The Long-Forgotten Battle for the Longest Domain Name on the Internet
Does having the longest domain name in the world make you a content king?
Some people just want to have the biggest and best of everything, including domain names. But when the largest URL is fixed at 63 characters between the "www" and the ".com" or ".org", is it possible to find out who owned the first longest domain name in the world? And when it comes down to URLs, is size everything?
In 2002, llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch.co.uk was given the title of longest domain name in the world by the Guinness Book of Records. But even before llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch, a site about a village in Wales, increased its URL to 63-character llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogochuchaf.eu in 2007, a whole host of other sites were vying for the crown of longest URL in the world.
Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogochuchaf is the "upper" or "old" part of a Welsh village called Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch, which can be found in Anglesey, an island off the North West coast of Wales.
The 90s style website for the village itself warmly welcomes the curious visitor in clipart fonts to llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch, "the Welsh village with the longest name in Britain!" The name, incidentally, translates to the equally epic "Saint Mary's Church in the hollow of the white hazel near a rapid whirlpool and the Church of Saint Tysilio of the red cave in English".
And while the self-acclaimed longest website in the world now looks more like a statement to its own greatness, the village's official website actually has some interesting information about the place itself. It offers tips on what you can see and get up to should you wish to go and visit it. The village also playfully invited people from the world over to submit sound bites of them attempting to pronounce the village name.
A quick website informer check reveals a certain Keith Woods as the owner of llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch.co.uk, a site promoting the village. As explained in a 2007 report by WalesOnline, llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch.co.uk got upgraded to www.llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogochuchaf.eu that year "after being "registered by Birmingham man Keith Wood." This offshoot site claims to be the longest in the world.
According to the same report, at least six other people registered the longest possible domain name in 2006. So it's pretty likely that somewhere between 2002 to 2006, someone else ousted llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch.co.uk as the longest domain name title holder. But who could that be?
I tried to reach out to Keith Woods, but failed on all accounts to connect with him. But the plot thickened when I reached out to the Gerard Steffens, who is a mathematician and the proud owner of 3.141592653589793238462643383279502884197169399375105820974944592.eu, a website that embodies his love of all things pi (including the edible sorts).
"I'm a fan of pi and I love this number. I wanted to write about pi, and I thought it would be funny if I did on this domain. Most people can't type in my domain name, but I am able to remember all these numbers," he told me over the phone.
Though I can't read much German, I can tell that Steffens sure loves pi. There's "pi blog", where he told me he archives everything pi-related. He told me, for instance, that he knows another pi-related website where you only get to be a member if you can recite the first 100 numbers of pi from memory. On another note, he also likes writing about the kind of pies you can eat out in the US.
But when did Steffens get his pi website, and what's the story behind it? Back in the 2000s, Steffens did some investigating and found out that 63 characters was the maximum that you could have for a domain name. He saw that there were a whole host of unoriginal long domain name websites out there. Take, for instance, a domain name based on 63 number ones, he said.
"I found this domain name [pi domain] with 63 characters, which had been dropped by the owner in India. He said it was the first longest in the world," said Steffens. "I guess I was lucky, nobody else was interested."
As for his second example of a website with a very long domain name, "thisisthelongesteuropeandomainnameallovertheworldandnowitismine.eu", Steffens bought it just bought that for fun.
"I have to pay eight dollars a years, but it's a chance for me to write about something that's nerdy and funny. Perhaps I can put some content up there," Steffens told me.
The site is currently like a lot of other longest domain names in the world, which make a statement about being the biggest and the best, but do nothing much else. Take thelongestdomainnameintheworldandthensomeandthensomemoreandmore.com, which presents a Douglas Adams quote as "God's Final Message", and iamtheproudownerofthelongestlongestlongestdomainnameinthisworld.com, which is mostly self-congratulatory, as examples.
Since the battle over the longest domain names raged in the 2000s, many websites with 63 character long URLs have come to their natural demise, including the URL made up of 63 number ones.
As sites disappear, it gets even harder to tell who might have held the first title of longest URL in the world. But one thing's clear: it's the content that makes you rule supreme. And on that account, devout lover of all-things-pi Gerard Steffens probably tops them all.
Masters of their Domain is a column that investigates who owns popular or interesting domain names, and what they're doing with them.