Web.com is a business that helps small and medium businesses build websites and Facebook apps. Business is good, too, and today the company announced that it has acquired Network Solutions, a company with a long and complex history, for more than $400 million in cash, plus stock, debt and more. Network Solutions was, among other things, the first company to issue domain names, with the blessing of the US Defense Department and funding from the National Science Foundation. It began doing so 20 years ago next month. At that time domains were issued for free.
Four years later, Network Solutions was given permission to start charging for .com and .org domains. The company charged $100 for two years and 30% of the revenue went to the National Science Foundation to create an "Internet Intellectual Infrastructure Fund." (Which sounds awesome.) Five years after that, the company was acquired by Verisign for an amazing $21 billion.
Today it's an equity firm called General Atlantic that sold Network Solutions for hundreds of millions of dollars. General Atlantic bought control over Network Solutions in 2007 for a reported $800 million. Ouch.
From the genesis of the domain name world, complete with subsidies for "national intelectual infrastructure," to a $21 billion acquisition, to an $800 million deal to now $400 million plus - that seems like quite a fall for Network Solutions.
Now it's a property of mega-URL Web.com, where customers can buy pop-up websites, apps for the leading Walled Garden (Facebook) and a "Gorilla Online Marketing Solution"
Who knows what it all means? Perhaps it means that creation of your own little corner of the Internet has fallen from grace and huge financial value, but remains a large business even if it is commodified.