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Tuesday, February 08, 2005

Google's Innocuous Domain Registrar Foray

Some discussion on WebmasterWorld (spurred by Bob Tedeschi's article in the New York Times) speculates on what Google's really up to in becoming a domain registrar.

Here's an idea: when they say they're doing it to improve search results, why not just take them at their word?

Roughly, I would argue that this is probably the type of thing that is a continuation of the ongoing post-Florida attempt to improve search quality (and pump up ad revenues) by (a) privileging "informational" resources over commercial pages; (b) on highly commercial queries, attempting to distinguish, in various ways, "reputable commercial" from "spammy commercial."

One obvious way to check up is to attempt to match physical domain name addresses with physical addresses listed on a website. Google could also look at the length of tenure of a domain.

On the other hand, its DomainSense operation (assuming there still is such an operation within Google, after Google acquired Applied Semantics) could benefit from an effort to begin registering expired domains to serve PPC links on them. (This kind of "junk revenue seeking" got a bit of ink recently when Marchex acquired a large domain name bank.)

It definitely does seem like there are a half-dozen reasons Google might want to become a domain registrar other than actually selling domain names.

Eventually, of course, they could also set their sights on Yahoo and begin selling domain names to complement GMail, Blogger, etc. But I tend to agree with GoDaddy CEO Bob Parsons -- domain registration and web hosting companies have nothing to fear in the near term.

Tedeschi's article will not impress savvy Google watchers in one respect: it asserts Google has no phone support at all! Not only is there live support for advertisers at a well-known 866 number, but now advertisers (even small ones) have been assigned specific contact persons, to whom they're automatically directed if they phone the number and enter their account number. That being said, surely Google is too smart to deworseify from the high-margin biz they're in now into the thin-margin hosting game.

Posted by Andrew Goodman




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