As the Internet grows into a widespread tool for social networking as much as a resource for information and people debate about the impact of concepts like Web 2.0, it's easy to forget that the system started as a private network built by the U.S. government to exchange information. Gradually, however, many important areas embraced the Internet, especially as it moved through academic institutions in the 1970s.
By 1984, many standards were in place, including the domain name system (DNS). You probably don't talk about the DNS on a daily basis, but if you have a computer and use it to browse the Internet and check e-mail, you definitely make good use of it. The DNS is simply the standard used to direct traffic to Web sites and e-mail addresses. Every site has what's called an Internet Protocol (IP) address, which basically acts just like a telephone number. The IP address for howstuffworks.com, for example, is 220.127.116.11. Of course, if you wanted to access HowStuffWorks, you wouldn't type those numbers in. Because it's easier for us to remember a logical collection of letters rather than a jumble of numbers, we use the domain name -- a simple string of letters, what's known as a mnemonic device. The DNS translates the letters into the number-based IP address, and a connection is made.
The part of the address on the far right, such as the .com, is where your browsing requests go first -- it's what's called a top level domain (TLD). You're probably familiar with three of the most common: .com, .org and .net. There are, of course, a few more, such as .edu and .gov, but chances are you probably use the first three more often.
Early on during the Internet's first major explosion of commercial growth, a coalition called the Internet International Ad Hoc Committee (IAHC) formed with the intention of adding several more TLDs to the list. How much influence did the IAHC have over the Internet? What became of the organization's plan? To learn about the rise and fall of the Internet International Ad Hoc Committee, read on.