Brief History of the Domain Name System

1950s & 1960s
1970s 1980s 1990s


·         Jan. 7, 1958 – President Eisenhower requested funds to start ARPA.

·         Early 1958 – ARPA in created. 

·         Late 1950s – MIT computer researchers invented “time share.”  

·         1960 – 1965 – Paul Baran working at RAND developed idea of packet switching and computerized “distributed networks” using “a rapid store and forward system” nicknamed “hot potato routing” and wrote 11 volumes of memoranda papers in an attempt to convince AT&T officials to support the network.

·         1961 – Due to lack of funds, the Air Force gave the Q-32 computer in Santa Monica, California to ARPA 

·         July 1961 – Leonard Kleinrock at MIT published a report analyzing the problem of data flow in networks and presenting ideas on packet switching.  

·         August 1962 – The first recorded description of the social interactions that could be enabled through networking was a series of memos written by J.C.R. Licklider of MIT

·         1965 – ARPA funded Tom Marill’s project to link the TX-2 computer in MIT’s Lincoln Laboratory to the Q-32 in Santa Monica, California, asking Larry Roberts at MIT to oversee the project. 

·         1965 – The Air Force agreed to fund Baran’s network, however the Pentagon gives the DCA the job of managing the network.  Rather than see his network die at the hands of conventional communications experts, Baran declined the funding. 

·         1965 – Marill developed a “set of procedures for sending information back and forth” also known as “message protocol.”

·         Spring 1966 – Donald Watts Davies, working for the NPL, gave a public lecture on his independently  developed idea of packet switching.  (and gave packet switching its name)

·         Late 1966 – Roberts conceived ARPANET

·         Early 1967 – Meeting of ARPA’s principal investigators in Ann Arbor, Michigan.  Roberts (the director of the IPTO) put forward the idea of a computer network.  Wes Clark introduced the idea of a subnetwork: small, identical computers all interconnected – “interface message processors (IMPs).”  Engelbert volunteered to the Network Information Center (NIC).

·         1967 – Roberts published paper on ARPANET. 

·         End of 1967 – The Association for Computing Machinery’s computer conference in Gatliburg, Tennessee.  Roberts presented his first paper on ARPANET and heard of work done by Donald Davies’ team at NPL and Paul Baran at RAND.

·         Early 1968 – Roberts and Baran meet, and Roberts chooses the first 4 IMP sites.

·         July 1968 – Roberts and the DARPA funded community refined the overall structure and  specifications for the ARPANET as described in the Request for Proposals (RFP) on building the IMP network which was sent to 170 companies.

·         Summer 1968 – Meeting of computer science graduate students in Santa Barbara, CA.  This group of emerging computer scientists that later became known as the Network Working Group (NWG) began contemplation of host-to-host communications.

·         December 1968 – In response to a RFP, Bolt Beranek and Newman (BBN) wins contract for the development of  the IMPs and the IMP network.

·         April 7, 1969 – Steve Crocker distributed the first Request for Comments (RFC) titled “Host Software” which discussed issues raised in the 1968 Santa Barbara and subsequent meetings. 

·         Spring 1969 – UCLA computer experts received BBN report 1822 – a set of specifications for connecting host computers to IMPs.  UCLA computer experts, lead be Mike Wingfield began building the host-to-IMP interface.

·         August 30, 1969 – BBN installed the first IMP at UCLA and within hours of its arrival the IMP and the Sigma – 7 were passing data back and forth.

·         October 1, 1969 –  The second IMP arrived at SRI (at Stanford University); a two node network was created.  

·         November 1, 1969 – The third IMP was installed at UC Santa Barbara.

·         December 1, 1969 – The fourth IMP was installed at the University of Utah.

·         December 1969 – NWG meeting in Salt Lake City.  The NWG invented Telnet – a remote login protocol. 

·         End of 1969 – four host computers were connected together into the initial ARPANET

·         1969 – ALOHANet constructs a network using radios for transmission.


·         Early 1970s – ARPA used communications satellites to create SATNet – an intercontinental network.

·         January 1970 – Bob Kahn and Dave Walden of BBN flew to LA to test the network on Kahn’s fears of congestive failure and reassembly lockup.  Kahn’s fears proved to be correct.  Upon returning to Cambridge, MA, Kahn set to work with Crowther to fix the potential problem. 

·         Late March 1970 – The first cross – country circuit was installed, connecting UCLA’s computer to BBN. 

·         Spring 1970 – Heart’s BBN team invented remote maintenance and diagnostics which allowed troubleshooting and occasionally fixing IMPs by remote control. 

·         Summer 1970 – IMPs were placed at MIT, RAND, System Development Corp., and Harvard.  AT&T replaced the link between BBN and UCLA with a link between BBN and RAND, and added a like between MIT and the University of Utah. 

·         November 1970 – BBN improved upon the existing Network Control Center and placed Alex McKenzie at its head.

·         December 1970 – the Network Working Group (NWG) working under Steve Crocker finished the initial ARPANET Host-to-Host protocol, called the Network Control Protocol (NCP). 

