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Why Google is becoming a domain name registrar & what it means for the business

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Google is becoming a public domain name registrar. Here’s why.

A few months ago a prominent figure in the domain name industry told me a prediction: in a short time, GoDaddy will no longer be the top domain name registrar. It will be Google.

That was quite a bold prediction given that, at the time, Google didn’t even offer domain name registrations to the public. It only referred people to other registrars.

Yesterday Google announced that it’s moving into the retail registrar market with Google Domains.

(This may well be the reason Google recently registered a bunch of Donuts new TLDs, including those still in sunrise, as domaintest.TLD.)

First, let’s rewind a little bit.

Google originally became an ICANN-accredited domain name registrar with little intention of offering domain names to the public. Instead, it wanted to use domain name data to improve its search algorithms.

The goal was to cut down on search spam and get a more direct connection to expired domains so it could understand when they changed hands.

After becoming accredited it started offering domain names on its website, but this was done through partners including GoDaddy and eNom.

Now, in 2014, the company is going to sell domains directly to the public.

There are a couple obvious reasons for this.

First, the company has a vested interest in getting as many businesses online as possible. It gets them hooked into its many products including Google Apps, Gmail, Google Pages, etc. Then it can sell them Google Adwords.

It was sort of achieving this through a domain reseller model.

Which leads to the second key reason: new top level domain names.

Google is one of the largest applicants for new top level domain names, hoping to soon offer .blog, .app and .lol domains to the public.

Although it is already working with other domain name registrars for distribution of these TLDs, having its own massive distribution channel will allow it to more easily promote its own TLDs to the public.

Does a pet sitter in Mobile, Alabama want to get online? Come to Google Domains, get a .pet domain, click a button and you’ll have email and a website.

(Google is smartly partnering with the likes of Wix instead of getting into the support-intensive business of webhosting.)

This will greatly simplify the current process of getting online. Google’s main motive isn’t a bit of margin on the domains. It’s getting another business online.

Do you think .com will show up at the top of Google’s domain results for long? I doubt it.

So what does this really mean for the likes of GoDaddy? It depends.

It depends greatly on Google’s level of motivation. Let’s face it, Google doesn’t always execute or throw its weight behind new ventures. Countless times, Google has launched a service and pundits have said it’s an “enter-company-name-here killer”, only to itself kill the product a few years later.

Also keep in mind that Google’s target market isn’t domainers. It’s businesses that actually want to create a web presence. Other registrars will continue to hold on to the domain investor’s business. Granted, domain investors aren’t GoDaddy’s target market, either.

Depending on its long run plans and predictions, Google will also rely on other registrars to distribute its own TLDs, too.

For now.

I think the biggest beneficiary to Google’s entrance are other new TLD registries. If Google is truly able to shake up the market, I see some of the entrench registrar market leaders playing a bit nicer with registries. I also foresee Google treading carefully when it comes to offering exclusively its own TLDs, lest it grab the attention of regulators.

Indeed, Google’s entrance into the registrar market might be the best thing yet to happen to new TLDs. Awareness is surely about to grow.

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  1. Joseph Peterson

    For Google, domain names are a threat. By implanting its services at the moment of domain birth, Google can neutralize that threat to some extent.

    Direct navigation to websites is, from Google’s perspective, customer leakage. Information flowing outside of Gmail, outside of Chrome, outside of Google search — that means customer habits being formed that lead to independence and lost revenue.

    By issuing domains together with Google-based, add-on “conveniences”, those domains / websites / customers can be gelded and kept on the farm.

    • mwzd

      “Do you think .com will show up at the top of Google’s domain results for long? I doubt it”

      So what you’re saying is that Google will manipulate search results to ensure that newgtlds will rank higher?

      And given the fact that the ctr on a known tld will be higher than an unknown, at least for the next 5-10 years, gives existing TLDs enough leeway to adapt.

    • Matt

      Google has plenty of data about direct navigation from Google DNS, Chrome, Android, ChromeOS, Google Fiber, Google Municipal Wifi, Toolbar, AdSense, Analytics, Domain Parking, +1s, etc. You know what won’t give them any more data about/ control of direct navigation? Becoming a registrar. Registries, ISPs, and anyone doing DNS resolution “sees” direct navigation traffic; registrars do not.

      This is about filling a gap in their business services, not some huge strategic play.

  2. Jonathan

    Good, it is will begin to stabilise the uncertainties. The rise of other democratic search engines developed by super nation state entrepreneurs will ultimately bring competition.

  3. Philip

    Certainly a very positive development for the whole new TLD programme and specifically the big Registry’s involved.

    I think you ‘re totally accurate in your statement

    “Do you think .com will show up at the top of Google’s domain results for long? I doubt it.”

    There’ll be some serious consolidation being looked at in the sector as other, external players take note of Google’s move and what that signifies on a larger scale for the new TLD’s

  4. Domenclature.com


    Unfortunately, I disagree with your the entire post, and the sentiments expressed therein.

    First of all, you offer ZERO source citation, or links while at the same time presenting much of your opinion as facts; I see no “IMHO” up there, no “I think”, nothing.

