Once upon a time…

… even huge corporations didn’t know about the Internet. Kevin Kelly pointed me to this Wired piece by Joshua Quittner that appeared way back when. This is how it begins:

I’m waiting for a call back from McDonald’s, the hamburger people. They’re trying to find me someone – anyone – within corporate headquarters who knows what the Internet is and can tell me why there are no Golden Arches on the information highway.

It’s true: there is no mcdonalds.com on the Internet. No burger_king.com either.

Yet.

“Are you finding that the Internet is a big thing?” asked Jane Hulbert, a helpful McDonald’s media-relations person, with whom I spoke a short while ago.

Yes, I told her. In some quarters, the Internet is a very big thing.

I explained a little bit about what the Big Thing is, and how it works, and about the Net Name Gold Rush that’s going on. I told her how important domain names are on the Internet (“Kind of like a phone number. It’s where you get your e-mail. It’s part of your address.”), and I explained that savvy business folks are racing out and registering any domain name they can think of: their own company names, obviously, and generic names like drugs.com and sex.com, and silly names that might have some kind of speculative value one day, like roadkill.com.

“Some companies,” I told Jane Hulbert, “are even registering the names of their competitors.”

“You’re kidding,” she said.

I am not, I told her, recounting the story of The Princeton Review, the Manhattan-based company that sells SAT prep courses, and how it registered the name of its arch-rival, kaplan.com. Now the lawyers are working it out in court. Very ugly. (We’ll get to that later.)

“I could register McDonald’s right now,” I said, pointing out that the name is still unclaimed.

“You could?” she asked, then quickly answered my silence: “You could.”

“So could Burger King,” I said, and Jane Hulbert rang off, looking for some MIS person with the answers.

Those were the days.

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