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CEO Blog: .Com at 25: From Boom to Bust to Serious Business

When pets.com folded in November 2000, it became the poster child for the “dot com bust.” And its rise and fall was indeed spectacular. But there is more to the story: a decade later, pets.com now serves as part of a very lucrative online strategy by Pet Smart.

And, a decade after the bust, there are four times as many .com domains as in 2000. Internet traffic – the mouse clicks we all do – has increased by 30 times.

For every pets.com flameout, there are dozens of successful businesses that have either emerged because of the Internet, or have incorporated online business as a critical part of their operations.

A new report coming out today by the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation finds that today .com businesses drive $400 billion in economic activity every year and that figure will more than double by 2020.

The Internet, and .com specifically, have transformed business models by making it possible, then essential, for partners to collaborate whether in Buffalo or Bangalore.

There are 11.9 million e-commerce and online business .com websites alone.

Even if a business doesn’t sell online, a website is critical to communicate and market to its customers.

The implications of the Internet Revolution are enormous.

For business leaders, it’s about tapping into new markets. Less than five percent of the world’s population lives in the United States – it’s a big world out there. Even in high-tech, which is often associated with American companies, 73 percent of all purchase will be overseas. Never has global trade been more important for U.S. companies.

For business managers, it’s grappling with the new rules of engagement and embracing today’s elastic work environment. Those graduating from college in two months have never known a world without the Internet, view the 9-to-5 workday concept as outdated and know that wherever they are - in an office, a car or at the beach - work and life are both present. If you don’t believe that, just spend a little time on Facebook or Twitter.

At VeriSign a key area of my focus is on the technological challenges of the unsurpassed innovation we have seen the last 25 years and the implications for the next 25 years. This is because VeriSign has the responsibility and privilege of operating .com and .net. Given this, we see the impact of technology and the demands put on the infrastructure up close. The volume of growth as more users come online, billions of devices are Internet-enabled and “smart” systems – whether grids or highways or health – places enormous demands on the infrastructure. To put it in perspective, in all of 1995 VeriSign handled 18 billion website and email connections – today VeriSign does that same amount in about eight hours.

On the same week of the 25th anniversary of .com, the Obama Administration is unveiling its national broadband plan. That plan envisions a connected world that makes us more energy efficient and productive, and spurs new innovations. What that underscores is the importance of the infrastructure that can handle that growth. That is why VeriSign this week launched a new initiative, called Project Apollo, to increase the Internet infrastructure for .com and .net by 1000X by the year 2020.

When the “dot com bust” occurred a decade ago, some cited it as proof that the Internet had been overhyped. But it turned out to be a mere speed bump in what has been a continual and dramatic transformation of not only our economy, but our society as a whole. And as wild a ride as the last decade has been, in retrospect we may ultimately view it merely as the warm-up act of what is to come.

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Mark McLaughlin is the President and CEO of VeriSign, Inc. (NASDAQ: VRSN) www.verisign.com, VeriSign, headquartered in Mountain View, Calif., is the trusted provider of Internet infrastructure services for the networked world and operates .com and .net.

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