It’s 20 years since the .IE registry was set up as a separate company. In today’s podcast, Blacknight CEO Michele Neylon joins Conn Ó Muíneacháin for a walk down the Irish Internet’s memory lane.

This episode is available in both audio and video.

Click on the player below to play the podcast, or download it here: 35:58; 21MB; MP3. Scroll down to see the video.


Michele’s interest in the internet began when he was at university. As an undergraduate in 1994, web access was available only on certain computers at certain times, but he made use of email to web gateways to get the most out of the emerging web.

2000 was the year the .IE company was set up, then known as IE Domain Registry (IEDR). Michele was living in Milan, working as a teacher of English. He recalls using The Irish Times and Irish Examiner websites at that time to keep in touch with Ireland.

“At the time, I weas probably doing a lot more on mailing lists than on specific websites. You’ve got to remember, back in 2000, forums were huge. This is before Facebook, this is before Twitter or Instagram or any of those things … would have been one that alot of people would have been on”

Returning to Ireland, he was struck by the disparity in broadband availability between Ireland and Italy.

“That was one of the things, I think, that was a massive culture shock for me when I came back to Ireland a couple of years later. So, in Italy, there was a company that was rolling out a massive fibre network … Fastweb was a new telco that was really focused on fibre … They had some kind of fast internet access into almost every single building in Milan and, even by today’s standards, it was pretty damn fast. Back in 2000, 2001, you were able to get a couple of hundred megabits into an appartment in the centre of Milan and it was a beautiful process because you would contact Fastweb and say, ‘hey, I want to get this’ and they’d go, ‘do you have a phone line?’ and if you went ‘no’, they’d go ‘that’s fine. No problem.’ So Telecom Italia would come in at, say, eight o’clock in the morning, hook you up, and at a quarter past eight Fastweb would come in, take the line off Telecom Italia and it was done! Whereas, here in Ireland at the time, this was when you had Ireland Offline and there was all this kind of massive battle between the incumbent telcos over that last mile and access to broadband. So when I came back to Ireland in 2003 I went from having super-fast fibre internet into my apartment to having to spend the first few months I was here on fairly slow DSL, and at one point I was even on dial-up, which was a lot of fun in a sort of smack-my-head-against-the-desk-repeatedly sort of way. Trying to run a company on 56k dialup is not easy.”

These days Blacknight is itself a broadband internet service provider, as well offering domains, hosting and a flexible ecommerce solution. Things have changed massively in two decades.

“If you’re going to think about the internet interacted with our daily lives twenty years ago, the short answer is: it really didn’t … Back then, only larger companies would have had a serious online presence. Smaller companies would probably have had, if anything, it would be just a very simple one or two-page website. Everybody’s internet connections were slower. A lot of businesses were just using email which, of course, was, and still is the killer app … It was only a small number of weirdos like me who would have had their own personal websites back then. It was not something that the average punter would have even considered. If people were going to get their own websites they might have gone to Geocities or one of those kind of services that were still quite popular.”

As the leading registrar of .IE names, Blacknight’s growth has mirrored that of the national registry. Recent years have seen the .IE registration process become much simpler and he hopes that their adoption of new technology this month will encourage them to offer better value to consumers

“If you look the more successful domain extensions, they’re the ones that have the simplest registration policies, the competitive pricing and that are stable and robust.”

“From our perspective we think that the price of a .IE domain anme needs to come down to be on par with what you would pay for a .EU.”

The last eight months have seen a dramatic shift in the adoption of internet technology, which has been forced on society by the pandemic.

“You can think of this, in some ways as being like the digital revolution that nobody wanted. This is not how I wanted the world to go online … Businesses are embracing online like never before. They all want to do those things that we’ve been saying they should have been doing for years. They’re now doing it. But this isn’t how we wanted it. You need to be able to get that balance”

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