Were A record domain names ever limited to 23 characters?

I seem to recollect back the 1999 or 2000 times that I was unable to
register a domain name that was 24 characters long. Shortly after that, I
heard that the character limit had been increased to like 128 characters,
and we were able to register the name.

Can anyone offer some input, or is this a memory of a bad dream?

-- Steve Pirk

the foundational DNS spec sez:


There are also some restrictions on the length. Labels must be 63 characters or less.


Found a decent starting reference. It was a Network solutions limit... I
*knew* it! LOL

The domain in question was inspectorgadgetthemovie.com 27 characters long
including the .tld. I was off by one, the limit was 22 characters for the A
record name and 4 characters for .com, .net, .org, .gov and .edu.

From the 123-domain-register web page:

The word is out... and the experts have been taking advantage of a change
in Domain Name regulations that allows up to 67 characters in domain names.

How this will impact you:


   Long domain names filled with keywords can get you ranked higher on the
   search engines. (yes, the search engines will rank them)


   For those who could not get a DOT.COM domain name, or were limited by
   the 22 character limit, those days are over...for awhile anyway.


   This revolution is driven by entrepreneurs who can act quickly. If you
   do not act soon, all the good domains will be gone, and you will have to pay
   premiums you do not want to in order get the domain name you want.

Since 1993, Network Solutions has registered more than 3.4 million domain
names -- all limited to 26 characters. Now that their exclusive government
contract is ending, competitors have tossed this artificial limit and are
allowing longer names.

Cool, I was not dreaming... ;-]

I remember tales from when there was an eight character limit. But that was
back when you didn't have to pay for them and they assigned you a class-c
block automatically. Of course it took six weeks to register because there
was only one person running the registry.

At least as of 2008, you could go 45 characters, not counting the TLD:

I posted a story about a domain that was one character too long on Google+.
A few old-school Disney Online people remembered it enough to comment/+1 it,
and agreed that it did happen. This event has bothered me for years, because
everyone seemed to think long names were always possible. I kept thinking I
imagined the whole thing, but it did happen after all.
Too funny.

if you prefer a shortened url.

You may be referring to a limitation of a certain OS regarding a
hostname; or some network's policy.
But the DNS protocol itself never had a limit of 8 characters.
When we are talking about the contents of "A" record names,

I would refer you to
"RFC 2181
Clarifications to the DNS Specification R. Elz, R. Bush
[ July 1997 ] (TXT = 36989) (Updates RFC1034, RFC1035, RFC1123)
(Updated-By RFC4035, RFC2535, RFC4343, RFC4033, RFC4034, RFC5452)
(Status: PROPOSED STANDARD) (Stream: IETF, Area: int, WG: dnsind) "

Elz & Bush Standards Track [Page 12]
Occasionally it is assumed that the Domain Name System serves only
   the purpose of mapping Internet host names to data, and mapping
   Internet addresses to host names. This is not correct, the DNS is a
   general (if somewhat limited) hierarchical database, and can store
   almost any kind of data, for almost any purpose.
11. Name syntax
The length of any one label is limited to between 1 and 63 octets. A
full domain
   name is limited to 255 octets (including the separators). The zero
   length full name is defined as representing the root of the DNS tree,
   and is typically written and displayed as ".". Those restrictions
   aside, any binary string whatever can be used as the label of any
   resource record.

It turns out it was an artificial limitation on Network Solution's part.
Being the only registrar at the time, it was pretty much internet wide at
that point, contrary to the RFC spec.

What was so funny was that someone got Internic/Network Solutions to up the
limit. Apparently just to save some money on reprinting movie posters... ok,
so they would have had to change some trailers...

You may be referring to a limitation of a certain OS regarding a hostname; or some network's policy.

No. See http://www.ietf.org/rfc/rfc810.txt


   1. A "name" (Net, Host, Gateway, or Domain name) is a text string up
   to 24 characters drawn from the alphabet (A-Z), digits (0-9), and the
   minus sign (-) and period (.).

This defined a policy that was imposed by "The NIC" of the time. I believe the policy was relaxed somewhat after the DNS protocol was specified which allowed domain names to be longer than the NIC's policy, and the resulting confusion necessitated the clarification in 2181.


NSI was never the only registrar. They were just the only registrar
for COM, ORG, NET, EDU, and possibly a few other TLDs, but,
they were, for example, never the registrar for US or many other

Therefore, it was not internet wide, though I will admit that it did
cover most of the widely known gTLDs.



-- jra

I recall that 3M was originally mmm.com because they wouldn't allow a number
to start a domain.

/me runs whois mmm.com

Yep, Created on..............: 1988-10-31.

but wait, 3m.com Created on..............: 1988-05-27.

So was the digit as first octet a limitation with some OS or software (BIND,
sendmail, gopher?) or do I have brain-fade?

I would have bet good green Murrican Money that RFC 1034/5 required that it
not start with a number, but I'll have to go look. No, I seem to remember
pretty clearly it was administrative.

-- jra

Yes, this was because some very old (current at the time, however)
implementations of gethostbyname(3) were implemented in such a way that if
the first character they saw returned isdigit()==TRUE, then,
they would assume that they had been passed an IP address
and would attempt to encode the string as an IP address rather
than looking it up in /etc/hosts or DNS.


Now I'm going to have to look at the current gethostbyname(3) and see what
happens if we ever get a tld that is a decimal number under 255. Yet
another reason for IPv6.



    1. A "name" (Net, Host, Gateway, or Domain name) is a text string up
    to 24 characters drawn from the alphabet (A-Z), digits (0-9), and the
    minus sign (-) and period (.). No blank or space characters are
    permitted as part of a name. No distinction is made between upper
    and lower case. The first character must be a letter.

back in the day,


existed to test the length of DNS label. circa 1992

^b.com also existed (yes, we considered ^p)

the heady days of DNS evolution!


Hahahahaha! That is awesome.