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Wednesday, September 16, 2015

The Evolution of the Domain Name.

By Duane J. Higgins, ceo and

The first domain name ( was registered in 1985. Today there are more than 295 million total domain names registered. Those are impressive numbers. But what about expanded domain name usage and applications?

In looking at this subject I wanted to take more of a historic look at the evidence of the  use of names and naming for communication purposes. Some of the first evidence comes in the form of calling cards or visitor cards where the first usage was documented over 500 years ago.

It is believed that calling cards first came in use in China during the 1500's.  From there they moved to Italy and then to the rest of Europe.


In 18th century Europe, the footmen of aristocrats and royalty would deliver these first European visiting cards to the servants of their prospective hosts solemnly introducing the arrival of their owners. A visiting card, also known as a calling card, is a small paper card with one's name printed on it, and often bearing an artistic design.

Visiting or calling cards became an indispensable tool of etiquette, with sophisticated rules governing their use. The essential convention was that one person would not expect to see another person in his own home (unless invited or introduced) without first leaving his visiting card for the person at his home. Upon leaving the card, he would not expect to be admitted at first, but might receive a card at his own home in response. This would serve as a signal that a personal visit and meeting at home would be welcome. On the other hand, if no card were forthcoming, or if a card were sent in an envelope, a personal visit was thereby discouraged.

As an adoption from French, they were called une carte d'adresse from 1615 to 1800, and then became carte de visite or visiteur with the advent of photography in the mid 19th century. Visiting cards became common amongst the aristocracy of Europe, and also in the United States.

Some visiting cards included refined engraved ornaments, embossed lettering, and fantastic coats of arms. However, the standard form visiting card in the 19th century in the United Kingdom was a plain card with nothing more than the bearer's name on it.

The visiting card is no longer the universal feature of upper middle class and upper class life that it once was in Europe and North America. Much more common is the business card, in which contact details, including address and telephone number, are essential.

So why am I going back 500 years to talk about Internet domain names?
The reason is that Internet domain names and visiting and calling cards (from 500 years ago) basically are and do exactly the same things. 

They identify the person or entity and they link to another person, entity or service. 

So yes, many things have changed over time. As we all know that is called progress.  We no longer use the telegraph machine much (apparently a few are still in use). The quill and ink is gone as well as the printing press. Same for the typewriter and maybe someday soon the  table top computer.

But the changes in all of these cases and with most technology is often incremental and sometimes dramatic. A more subtle and possibly significant change could be happening in the domain name space.

What I see is an interesting iteration of the domain name for use as social media taglines, virtual taglines, domain taglines, dot taglines and dot slogans.  You will see a dot tagline included in this tweet:

From an iteration is the act of repeating a process with the aim of approaching a desired goal, target or result. Each repetition of the process is also called an "iteration", and the results of one iteration are used as the starting point for the next iteration. 

Did the "calling card" from 500 years ago become the domain name of today?

Will the domain name of today become the dot tagline of tomorrow?

Only time will tell.