I chanced upon a site listing the first 100 .com registrations ever made – and it rather startled me. I started my IT career in 1987, first working as a printer operator on the mainframes at ICI, before moving to systems operations in at the beginning of 1988. Later in 1988 I became a trainee programmer (my career never moved as fast as that first 12 month period!) and so I continued.
So when I took my first tentative steps in professional IT there had been fewer than 100 .coms registered. Today there are over 76,000,000 active domains and over 280,000,000 that have been deleted, according to Domaintools.com.
Things have changed markedly in this industry. 21 years is nothing. The internet has quite literally exploded around us. I started surfing the World Wide Web in 1993 and frankly there was nothing much there. It was hard to find sites, and performance was painful. Running your own site was difficult, and it wasn’t until 1996 that I first registered a domain – at-speed.co.uk with the intention of creating an online resource for motorsport news. It was a difficult but exciting experience, but I felt that it was too early – the Internet wasn’t really a mass market item yet, even though the potential was starting to be realised. I had bugger all money at the time too, so needed to go out there and get a better paying job. Interestingly I used to get e-mails from the UK Motorsport Index (which still has the same design as it did then!) complaining about our high budget approach being against the spirit of the web. I doubt he realised that we had absolutely no money and everyone contributed their work for free. One thing that was as true then as it is now is that good <> expensive.
So now where are we? We have applications delivered via the browser, high performance search engines that actually work, and we enjoy the power of a huge number of free social services. Many of these services are heavily funded and will require monetisation at some point, or they’ll close… that could be interesting. Google managed the transition from a giveaway to a fee earning service without ever charging the people that made it successful. Can the likes of flickr, Facebook and WordPress.com?
Time will tell… What’s certain is that the pace of change, so marked over my career, is probably going to continue accelerating. The next 21 years could be as equally fascinating…