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August 12, 2013

Move aside .com: Other domains are joining the Internet

(Continued)

"In the car industry, it's like the first Model T Ford that ever rolled off the lot," he explains on the phone. He has big plans for the URL, though he's still figuring out what those plans will be. He might, for example, do something educational with it, transforming it into an online museum honoring the history of the Web.

"It's funny, thinking about dot-com," says Ben Zimmer. Zimmer is a linguist — he's the executive producer of vocabulary.com — and he thinks a lot about the context and meaning of words. "Even though it still gets used, it's most often used to refer to the original dot-coms of the late '90s — the boom and bust. Perhaps for some time, it has had an almost nostalgic quality. It reminds you of that time."

Now, "dot-com" is almost extraneous: Every business is a dot-com because every business has an Internet presence. There is a word for when this happens, for when technology moves forward more quickly than the words used to describe it, e.g., "dialing" a phone or "tuning" a radio. Linguists jokingly call them "anachronyms."

Dot-com, both the address and the phrase, taught us how to use the Web — how to think about the Internet as both a location and a categorized virtual space. It was the training wheels for the bicycle we now comfortably ride. Does this new expansion represent the end of the training wheels? The end of the party line and the invention of . . . call waiting? The time during which the Internet became something beautiful and matrixed, or the time during which it frazzled our brains with confusion?

As for what came before:

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