Joseph Peterson takes a look at what domains Waymo registered…and didn’t.
Google’s not God. MarkMonitor’s no Moses. Thou shalt not treat Alphabet’s domain registration patterns as the 10 Commandments. Yet it’s interesting to look at what they’ve carved in stone for themselves … because it’s a display of TLD priorities … and because others too are looking.
Waymo, in case you haven’t already heard, is Google / Alphabet’s spinoff company for autonomous vehicles. The new brand name was widely reported on December 13, but close observers would have noticed a flurry of domain registrations on November 21 and 22 (depending on time zone).
ccTLDs marketed for global use:
Country codes I’ll deal with later. For now, let’s digest what’s on our plate already. Beyond the no-brainer automotive keywords, it’s interesting to see what else Google thought of: customer service and jobs. Next, public relations with .COMPANY and .PRESS. Notice their embrace of .BLOG, which is barely a month old. And .TECH is no surprise, considering the New York Times referred to “tech” and “technology” 17 times in their story about Waymo.
That’s everything. Now, as soon as you see that paltry list of 13 nTLD domains, you domainers will immediately wonder about HUNDREDS of additional nTLDs that Google and MarkMonitor have ignored. And what about other legacy gTLDs like .INFO, .BIZ, or .MOBI? Or repurposed ccTLDs such as .ME and .IO?
Conspicuously absent is .XYZ. Back in 2015, Google made headlines by spinning off a parent company called Alphabet and choosing ABC.xyz as its online address. For the .XYZ registry and for domainers who’d invested in .XYZ, this represented a huge public victory. My opinion has always been that .XYZ was uniquely relevant to the name “Alphabet” and that ABC.xyz was a dead end, not a path other brands could follow. Whatever .XYZ’s potential, it seems that Alphabet, the parent corporation, is not pursuing .XYZ for its subsidiary brands.
Even if .XYZ was snubbed, the suffix is in good company. The vast majority of TLDs were neglected – among them quite a few that Alphabet ought to have secured, in my view. In any case, Daniel Negari, CEO of the .XYZ registry, should be celebrating. He and Frank Schilling teamed up to launch .AUTO, .CAR, and .CARS; and Google has done him another favor, buying into all 3 for Waymo.
Alphabet isn’t finished with “Waymo” purchases. Several Waymo domains were registered years before this new brand was even a twinkle in Google’s all-seeing eye:
Of these, Alphabet has so far acquired just 2: the all-important .COM and the ccTLD of Switzerland. That leaves 2 of the biggest economies on earth up for grabs: China and Germany + Austria. Undoubtedly, Google wants those. But their premature December 13 announcement may raise asking prices considerably. (Curiously enough, the .DE was used for many years as a religious site for German-speaking muslims. That may explain .AT and .CH as well)
Google also bought a number of ccTLD extensions in November:
In order, we have the United Kingdom, France, Mexico, Canada, New Zealand, Russia, Japan, Singapore, Chile, Sweden, Taiwan, Israel, Indonesia, Vietnam, Hong Kong, South Korea, and (yes) Kazakhstan. Geography geniuses may know of countries Google and MarkMonitor forgot.
Once Waymo was announced, we saw a second wave of domain purchases. MarkMonitor or Google scrambled to pick up a few neglected items:
Amusing that both Google or its advisors apparently forgot about India and Australia until weeks after they had registered domains for Kazakhstan and New Zealand! But so it goes. Those omissions are just the tip of the iceberg.
Predictably, the vast majority of domains snagged between December 13 and 15 belong to opportunistic domainers. To my mind, this is obviously cybersquatting. Some will disagree. Judgment aside, the facts are the domains themselves.
ccTLDs marketed for global use:
Self-driving cars rely on artificial intelligence, and some tech startups do use .AI; yet Google disregarded the suffix. Apparently Alphabet bypassed .IO, so fashionable among tech entrepreneurs, going instead for the more mainstream .TECH. Skipping .ASIA and .ME may prove unwise. Meanwhile, .PW, .CX, .BIZ, and .MOBI must be grateful that domainers, at least, remember them.
ccTLDs meant for local use:
In order, you’re looking at country codes for the European Union, the United States, the Netherlands, Italy, Poland, Denmark, Belgium, Ireland, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Greece, Romania, Hungary, Slovakia, and South Africa – all grabbed by domainers. Considering Google’s November purchase of Waymo.kz for Kazakhstan, one wonders if they didn’t blunder quite badly.
Last and perhaps least, nTLDs:
You may remember how Moses, coming down the mountain, saw a confused orgy of TLDs swirling around a golden calf called Waymo; how he smashed that first draft of brand protection rules that had been set in stone, melted down the false gods, and went back up the mountain for a do-over. Domain strategy can be scrapped and rewritten. Google will probably buy more “waymo” domains later on at higher cost. But much of this speculation is a kind of useless idolatry. It may even induce a UDRP / URS plague.
Will domains like Waymo.blog and Waymo.careers be put to use or merely warehoused? Because Google was so selective, going after barely a dozen nTLDs, it seems clear that they were thinking in terms of applicability. This wasn’t a shotgun approach. We’ve all seen companies much smaller than Google dig deeper into defensive registrations. So I think there’s a realistic chance that Alphabet will promote web pages using .BLOG, .CAREERS, .CARS, .SUPPORT, .TECH, .CAREERS, etc. in the future. We’ll see.
Alphabet’s domain strategy is something to watch, not emulate. For instance, it says something about how Google envisions Waymo commercialization that they sidestepped .STORE and .CLUB. But we shouldn’t ascribe too much wisdom or consistency to Google’s choices. Were they smart to register .SUPPORT and .SERVICES but not .HELP? .COMMUNITY but not .CLUB? .CAREER and .CAREERS but not .WORK or .JOBS? .BLOG and .PRESS but not .NEWS? Was it misguided for Alphabet to register .CAB yet overlook .NYC? Surely they hope to launch self-driving cabs in New York one day.
Ordinarily, I find myself criticizing companies for excessive domain registrations. It’s significant that this Waymo launch has been, if anything, bare-bones and scrawny. This may indicate a more judicious approach to nTLDs on the part of companies, unlike the ill-considered splurges we’ve sometimes seen.
Part of this story isn’t about Alphabet at all. It’s about domainers. Which nTLDs spring to mind first among this group, who pay more attention to domains than anybody else? Answer: Those you see above. That’s bad news for the hundreds of nTLDs you don’t see. Those absent registries are indeed failing to raise awareness if, out of the whole of planet earth, no opportunist is tempted to grab a domain in their TLD even by a target as large and rich as Google!
Domainer activity during December 13-15 functions a crowd-sourced test of TLD awareness / perception. Sorry, .SCIENCE! Unlucky, .UNO! Too bad, .TECHNOLOGY! Alas, .LIMO! Condolences, .CLICK! You all had as much claim to attention as some other nTLDs; yet profiteers don’t see profit in you … or forget even to glance.
At last check, I counted roughly 150 ccTLDs still unregistered. Mostly these countries are smaller or less developed; or else their TLDs are quite expensive and little used. Even so, there are some oversights.
And among the hundreds of gTLDs still available, some are arguably as relevant to Waymo as those domainers or Google itself bought. For example: .TRAVEL, .LONDON, .BERLIN, .REVIEWS, .REPAIR, and .BOATS. I’d caution readers against registering brand-infringing domains. Nevertheless, it’s almost inevitable that someone will, reader or not. Whether they get slammed by legal action or rewarded with a sale is up to Google and MarkMonitor.
Which domains do you think Waymo ought to have prioritized?