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The First 5 Domains Ever Registered: One Company Sold for $9.6B

Did you know…1985 was a hotbed of domain registration. At the time, there were seven TLD’s (top-level domains) that could be used for websites:

  • .arpa (internet infrastructure)

  • .com (business)

  • .edu (education)

  • .gov (government)

  • .mil (military)

  • .org (non-profit)

  • .net (internet service providers)

But, very few .com domains were registered in the early days of the net because the process had a lot of friction. Prior to February 1986, only people with ARPA access could actually register domains. The kicker – it was FREE to register any domain.

For about a decade, there was a gold rush for domain names – people slowly started catching on and registering any domain that they could think of. In 1995, the game changed when NSI (Network Solutions Inc.) was given the go-ahead to start charging for domain registrations.

Although the net was early, the first five .com domains ever registered were some real bangers. One of them was registered by a company that eventually got acquired for a whopping $9.6B. Today, only one of the five “.com pioneers” is still in operation and the other domains aren’t active with new companies sporting the relic assets. But, you never know when the next major company is going to come along, scoop one of the original OG .com’s and “have a go at it” to become a household name.

Here’s a list of the first 5 domains ever registered, and a bit of history about the companies.

  • Designation: 🏆 1st domain ever registered

  • Date: March 15, 1985

  • Background:

    • Symbolics manufactured computers in the early days of the net – the company was founded in 1980 and based out of Cambridge, Massachusetts

    • Symbolics made significant advancements and contributions in the software industry in the 80’s and 90’s

    • The company’s software was used to create graphics for a number of movies – bangers including:

      • Star Trek III

      • Jetsons

      • Fievel Goes West

      • Free Willy

  • Outcome:

    • Eventually, Symbolics went bust and in 2009, their domain was sold to (our friend Aron Meystedt – @FirstDomain) 💸

  • Designation: 🥈 2nd domain registered

  • Date: April 24, 1985

  • Background:

    • Raytheon BBN is an American R&D company based in Cambridge, Massachusetts

    • The company was founded in 1948 and originally called Bolt Beranek and Newman Inc.

    • They played a key part in the creation of the internet, and was the first org to receive an Autonomous System Number (AS1) for network identification

  • Outcome:

    • BBN is still in business today 📈

  • Designation: 🥉 3rd domain registered

  • Date: May 24, 1985

  • Background:

    • Thinking Machines was a supercomputer manufacturer, and AI company based in Waltham, Massachusetts

    • The company was founded in 1983 and had a number of contracts with DARPA (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency)

    • They became a market leader in parallel supercomputers until 1994 when demand for their hardware and software declined

  • Outcome:

    • In 1994, Think filed for Chapter 11, then Sun Microsystems picked up their assets for pennies on the dollar 📉

  • Designation: ⭐️ 4th domain registered

  • Date: July 11, 1985

  • Background:

    • Microelectronics and Computer Technology Corporation (MCC) was one of the largest R&D organizations in the US in the 80’s and 90’s

    • MCC was founded in 1982 in Austin, Texas, with the goal producing a new kind of computer by 1991

    • There was a global race with many countries to create leapfrog technologies as the computer industry boomed in the 80’s and 90’s

  • Outcome:

    • Eventually, in 2004, MCC shut down operations 🏚️

  • Designation: ✨ 5th domain registered

  • Date: September 30, 1985

  • Background:

    • Digital Equipment Corporation (DEC) was a pioneer in the computer industry from the late 50’s until the early 90’s

    • DEC was founded in 1957 by Ken Olsen and Harlan Anderson – (Olsen and Anderson are still celebrated in nerd circles for their contributions to the tech industry)

    • The company produced many different products, but is best known for creating the market for minicomputers in the mid-60’s

  • Outcome:

    • DEC was acquired in 1998 by Compaq for $9.6B which, at the time, was the largest merger in the history of the computer industry 💰

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