.
A few examples you can check out are com.com, one.one, am.am, win.win, or ch.ch. Some of these domains open fully functional websites, like me.me, for example, while others such as blog.blog are redirected to other domains. As some top-level extensions have restrictions and do not allow two-letter names to be registered, there are less domain twins than TLDs.
Sometimes domain twins are offered for sale, so if you are interested and you have some money, you can get such a domain. Net.net was sold for $100,000 in 2004 and live.live was sold for $25,000 in 2016, but you can find some cheap names as well – properties.properties was sold for just $111 back in 2019.
3. Domain names were free until 1995.
Yes, you read that right – you could register any domain name you wanted without paying any fee for it. There were only a handful of extensions back then and if you wanted to register a new name, you could simply request it, even over the phone. Things changed in 1995 when Network Solutions, Inc. started charging $100 for a 2-year registration. The company became the first registrar two years earlier when the government-run National Science Foundation (NSF) delegated the management of the domain names to them as a private contractor. You can find out more on the topic at NSF.gov.
Although domains were free, they were not really popular and only a handful were registered during the first year after they were open to the public. Things didn’t change much in the following years – there were less than 15,000 domains registered worldwide between 1985 and 1992. In comparison, nowadays more than 100,000 domain names are being registered every day.
Since anybody could just request any domain name, lots of good domains were registered. One popular example is tesla.com, which was registered by Stu Grossman in 1992. Tesla Motors acquired the domain for $11,000,000 and rebranded as Tesla in 2016.
4. The first domain name ever created was nordu.net.
It was registered on January 1, 1985, and it was used for the first official DNS root server (top-level server that translates URLs into IP addresses) outside the United States - nic.nordu.net. You will come across many articles saying that symbolics.com was the first domain name. It was in fact the first .com domain and it was registered on March 15, 1985.
NORDUnet is short for “Nordic University Networks”, an association of the research networks of five Nordic countries: Denmark (DeiC), Iceland (RHnet), Norway (Uninett), Sweden (SUNET), and Finland (Funet). The organization was the first European Network that used the TCP/IP protocols to connect to the National Science Foundation Network in the United States. In essence, NORDUnet was one of the driving forces behind the expansion of the TCP/IP technology in Europe. The domain name nordu.net was a perfect match and the best possible choice for their root server.
5. It took one full year to register the first 10 dot-coms.
This figure seems unthinkable today as even many individuals register more than ten domains with a single order. Back then, however, companies were not very fond of domains. The dot-com bubble was years away, so only a handful of entities would register their domain name. Even after registrations were open to the public in 1986, there were less than 100 domain names registered for a whole year with all extensions that existed at the time.
Today, more than 340 million domains are registered worldwide. While more than 1500 TLDs exist, compared to just a handful 30 years ago, .COM is still the most popular extension, with roughly 160 million registered domains.
By 2005 or so, it will become clear that the Internet's impact on the economy has been no greater than the fax machine's.Paul Krugman, Nobel Prize-winning economist, 1998
6. Some popular domain names were not renewed on time, resulting in downtime of various services.
Probably the most popular example is hotmail.co.uk, which expired on October 23, 2003. As a result, many people could not access their emails using this domain name. The domain was acquired by an individual before the matter was handled by the company. The worse part is that this was the second time they would let that happen. Back in 1999, Microsoft let passport.com to expire, but the impact wasn’t that big since not as many people were using the service.
Here are a few more popular examples. Foursquare.com expired in 2010 and opened a GoDaddy default page instead of the home page of the popular city guide platform. Yatra.com, a popular travel website, expired in 2013. Regions bank, the 22nd largest bank in the United States, failed to renew their domain name regions.com in 2013. DallasCowboys.com expired in 2010 and temporarily stopped opening the home page of the popular team.
7. One person registered 14962 domains for 24 hours.
Of course, Mike Mann used robots and didn’t order the domains manually. Nonetheless, the number is pretty impressive. He spent over $100,000 for readable domains such as ChineseFoodCatering.com and CeoHealthClub.com. Mann is one of the so-called domainers – people who look for good available domains and register them with the intention to sell them later for profit.
It is unknown if he was able to sell any domain or to make up some of the money he invested. He definitely has experience in this area, though. In the late 1990s he sold menus.com for $50,000 after spending $70 to acquire it, and in 2005 he sold a company called BuyDomains for $80 million. One of Mann’s latest ventures is the domainmarket.com marketplace, so it seems he knows his way around.
If you have some extra money, you can give it a try as well. It doesn’t take much to register one or a few domains that you can potentially sell, but sometimes you will just need some luck. Here are a few examples of profitable sales from a popular domain discussion board: RichardIiiExperience.com ($10,250), PosKotaNews.com ($21,239), DailySeoBlog.com ($16,250), BeyondVerbal.com ($6,900). We do not list premium domains here on purpose to show you that sooner or later, any decent domain name can be sold.
8. The longest top-level domain (TLD) is 18 characters – northwesternmutual.
We don’t count puny code domains that use non-English letters as their original spelling is less than 18 characters. The .northwesternmutual TLD was assigned to Northwestern Mutual Registry, LLC, a subsidiary company of the Northwestern Mutual Life Insurance Company (“Northwestern Mutual”). The registrar company has an active website, https://www.nic.northwesternmutual/ , but there aren’t other domain names registered with that TLD.
In you are interested in other long domain names, you can check out llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch.co.uk. This isn’t a random bunch of letters, but the name of a Welsh village, which is located just a few miles away from Anglesey, the Welsh home of Prince William and Kate Middleton. This is the longest domain name that opens an actual website.
A few honorable mentions we will list are:
- xxx.xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx.xxx - longest domain palindrome (same URL if you type it backwards)
- 3.141592653589793238462643383279502884197169399375105820974944592.com - the longest numerical domain. This is actually Pi with the first 63 digits after the decimal point.
- theofficialabsolutelongestdomainnameregisteredontheworldwideweb.international - this is technically the longest domain name as it uses a long extension, but it was registered for the sole purpose of beating a record and does not open an actual website.
9. Example.com, example.net and example.org are reserved domain names.
They cannot be registered or purchased by any party. They are managed directly by IANA, the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority. This is the organization that is in charge of allocating IP addresses and managing the DNS root zone. The domains were registered in 1995 at the request of the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF). They are considered “special-use domain names” as they are widely used in documentation, tests, tutorials, etc. You have probably seen “example.com” mentioned many times in various tutorials.
These are the only reserved fully qualified domain names (FQDNs), but the full list of special-use domains includes a number of domains that are reserved for various other purposes, such as .localhost, .onion, .test and 168.192.in-addr.arpa (the latter includes all 192.168.. IP addresses that are considered private).
10. Domain hack is a word or a phrase formed by the name you choose and its extension.
Despite the name, there is nothing illegal about domain hacks. They are simply a clever way to have a memorable web address. In this case, the word is used like in the phrase “life hack” i.e. finding a way to create a good name. For example, Netflix use the Spanish ccTLD .es for their domain name movi.es.
You can use a domain hack for marketing purposes. Even if you own a .com domain, you can surely use a good domain that people will remember easily. This is also a chance to use a shorter domain name. Of course, sometimes it may not be possible to use a domain hack, or one may simply not be suitable for your business. Don’t try to think of one too hard – if you spend too much time to find a witty phrase, people may not get it.
Some TLDs are better for domain hacks than others - .ME, .IN, .TO or .IT, for example. Country-code TLDs may have special eligibility requirements, though. This is why, you can consider using one of the new generic TLDs to create a domain name like CambridgeRunning.club, for instance.