As the dot-com bubble was just starting to form in 1995, an enterprising 24-year-old named Bryan Liew saw an opportunity: internet real estate. His plan, which he achieved, was to sit on a Bunyanesque portfolio of internet domains. Wrestling.com? Liew owned it. Perfume.com? Liew’s. Brazil.com? Better make Liew an offer. The domain for any common word that could fall off a tongue was already bought and paid for by Liew, who started an e-commerce network called Communicate.com to govern his domain hoarding.
“The guy who founded [Communicate.com] had bought […] all of these domains, like vietnam.com and brazil.com, makeup.com and perfume.com,” Stewart Butterfield, the founder of Slack, explained on a recent episode of NPR’s podcast How I Built This. “The way that we thought back then was we would develop one universal e-commerce backend and then have all these domain names be the front end.”