Nominations closing in
In Pictures: 5 boring domain names. Where are they now?
It's easy to forget the first Internet gold rush of the mid-to-late '90s, when dot-com domain names based on ordinary (and, investors hoped, marketable) nouns and verbs were snapped up by hopeful companies. Here are five of those generic domain names, and a look at their history.
It's easy to forget the first Internet gold rush of the mid-to-late '90s, when dot-com domain names based on ordinary (and, investors hoped, marketable) nouns and verbs were snapped up by hopeful companies from the humble geeks who had purchased them (often ironically) in the early '90s. The weird and wooly history of the Web can best be traced through some of its most generic domains. Here's a sampling that trace the arc from the geeks to the entrepreneurs and into a more staid corporate world.
Music-mad teenagers don't remember a world without Internet, so it's reasonable that Music.com is a social networking and information site, complete with video and audio. But in 1996, the domain was occupied by MUSIC Semiconductors, Inc. (MUSIC stood for "Multi-User Specialty Integrated Circuits") -- because, really, what did the Web have to do with music?
By 1998, MUSIC Semiconductor, realizing that an increasingly nongeeky Web audience might have something else in mind when they entered "music" into Netscape 4.0, launched a Geocities-esque music site, maintaining their trademark and copyright mark on the bottom. But our engineering friends presumably decided to take the money and run: by April of 1999, the site was a straightforward music portal, ancestor of today's site.
If music.com earliest incarnation had real geek cred, a look at 1996's eat.com might make you believe it was a similar outpost on the frontier of the World Wide Web. "Mama's Dining Room" is the page's name, and the text -- unformatted on a hideous gray background, apparently not professionally unedited, offering a variety of Italian meals. Then there's the verbiage at the bottom: "Mama's niece Ana, the lawyer, wrote this next part: Copyright 1996 Lipton, Inc. All rights reserved. Ragú, Chicken Tonight, and Pizza Quick are registered trademarks of Lipton, Inc." The current iteration of eat.com is a straightforward homepage for the Ragú brand, now owned, like other Lipton brands promoted by the fictional "Mama," by Anglo-Dutch megacorporation Unilever.
The '90s was a time when companies were trying to figure out just what sort of strategy might work in this confusing World Wide Web. For instance, at some point before 1999, someone at Carter-Wallace, Inc., a pharmaceutical research firm, obviously thought "carterwallace.com is a pain to type out. What if we just put our Website at the much easier to remember car.com?" And there it stayed until mid-2002, baffling anyone who might be looking for a cheap deal on an automobile. By the end of that year, the domain had fallen to the classic sort of dot-com entrepreneur, who sought to connect you with the car you wanted using the power of the Internet
In 1996, meat.com was a classic bit of golden age Internet whimsy called L'Industrie De Meat: an oddish logo on standard-issue mid-90s textured background, with an anti-Communications Decency Act jeremiad, links to an "Internet hall of shame," and information about the "Transnational Church of Life on Mars."
By 2000 the proprietor of L'Industrie had sold the site to a company looking to sell, well meat. However, it never really got off the ground, and by 2004 was in the hands of a domain registrar and offered for sale. Today, you're not going to find much about meat on the site; it belongs to Stop Animal Cruelty.
And sometimes, they just stay the same. Milk.com was snapped up in the unheard-of ancient year of 1994 by Internet denizen Dan Bornstein, and it's remained a classic homepage in the '90s sense -- sparse background, unformatted text, easy-to-find links -- ever since. Dan got the domain because, basically, he likes milk; he has nothing to do with its production or marketing. He has over the past decade and a half resisted attempts to buy it from him, and though he's amenable to offers, he estimates that $10 million is what it would take to get him to cave. He does offer a link to what he calls milk.com's "sister site" -- milk.org, the home page for the Dairy Farmers of Ontario.