The first ever domain name was recorded in 1985 (see this very nice infographics for a timeline from then to 2015).
Until recently, the historical TLDs (whether gTLDs like .com .org .net, or ccTLDs like .fr .co.uk) did not offer single character names : most single characters names of gTLDs were reserved in 1993 by IANA, and all 1 & 2 characters names of ccTLDs were too by their respective operators.
But in 2008 ICANN initiated a program to allow new TLDs, and 1930 applications met a 2011 deadline, which resulted in the approval of several hunded ones.
This meant that new money was about to pour in from investors vying for marketable names, especially short ones. Perhaps as a result, in october 2009 single-characters names of .de were made available, and snapped-up.
The period 2014-2015 sees many of the aforementioned new TLDs start selling domains in the usual three phases (sunrise, landrush, public), and some of them (a minority thought) are allowing single-characters names.
With the renewed interest in domain names, in 2014 the .fr operator afnic opened a similar procedure to sell 1 and 2 character names (with proceeds going to some public funds to reduce inequalities in France). Afnic decided to price the 4 weeks of the landrush phase in a degressive manner : the first week each domain cost 15,000€ excluding VAT, the second they cost 10,000€, the third they were set at 5,000€, and the final week at 100€ (the next phae being at the public price, a few euros). Of course, most people buy their domain name through a registrar, which means some extra costs.
I was obviously interested in buying a number like 11.fr or name like pi.fr and set my sight on the last week of landrush, which opened march, 9 at 12:00 Paris time. The only number to have gone in a previous week was 1.fr, for 5,000€, making it the most expensive french number.
When the moment arrived, I was all set, and made my first order at 12:00:05. Already bought! Wow, tried several other numbers, all already gone! Some controversy quickly erupted on twitter, with several users noticing that some registrars (specialized in the resale of domain names) had placed orders up to a full 30 minutes before the deadline. Not fair indeed, and to the credit of Afnic these orders were swiftly canceled with the 311 corresponding names back for sale on the wednesday (and the culprits blacklisted)…only for other similar registars to buy them all within a few seconds after the start time. Lots of ordinary people interested in simply getting their initials or a number got disapointed.
So, except for 1.fr, all domains from 0.fr to 99.fr will have their price set up on the secondary market, but I doubt they’ll top 1.fr 🙂