January 23, 2008, 9:56 AM — In this brave new Web 2.0 world, it's almost a badge of honor to have a Web site name that only hints at what the user will find there (see Flickr) or is so opaque as to offer no clue at all as to what the Web site is about (see del.icio.us). It's easy to forget the first Internet gold rush of the mid-to-late '90s, when dot-com domain names based on ordinary (and, investors hoped, marketable) nouns and verbs were snapped up by hopeful companies from the humble geeks who had purchased them (often ironically) in the early '90s. The weird and wooly history of the Web can best be traced through some of its most generic domains. Here's a sampling that trace the arc from the geeks to the entrepreneurs and into a more staid corporate world. As with all voyages into the misty pasts of the Internet, we've made copious use of the invaluable Internet Archive Wayback Machine.
music.com: In a time when most music-mad teenagers don't remember a world without the Internet, it makes sense the Music.com site is a social networking and information site, complete with video and audio. But in 1996, when most of us were still painstakingly creating our flirty mixes on cassette tapes, it seemed perfectly reasonable that the domain be occupied by MUSIC Semiconductors, Inc. (the name stood for "Multi-User Specialty Integrated Circuits") -- because, really, what did the Web have to do with music? What, were you going to have a Web site dedicated to your favorite MIDI files?
By 1998, MUSIC Semiconductor began to realize that a increasingly nongeeky Web audience might have something else in mind when they entered "music" into Netscape 4.0. They apparently launched some kind of Geocities-esque music site, maintaining their incongruous trademark and copyright mark on the bottom. (Musical horoscopes from "Madam Soliel" were also available.) But our engineering friends presumably decided to take the money and run: by April of 1999, the site had become a straightforward music portal, ancestor of today's site. And MUSIC Semiconductor still lives happily at music-ic.com.