Which Are the Oldest .Com Domains?


Over the New Year's weekend, I was listening to the re-broadcast of Dick Clark's Top 100 music countdown from the 1980s. It was the music from my high school and college years, when synthesizers and fun-rap music popped onto the scene. Another thing that started in the 1980s was the Internet, and .com websites. So, similar to the music countdown, I thought it would be interesting to see some kind of .com countdown!

But before we get into the data analysis, here's a picture to get you into the right mood. It was the 1980s, and we were all going high-tech with computerized and digital everything. And what represents that better than a calculator watch! (Thanks to Jenni's friend Zachary for letting me use this cool picture of his watch.)

And now, let's analyze some 1980s data. After a little Google searching, I came across a Wikipedia list that purported to be the "100 oldest still-existing registered .com domains." Below is a screen-capture of part of the list. You might notice that it's a little difficult to get your brain around, especially with the visual layout they chose. (They used two columns, but it's not visually obvious they used two columns).

I copy-and-pasted the data from the table into a text file, and read it into a SAS dataset. I was ready to create a visualization, but what would be the best way to plot this data? I could use a scatter plot or a bar chart and plot the 'create date' along a time axis, or maybe even use a step line chart to show the cumulative number of sites as time went by, but none of those seemed appropriate.

I finally decided on a calendar chart. It just seemed to sort of 'fit' the way I wanted to see this data. Here's the first version:

The calendar chart was starting to give me a good mental image of the data. It showed that the earliest .com domains were few and far between (time-wise), and after a couple of years went by, more and more got registered. But wait! What if multiple domains were registered on the same day?!? The above calendar chart doesn't show that! So let's improve the chart, and color-code the days based on how many domains were registered. Also, notice that I provide a list of all the .com domains registered that day in the mouse-over text (click on this link to see the full version of the interactive chart).

Knowing the names of the com domains is nice, but of course now you want to go to that URL to see what their web page looks like. It would be a shame to have to re-type each URL into a Web browser, eh? I could make a drill-down link for each day on the calendar chart, but that couldn't handle the days that have multiple URLs. So I have the calendar days drill-down to a table, and then the table has links for each URL. Actually two links for each URL -- one goes to the current version of the page, and one goes to the Wayback machine where you can see the old/historical version. Here's a screen-capture of the table for November 17, 1986:


What year did you first "get online"? Do you remember the first Web browser you used, and some of the first URLs you went to? (if you remember, please share them in a comment!)

This example demonstrates several pretty neat SAS programming tricks (creating the calendar chart, stuffing data from multiple data observations into a single mouse-over text, and adding links to items in a Proc Print table). If you'd like to see the details, here's a link to the actual SAS code.

[This blog first appeared on the SAS Learning Post, and you can click through here to view the original.]

Robert Allison, The Graph Guy!, SAS

Robert Allison has worked at SAS for more than 20 years and is perhaps the foremost expert in creating custom graphs using SAS/GRAPH. His educational background is in computer science, and he holds a BS, MS, and PhD from North Carolina State University. He is the author of several conference papers, has won a few graphic competitions, and has written a book calledSAS/GRAPH: Beyond the Basics.

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Re: Unexpected
  • 1/17/2018 12:01:19 PM
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"...But I wonder if any of those forward-looking people at the time had any inkling of how precious and valuable those domain names would become, and how this gestating technology would breed such species as domain-squatters, hackers, and other miscreants ..."

 

@Lyndon_Henry   I doubt it. I don't think many of the early adopters had a clue as to what the Internet would evolve into, as you can see Northrop and Xerox stayed in their primary areas for better or worse.

Re: Unexpected
  • 1/17/2018 11:56:19 AM
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@kq4ym    I can relate.  Those early days of discovery just seem to happen organically and I don't remember much of the era except the surface names that were familiar to all.

Re: Unexpected
  • 1/17/2018 11:51:59 AM
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I found it fascinating to see the early adopters of domain names.  It really hasn't been all that long ago when someone like Cisco, registered their domain name.  I wonder what they would have chosen had that name already been taken ?

Re: Unexpected
  • 1/17/2018 8:45:26 AM
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I remember when altavista.com was THE search engine and the days of the AOL walled garden.  I didn't have an AOL account but many people around me did and I was amazed at how small they perceived the internet to be.  Teaching them about a search engine was like shining a spotlight into the darkness for them.  I guess Yahoo owns altavista now and it's limping along as a third-tier search engine.

Re: Unexpected
  • 1/16/2018 10:13:17 AM
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The story makes me realize even though I was around and actively playing "computer" in those early days, my brain has a hard time coming up with what I remember back then, and maybe .com names were not on my list of things to remember back then, perhaps because I do remember more or less randomly going from site to site out of curiosity and kind of an endless jounney as one "fact" lead to another, any the internet was such a new fangled thing I wanted to see as much as I could from the seeminly endless array of places to go. I do remember AOL.com of course, but not much else by name!

Re: Unexpected
  • 1/16/2018 8:39:01 AM
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I suspect that Xerox knew the potential, PARC seemed to be very forward thinking and saw a lot of technologies coming decades before we saw them talked about.

Re: Unexpected
  • 1/15/2018 12:53:02 PM
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Robert's visualization analysis certainly makes companies like Northrop and Xerox seem unusually foresightful. But I wonder if any of those forward-looking people at the time had any inkling of how precious and valuable those domain names would become, and how this gestating technology would breed such species as domain-squatters, hackers, and other miscreants ...

 

Re: Unexpected
  • 1/15/2018 8:33:47 AM
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Since most of these domains existed well before the average consumer was on the internet it makes sense that it was the bigger tech companies who were out there first.  Email was still something you got 1 or 2 of a day and most businesses were still using modems for internet access.

Early Domains
  • 1/15/2018 8:31:00 AM
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I was on Usenet before I was surfing the WWW but being a techie most of those domains are very familiar to me.  I just looked up the first corporate domains that I registered, 1996 was the earliest I was working with a corporate site/domain.  That makes me wonder now if there is enough data to see how many domains were registered per year before that, how many have changed hands between then and now.

Unexpected
  • 1/12/2018 10:38:38 AM
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I had expected all the early .coms to be forward thinking technology companies. It seems I was wrong. Very interesting.

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