Domain names : The dot .com economy then and now

In February 1997, I registered my first domain name. It cost me $100 dollars for two years, and the registration took place through the only available registrar at the time, Network Solutions.

As I lived in Greece, I also had to fax some information out. Domain payment was made via bank wire, although NetSol had a “bill me later” option. I used a US-based web hosting company for the task, which I had found through Yahoo.

While the registration itself was painless – I took over control of the domain and started using it quickly – the process had too many steps and required my personal attention. If I were not an IT professional with a background of a dozen years at the time, things would probably be impossible.

Regarding mass scale domain name registrations, renewals and transfers, I cannot imagine doing that at the time. Most early domain registrants held onto a handful of domains, some of them extremely good, and many of those were dropped at the time of the dot com bust.

Eventually, GoDaddy and rode onto the Network Solutions monopoly, lowering prices. Competition in a much smaller economy along with regulations led to affordable domain prices.

Still, it was uncommon to own more than one domain at the time.

Between my first domain registration, and the next one, a full year and 9 months passed. While living in the US, I registered in October of 1998, and paid by check. By that time, the $15 /year tax removal, led to a lower pricing of $70 dollars per two year period. I don’t recall registering another domain until April of 1999, which led to my first domain sale.

While it’s great to talk with nostalgia about these early days, it’s time to be pragmatic about how things changed, and today consumers have lots of available options to register and use domain names. Companies that offer add-on services to domain names, such as email, hosting or a corporate page, gain more traction and are able to assist their customers with online presence.

There are now hundreds of new gTLDs, alongside a handful of older ones, and they all contribute to the world economy, despite the way that Facebook and Google bit down on the traffic pie. The challenge is to remind everyone that domain names serve a meaningful, practical purpose alongside social media accounts, and that premium pricing can be justified in the domain aftermarket.

The economy is bigger now, and adoption of .com is also greater, with 135 million .com domains – managed by Verisign. The challenge is bigger as well, and domain investors eager to make a profit should put their best domain assets to actual use. It’s also prudent to seek buyers that build out businesses and products, as opposed to sitting on unused domain names for years.

By doing so, the recent rantings of Verisign executives won’t be easy to justify.

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