What does .com really mean?
The domain .com was one of the first set of top-level domains when the Domain Name System was first implemented for use on the Internet on January 1, 1985. The domain was administered by the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD), however, the department contracted the domain maintenance to SRI International. SRI created DDN-NIC, also known as SRI-NIC, or simply the NIC (Network Information Center), then accessible online with the domain name nic.ddn.mil. Beginning October 1, 1991, an operations contract was awarded to Government Systems Inc. (GSI), which sub-contracted it to Network Solutions Inc. (NSI).
On January 1, 1993, the National Science Foundation assumed responsibility of maintenance, as com was primarily being used for non-defense interests. The NSF contracted operation to Network Solutions (NSI). In 1995, the NSF authorized NSI to begin charging registrants an annual fee for the first time since the domain’s inception. Initially, the fee was US$50 per year, with US$35 going to NSI, and US$15 going to a government fund. New registrations had to pay for the first two years, making the new-domain registration fee US$100. In 1997 the United States Department of Commerce assumed authority over all generic TLDs. It is currently operated by VeriSign, which had acquired Network Solutions. VeriSign later spun off Network Solutions’ non-registry functions into a separate company that continues as a registrar. In the English language, the domain is often spelled with a leading period and commonly pronounced as dot-com, and has entered common parlance this way.
Although com domains were initially intended to designate commercial entities, the domain has had no restrictions for eligible registrants since the mid-1990s. With the commercialization and popularization of the Internet, the domain was opened to the public and quickly became the most common top-level domain for websites, email, and networking. Many companies that flourished in the period from 1997 to 2001—the time known as the “dot-com bubble”—incorporated the label com into company names; these became known as dot-coms or dot-com companies. The introduction of biz in 2001, which is restricted to businesses, has had no impact on the popularity of com.
Although companies anywhere in the world can register com domains, many countries have a second-level domain with a similar purpose under their own country code top-level domain (ccTLD), such as Australia (com.au), China (com.cn), Greece (com.gr), Israel (co.il), India (co.in), Indonesia (co.id), Japan (co.jp), Mexico (com.mx), Nepal (.com.np), Pakistan (com.pk), South Korea (co.kr), Sri Lanka (com.lk), United Kingdom (co.uk), and Vietnam (.com.vn).
Many non-commercial sites and networks use com names to benefit from the perceived recognizability of a com domain. However, the registration statistics show varying popularity over the years.
In December 2011, VeriSign reported that approximately 100 million com domains were registered. According to the Domain Name Industry Brief published in March 2020, which publishes every quarter, com domain registration totaled 145.4 million. As of March 2009, VeriSign reported that 926 accredited registrars serve the domain.
On November 29, 2012, the U.S. Department of Commerce approved the renewal of the com Registry Agreement between Verisign, Inc., and ICANN. Through this agreement, Verisign managed the com registry until November 30, 2018.