Several times a day, this sequence of four characters appears at the top of your computer screen. Do you know what it actually means?
Abbreviations are very common in the English language, but their meanings are unknown to most people. Some date back to ancient times, such as the use of “lb” as an abbreviation for “pound.”
Others date back far, far more recent, including technological abbreviations like “SIM card” and “USB” and even “GIF”. The most common of these tech abbreviations, however, is “.com”. What does this three letter acronym stand for?
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What does .com stand for?
When you see the sites they encompass, some domain names are more self-explanatory. Websites with .edu domain names are educational, and websites with .gov domain names are government-related. But what does “.com” mean? Good guesses include “computer” and “communication,” but neither is the abbreviation’s actual meaning. “I” in “iPhone” doesn’t mean what you think it does, either.
A site can use a “.com” domain even if it does not have a commercial purpose (though most commercial sites do). Due to its availability, “.com” is a bit of a catch-all domain name. It differs from more restrictive domain names like “.edu” and “.mil.”.
Another potential meaning?
Though it means “commercial” now, some tech experts claim that it may have originally meant something else. Some speculate that it originally stood for “company.” Why? During the early days of the Internet, in the 1980s and ’90s, it was not intended to connect businesses, explains Jack Haverty, who was a domain developer at MIT at the time.
In those days, “.coms weren’t thought of as businesses – they were companies doing government contract work.” So “company” may have been the more logical explanation back then.
It became clear, however, that the Internet would indeed be a major platform for commerce despite these potential origins. It is now undisputed that the abbreviation means “commercial.”.
What do .net and .org stand for?
Which other domain names are most commonly used? There is a much simpler explanation for each of these. As a domain name for networking companies, such as service providers, “.net” is short for “network”.
Today, some businesses use the “.net” domain name despite the “.com”‘s “commercial” meaning. “.org” means “organization,” and just like “.com,” “.org” sites can be registered by anyone. In spite of its popularity as a domain name for nonprofits, it is available to anyone and was initially intended for sites with no governmental, educational, or commercial associations.
Which came first?
Although “.com” is overwhelmingly the most popular domain name, it wasn’t the first. The “original three” domain names all saw their first iterations in 1985, with “.net” coming first. The Nordic Infrastructure for Research & Education launched Nordu.net in January 1985.
That year, Symbolics.com became the first registered .com site, followed by Mitre.org in July. Learn about the technology myths you should stop believing now that you know the origins of these common domain names.