    Here’s why I disagree:

    It is known that Google has been an ICANN accredited Registry for over a decade. Yet, it did very little with that. Why do you suppose that to be the case? This is very critical. I will give you hints, if you’re unable to figure it out.

    Google had the opportunity to apply for serious business TLDs in the new gTLD scheme, yet it chose very silly extensions such as .LOL, why do you think they did that? Why not more serious business name? Who wants a dot LOL? IBM? XEROX? WHO?

    A company the size of Google, with Billions of dollars in cash reserves can only be taken seriously in the domain landscape if it made a move for Verisign, or Godaddy or both. Not hawking domain hosting accounts and new gTLDs.

    I have a guess of what’s happening; actually two things are going on simultaneously; I will only give you however. I think people such as Stahura of Donuts (just as an example, not necessarilyhim), could have something to do with this move. These type of guys’ contacts are extensive. I believe people that powerful could have convinced mid-level Google executives, the types that attend our industry conventions to make a move like this, since the new gTLD stuff isn’t panning out in slaying that dot com dragon; this is just a guess of course, but then again, your article, Allemann, is nothing but a big guess work, so, I think when this stuff eventually gets upstairs to big Google executives in the coming months, and even years, they will kill it!

    This is NOT good for the new gTLD registries at all. Au contraire mon frère! The problem the new Registries have is simple; it’s called DOT COM. Google doesn’t control dot com, dot com controls Google. If Google veers off dot com, they will be replaced by BING or YAHOO, or a new comer.

    There’s an array of enemies trying to kill dot com. it ain’t happening. Dot com is the internet.

    I will expand on this later. I’m usually better in rebuttal.

  5. Israel Galvez (@iglvzx)

    Google has a horrible track record when it comes to providing technical support / customer service to customers, especially to those who registered domains through Google Apps or Blogspot (which were registered on the backend through GoDaddy or eNom). I think if Google wants to take on GoDaddy instead of being a GoDaddy reseller, they are going to have to step up their game and provide quality support and provide 24/7 support, too.

    • Mike Flynn

      Good point. As many of us have, I’ve had plenty of interaction with both Google and GoDaddy and when it comes to customer service it’s like night and day. if this is a serious play by Google, and I’m not so sure, they will have to up their game to win my domain registering or hosting custom. I’m also sure they won’t be taking their eye of their core services of search and ads, which they do so well, any time soon. Like any strategic move they’ll be aware of the synergies, etc., and I personally don’t think there’s that much in it for Google, other than maybe the billion dollars or so being turned over by GoDaddy,

    • Dave Z

      Not to mention Google will need to beef up their support to handle the inherent issues of a registrar catering to end users. Spam complaints, trademark claims, phishing reports, the works.

  6. Matthew Crowder

    Props to Google for innovating again! But took them long enough. Take down those greedy Go Daddy‬ bastards! They’ll have free privacy service for your ‪domains.‬ Privacy is the biggest rip-off in domains. Go Daddy makes a killing on that! It’s highway robbery. Costs them nothing. And now they’ve been limiting the registration promo codes. It’s a joke. How much time have I wasted trying to find promo codes that work? TONS! Searching like 5 different sites to find one I haven’t used before that still works. ***Google, make sure you guys have competitive promo codes for registration AND transferring so we can transfer away from Go Daddy.*** Namecheap now has like $8 codes to transfer away from GD. Match that Google. More competition is exactly what’s needed in the industry. GD is abusing their power and taking advantage of us, They’ve even upped the renewal prices and cut back on the renewal code discounts. Totally uncalled for. That’s just greedy It’s like they’re slowly getting greedier and greedier. They ain’t hurting for profits. Someone needs to hold them accountable! Take them down Google and make them compete and lower their prices. There is NO competition in the domain industry. Go Daddy sucks!

  7. Matthew Crowder

    One thing I will call Google on is what took so long to make a full-fledged registrar service? They’ve had the ICANN acceditation for ages. That was just lazy guys.

      • Matthew Crowder

        True. But when you look at the size of Go Daddy and their profit margins, the size of the domain market, their Google Apps products they could leverage to drive business to their registrar business, and the simplicity of the technology involved seems like it would have been a no-brainer ages ago.

  8. Jeroen

    I’m curious whether Google will ever place already registered names in their domain search and registration loop. Obviously, this would be interesting for domain investors, perhaps not interesting enough for Google.

  9. Brad

    Godaddy got rid of their email support so they are more on par with Google in regards to providing support now.

  10. Abolitrty

    I for sure will transfer my hundreds of domains to google. With a name like google you can’t go wrong. They took this long bc now they have the new gtlds I bet they will buy the control of other new gtlds to offer to customers. This is how the new generation and small business owners will come to love the new gtlds. We appreciate your innovations google. You guys are truly the innovators of my generation. Bravo.

    • Philip

      There’ll be active consolidation in the space, so I do expect Google to acquire other TLDs through Registry takeovers. There’s some obvious candidates out there, although I wont name them.

      Having said that, it wont be plain sailing for Google, when competitive bidding from other large players occurs for prospective targets.

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