Who could have imagined how life would be changed by the Internet? There weren’t many testing the waters 25 years ago when, on March 15, the first dotcom Internet domain name — symbolic.com — was registered by a Cambridge, Mass., computer manufacturer. The flood gates didn’t exactly fly open. Only five more domains were registered that year.
The pace has picked up a bit since. Twenty-one million domains were registered over the next 15 years, and 57 million more in the past 10 years. Nearly 22,000 new dotcom Web sites are registered every day. People who track these things say there now are more than 200 million Web sites, including dotcoms, dotnets, dotgovs, etc.
To put the newness of all this in perspective, consider that Apple didn’t registered its dotcom until 1987. It took Microsoft four more years to join the party. But it’s a young phenomenon that’s already weathered a monumental bust. March also marked the 10th anniversary of the Internet stock bubble burst.
Many of the seemingly ubiquitous and certainly most-visited dotcoms — Google, Yahoo and Facebook — are really only recent variations on the developing theme. It’s a theme that, according to an Information Technology and Innovation Foundation study, shows dotcom domains contributing $400 billion to the world economy annually. By 2020, that amount is expected to more than double.
VeriSign, which manages two of the world’s 13 Internet root servers, says 11.9 million dotcoms are e-commerce and online business sites, 4.3 million are entertainment-related and 1.8 million sports-related.
All of this occurred without substantial interference from government, and even despite occasional government attempts to “help” by imposing taxes and proposing restrictions.
Government’s top-down inclination to force one-size-fits-all “solutions” onto life is nowhere more revealed as foolhardy effort than when it comes to the Internet. In just 10 years, for example, broadband Internet access has been provided to more than two-thirds of Americans. Yet the government is seriously entertaining the idea it can force similar access for most of those who don’t yet have it — and estimates that will take only another 10 years.
While the government’s figuring out how to impose such improvements, the Internet community already will have achieved them. Cisco recently announced development of a quantum leap in Internet communication with a new router technology for data centers capable of streaming every film ever made, from Hollywood to Bollywood, in less than four minutes.
Couple that with Google’s recent announcement that it will test ultrahigh-speed broadband networks capable of delivering up to 1 gigabit per second — 100 times faster than today’s top speed. You could download the “Avatar” in 3-D in 72 seconds.
Such lightning-fast transformations are coming and can be only delayed or impeded by government “help.” Certainly, there are monumental challenges raised by these new capabilities, such as how to protect intelligent property rights and finding new, workable distribution and pricing models. But we suspect innovative private minds, as always, will be more nimble and quicker to make those adjustments than a ponderous, intrusive government bureaucracy trying to foresee and shape the future. After all, who could have predicted any of this?