Yesterday morning, Google let me into its new invite-only domain registration service, and I decided to give it a test run to figure out how scared traditional domain registration companies should be of the Internet giant encroaching on their territory.
After my tests, if I were an executive at GoDaddy, Namecheap, or any other company that serves as a clearinghouse for web property, I’d be afraid. I’ve owned and managed various domains for the past five years, and the experience has rarely been great. That’s why Google started a domain registration service earlier this summer: to better attract small business owners who would have ordinarily been turned off by DNS settings and complicated add-ons onto the web.
With Google Domains, there’s no fuss: enter the domain you want, and Google will tell you if it’s available. The company offers free WHOIS privacy protection, and up to 100 free email forwarding addresses. For all that, I had to pay $12.
Google didn’t offer any expensive add-ons, or try to sell me email service – not even its Apps for Business product that’s tailored to the company’s target audience. The company didn’t even turn on auto-renew for the domain billing, which otherwise would allow them to charge me, even if I forgot about the domain altogether.
Because Google already has my credit card, the checkout was completely painless. After that, I could quickly set the domain up to forward traffic to another website, or sign up for a hosting trial from one of Google’s partners including Wix, Shopify and Squarespace.
Compared to other domain registrars, that’s a great deal. Hover, which hosts all of my other domains, charges roughly $15 for a .com, as does GoDaddy, though purchasing privacy protection from them costs an extra $9.99. Namecheap charges $10.69 for a new .com, but a year of privacy protection costs $2.88, bringing the total up to $13.75.
Those providers do support a wider variety of Top Level Domains, like .tv and .me, which is a key advantage they have over Google at the moment.
I also took a closer look at Amazon’s domain registration service, which it provides as a part of AWS’s Route 53 DNS routing product. Buying a domain is a similarly clean experience (and Amazon matches Google’s prices), but in order to hook the domain up to a web server, users have to pay for DNS service from Route 53.
It seems like a solid option for people who would pay Amazon for the service anyway, but small business owners and individuals would be better served by trying another service. Still, if Amazon chooses to expand its domain registration capabilities to retail users, it would probably also make a huge splash.
The major advantage that both Google and Amazon hold in this space is that they’re not in the domain registration business. Google is in the ad-selling and Internet indexing business, which means that it’s in Google’s best interest to get as many businesses onto the Internet as possible. That way, they might buy from the company’s local advertising product, or list items using Google’s product listing ads.
Amazon, on the other hand, is interested in getting people signed up for AWS, and domain registration would make it possible for the company to serve as a one-stop shop for companies that require public cloud tools in addition to a fresh domain name.
Overall, one thing is clear: domain registration companies will need to step up their game. GoDaddy CEO Blake Irving is focused on improving its services for small businesses, but the company is going to have some serious new competition in town.