·         End of 1970 – Carnegie-Mellon University and Case Western Reserve University were connected to the network.

·         Early 1971 –  BBN developed a terminal IMP – known as TIP – which allowed users to log in to the network without using a host computer. 

·         Mid 1971 – Kahn and Al Vezza along with a group of 8 principal researchers began planning a public demonstration of ARPANET which would take place at the first International Conference on Computer Communication (ICCC)

·         Late Summer 1971 – The first 4 deliverable TIPs were delivered to BBN.

·         Fall 1971 – 3 TIPs were up and running on the network.  ARPANET had 19 nodes.

·         Early 1972 – Several more Honeywell IMPs and TIPs were added to the network.

·         Early 1972 – Jon Postel became the editor of the RFCs.

·         Early 1972 – Ray Tomlinson coded the e-mail program, and was responsible for putting the @ sign in e-mail addresses. 

·         Early July 1972 – The NWG finished tweaking the File Transfer Protocol (FTP) which was published as RFC 354. 

·         August 1972 – A third cross-country line was added.  ARPANET consisted of 29 nodes.

·         October 1972 – Kahn along with other computer experts presented a large, very successful demonstration of the ARPANET at the first ICCC in Washington DC.    

·         1972 – Kahn introduces the idea of open-architecture networking. 

·         1973-1975 – The growth of ARPANET was roughly one node per month. 

·         1973 – Kahn and Vint Cerf teamed up to develop a new version of the NCP protocol which could meet the needs of an open-architecture network environment. This protocol would eventually be called the Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol (TCP/IP).  

·         Spring 1973 – Cerf and Kahn finalized a conceptual framework for creating a network of networks.  This framework was based on the idea of a “gatekeeper” computer between the two networks.  This gatekeeper would appear to be a host computer to each network.  

·         Late Spring and Summer 1973 – Cerf and Kahn presented the challenge of working out the details to the Stanford computer science graduate students. 

·         September 1973 – Cerf and Kahn presented their paper on host-to-host protocol to the International Networking Working Group at the University of Sussex in Brighton. 

·         1973 – Larry Roberts wrote the first mail manager program, called RD.

·         1973 – The Open vs. Closed Source Code debate sparked over BBN’s refusal to release the IMP source code.  Upon receiving pressure from DARPA, BBN finally agreed to release the source code. 

·         1973 – Bob Metcalf of Xerox Park developed a short distance network called Ethernet. 

·         May 1974 – Cerf and Kahn’s paper “A Protocol for Packet Network Intercommunication” was published.

·         April 1975 – Tel Myer and Austin Henderson of BBN issued a list of “standard headers” as RFC 680 entitled Message Transmission Protocol.   RFC 680 sparked debates called the Header Wars.  The wars were about what exactly belonged in the header.  The computer engineering community split into two factions: those for long headers, and those for short headers. 

·         June 7, 1975 – Steve Walker (an ARPA program manager) proposed the foundation of the Message Services Group (Dubbed the MsgGroup) “to develop a sense of what is mandatory, that is nice, and what is not desirable in message services.” 

·         Summer 1975 – The Defense Communications Agency (DCA) took over the management of ARPANET. 

·         1975 – John Vittal wrote a mail program called MSG which, unlike the RD program, could deal with numerous e-mails.  This program was also the first to use the ANSWER command.

·         1975 – Yogen Dalal, drawing on the Cerf/ Kahn 1974 paper created a list of connector specifications.

·         1976 – The first computerized adventure game was created by Will Crowther.  Later in 1976, Don Woods asked Crowther if he could revise the game.  When revisions were done, Adventure was placed on the Stanford AI Lab computer.  Crowther and Woods encouraged piracy of Adventure on the idea that software development was open – and therefore anyone was free to contribute.

·         1976 – The first commercial e-mail programs appear, starting with The Computer Corporation of America’s $40,000 COMNET, soon followed by On-Line Software International’s $18,000 MESSENGER.

·         Fall 1976 – Jimmy Carter’s presidential campaign became the first to use e-mail.  Carter became nicknamed the “computer driven candidate.”

·         May 12, 1977 – Ken Pogran, John Vittal, Dave Crocker and Sustin Henderson published more than 20 pages of specifications for “A Proposed Official Standard for the Format of ARPA Network Messages,” as RFC 724.  This proposal was widely criticized.

·         October 1977 – Cerf, Kahn and several others demonstrated the first three network system. The three networks were packet radio, ARPANET and SATNET.

·         November 1977 – The RFC 724 team revised the previous proposal and published the revision as RFC 733.  The revision met with concern because it was not compatible with ARPANET’s most popular mail program – MSG.

·         1977 – Paul Baran and Dave Farber co-author the first paper written over e-mail with the authors 500 miles apart.

·         April 12, 1979 -- Kevin MacKenzie, motivated by the feeling that e-mail was too impersonal, created the first smilies J which would later be assimilated into cyber-culture. 

