Domain names and the Network Information Center
SRI was the first organization to assign website addresses such as “www.sri.com” with extensions such as “.com,” “.org,” and “.gov.” Known as top-level domain names, or TLDs, these addresses were assigned to network hosts by the Network Information Center (NIC), managed by SRI from 1970 until 1991.
The NIC was the information hub first for the ARPANET (the small network that predated the Internet, on which SRI was an original node), and later for the Defense Data Network (DDN). The ARPANET became the segment of the DDN used by government, university, and other researchers. These networks eventually grew into the Internet we use today.
Host names were important because they and their corresponding addresses were used to direct network traffic correctly. As early as 1971, one of the NIC’s assignments was to maintain and administer host tables for the network. Later, the NIC also administered Internet Protocol (IP) addresses.
Elizabeth “Jake” Feinler led the NIC for most of the 22 years that it was managed by SRI. In 1991, the Internet opened to commercial traffic, and the role of naming was transferred to other government and commercial entities. (No one knew back then that “dot com” would become household words!) Governance of the naming process fell to ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) in 1998. For her pioneering work, Feinler was elected to the Internet Hall of Fame in 2012.