In 1943, Chair of the IT and Consulting Company, IBM, Thomas Watson believed that the demand for computers worldwide was only five people. If he only knew what was to come! Many years later, in 1993, another tech pioneer made a similarly wrong prediction. Microsoft founder and Harvard drop-out Bill Gates made the statement that the Internet was just “hype”.
Today, everybody knows that these predictions were all wrong. By 2011 alone, one-third of the world's population was online. Nevertheless, in the 90s, Gates was not alone in his opinion. Management of many established companies discounted the Internet as a temporary trend and neglected to prepare themselves for the Internet age.
By 1994, only one-third of the 500 largest companies in the world had registered the domain closest to their company name. They paid for this later on when most popular top-level domains had already been purchased. As a result companies were forced to pay expensive ransom payments and endure painful legal disputes.
Here are examples of five famous companies that had to fight for their own domain names:
#1 Nobody wanted Mcdonalds.com
In 1994, the journalist Joshua Quittner had an idea for a good story. During the ongoing debate about the utility of the Internet, he wrote an article about the value of domains. In the process of doing his research, he discovered the unused address mcdonalds.com and he wisely snatched it up.
But much to his surprise, this purchase didn’t interest anybody! At the time, no one was tasked with managing digital assets for McDonalds such as their domain name. And oddly enough, even their competitor, Burger King did not want to explore this new digital territory – not even out of spite or just to annoy its competition.
Quittner was at a loss of what to do with the newly-registered mcdonalds.com domain so he asked his readers to send suggestions to firstname.lastname@example.org. Later on, however, when McDonald’s did have someone managing their digital marketing in this scope, the domain was transferred to the corporation. By Quittner’s request, the burger company contributed $3,500 to a school in Brooklyn for the purchase of computers and the setup of access to the Internet.
#2 MTV pursues mtv.com
At the beginning of the 90s, nobody at MTV was interested in the Internet except for one person: MTV Video Jockey (VJ), Adam Curry who secured mtv.com. Curry even asked his employer whether there would be a problem with this purchase, to which MTV replied “no”. This is a decision they would severely regret just one year later.
In 1994, Curry quit his job at MTV. With him, the station also lost the domain mtv.com. The case eventually landed in court, where the parties later came to an agreement and the domain was sold to MTV for an undisclosed sum.
#3 Why there are no cars on nissan.com
What do a Japanese automobile manufacturer and an Israeli immigrant have in common? The answer: the name and the interest in the domain nissan.com. In 1994 the computer entrepreneur Uzi Nissan secured nissan.com to sell his computer hardware and network services. Two years later, he started a small Internet service provider at nissan.net.
Both domains were a hot button for the massive automobile company even though up until that point they had been using nissanmotors.com. In 1999, the case went to court and a long legal battle ensued. To make a long story short: Uzi Nissan retained nissan.com barring some conditions while the Japanese automobile manufacturer had to settle for nissanusa.com.
#4 Tesla.com changes hands after 24 years
In the early 90’s, Stu Grossman thought creating a fan page honoring Nikola Tesla was a good idea. In 1992, the Silicon Valley engineer secured the domain tesla.com and used it to honor the legendary inventor, physicist and electrical engineer.
At the time, unbeknownst to Stu, a California manufacturer of electric cars started in 2003 was also going to be named Tesla. Initially, this company was satisfied using the Web address teslamotors.com.
However, in 2016, Grossman handed the domain over to Tesla Inc. but how this agreement came to be is unclear and not publicly documented.
#5 Facebook fights for facebook.com
Even the now-famous Internet company Facebook once made a mistake with their domain name or more precisely, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg. He originally started his social network, now immensely popular, under the somewhat awkward name Thefacebook and used the domain, thefacebook.com.
The correction to the name known today was made in 2005 when the newly-established Napster founder Sean Parker convinced Zuckerberg to eliminate the “the” in the name. Thefacebook became Facebook and facebook.com changed hands for $200,000.