·         Early 1978 – TCP was broken into two parts: TCP – charged with breaking up and reassembling the messages, and IP – charged with routing.  Thus TCP became TCP/IP. 

·         May 1979 – The National Science Foundation (NSF) sponsored a meeting to talk about a possible new network called Computer Science Research Networks (CSNET). 


·         Early 1980’s Universities wanted to connect their Local Area Networks (LANs) to the Internet.  Ethernet made that desire possible, and as a result networking mushroomed.

·         Summer 1980 – The NSF board decided to invest $5 million in the CSNET.

·         1981 – Bill Joy, at Berkeley, received ARPA funding to integrate TCP/IP into the Berkeley version of UNIX. 

·         August 1982 – Jon Postel and other in the MsgGroup decided to create a separate transfer protocol for e-mail.  This decision led to the creation of Simple Mail Transfer Protocol (SMTP).

·         1982 – Joy teamed up with two Stanford Business School graduates to create a company called Sum Microsystems, which sold powerful computer “workstations” with Berkeley’s TCP/IP version of UNIX.  These workstations greatly aided the re-popularization of TCP/IP.    

·         January 1, 1983 – ARPANET changed from NCP to TCP/IP.

·         By June 1983 – More than 70 sites were connected to CSNET.

·         November 1983 – The rapid growth of the internet caused massive problems in bookkeeping.  To deal with this problem a group including Jon Postel, Paul Mockapetris and Craig Partrige published RFC 882 which created the domain name system (DNS) to make Internet navigation easier.  With DNS, users can type host names such as “USC-ISIF” instead of “”  Every Address would have information from specific to general. 

·         1983 – The DCA decided that the ARPANET was too large to maintain high security standards.  Therefore, ARPANET was broken into the networks: MILNET (sites carrying non-classified military information) and ARPANET (sites for the computer research community).

·         October 1984 – RFC 920 establishes 7 generic “top level domains” (gTLDs, including .com, .net, .org and .gov) to provide domain space for corporations, non-profits, schools, networks, US government offices and the US military.

·         1985 – DARPA put pressure on Internet Users to adopt DNS addresses. 

·         1985 – Using 5 new supercomputer centers, NSF built a “backbone” network called NSFNET in response to interest from non-computer science researchers.  NSF agreed to connect self-organized regional networks to the backbone. 

·         1985 – After Bob Kahn left, DARPA decided that ARPANET was obsolete compared with the faster NAFNET, and therefore decided to close ARPANET down. 

·         January 1986 – After a grand summit meeting, network representatives decided that the DNS system could and would work. 

·         By 1986 – The vast majority of the American computer science departments and many private corporations were connected to CSNET.  

·         November 1987 – RFC 1020 transfers control of Internet Protocol numbers from Jon Postel and ISI to the Network Information Center (NIC) at SRI International. First transfer of DNS activity to private sector. 

·         1988 – The US Government chose Open Systems Interconnection (OSI) over TCP/IP for the new standard. 

·         1989 – ARPANET passed the torch to NEFNET and the regional networks, and ceased to exist.


·         September 1991 – RFC 1261 transfers NIC to Government Systems, Inc., in a document written by Network Solutions (NSI) employees. 

·         January 1, 1993 – NSI and National Science Foundation (NSF) sign Cooperative Agreement granting NSI authority to manage DNS registration and database. Agreement set to expire on 9/30/98. 

·         October 22, 1996 to May 1, 1997 – The Internet International Ad Hoc Committee (IAHC, a coalition of participants including ISOC, IANA, ITU and WIPO among others) forms to recommend policy and procedure changes for administering gTLDs. 

·         February 28, 1997 – IAHC releases the "generic Top Level Domains Memorandum of Understanding" (gTLD-MoU) as its recommendation of DNS policy; IAHC holds working meetings and solicits signatories to the Memorandum.

·         May 1, 1997 – 80 organizations sign the gTLD-MoU and the IAHC dissolves. Dissenters to gTLD-MoU claim that it bypasses governance structures and fails to protect individuals/small businesses in Internet policy debates; there is further concern regarding the centralization of power over DNS in a non-governmental organization. 

·         January 30, 1998 – Department of Commerce issues a proposed policy statement, known as the Green Paper, to improve the technical management of Internet names and addresses. Elements of the gTLD-MoU are incorporated. 

·         June 5, 1998 – In response to comments received regarding the Green Paper, Department of Commerce issues a statement of policy, known as the White Paper, calling for the end of direct federal support of Internet name and address coordination services; and calls for "Newco" to be created and take over the DNS. Many of the same concerns raised in the gTLD-MoU debate resurface. 

·         July/August 1998 – The International Forum on the White Paper holds a series of meetings around the world to address issues left open in the White Paper such as dispute resolution and the formation of new registries. 

·         November 21, 1998 – The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) incorporates with aim of receiving designation as "Newco". 

·         November 25, 1998 – Department of Commerce signs Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with ICANN recognizing ICANN as the "Newco" called for in the White Paper.