Google tests new invitation-only domain registrar service

Google has quietly rolled out a private, invitation-only beta of a domain registrar service that places it squarely in competition with other registrars such as GoDaddy.

Image: Google

Google has quietly rolled out a private, invitation-only beta to a new service offered by the internet giant: domain name registration services. The service, appropriately called Google Domains, seeks to simplify the task of purchasing and managing domains.

What it does

Google Domains sets itself apart from competitors by offering private registration at no additional cost. Most competing registrars offer this service through the GoDaddy-owned Domains By Proxy, which has a spotty reputation for providing actual privacy. Interestingly, Domains By Proxy touts a variety of patents on the footer of its website, which raises some questions about Google's private registration offering.

In addition, Google Domains offers up to 100 email aliases, which allows you to forward emails to your domain to an existing account (such as to an existing Gmail account). Also offered is "easy" domain forwarding, and customizable sub-domains, both of which are reasonably standard fare for a domain registrar, though some unscrupulous registrars may charge extra for these services.

Competing with other registrars

Various registrars make specious claims in an attempt to attract small business to use their services, like "adding your website to popular search engines." Google's offering, although in a private beta state, does not pander to the technologically uninformed, and the outlook Google appears to be working with for this is to decomplicate the process of purchasing and administering a domain name as much as is possible.

Although I think some concerns over Google's actions in other situations will bleed into this new project, the end result could be better than the present competition. As with Google Fiber, this may create a ripple effect for competitors to become more transparent and straightforward. If such a thing were to occur, the winners in this equation would be the domain owners.

Privacy concerns

Google faces frequent criticism for its handling of private information, particularly after a series of missteps from the rollout of Google+ commonly referred to as Nymwars, in which Google began suspending the accounts of users suspected of using pseudonyms, which led to the suspension of the accounts of, among others, William Shatner. Accordingly, purchasing a domain or changing WHOIS records is not the type of activity which one would necessarily want to publish to a social network -- it isn't like purchasing an Android app, it is an inherently private activity.

Google's track record in privacy has been spotty, with Google settling two lawsuits for a sum of $39.5 million dollars (USD) regarding tracking users of Apple's Safari browser, which bypassed the privacy settings chosen by the user. Similarly, Google Chrome's Incognito mode still allows websites to track and store information about visits, and searches performed while signed in, even in Incognito mode, will be saved in the account search history.

Putting too many eggs in one basket could be a risky proposition for website owners. Attaching your email account credentials to your domain registrar seems like an unnecessary risk in the event that your account is compromised.

How long will Google Domains last?

Google has developed a reputation for abruptly shutting down products and services that it offers when the company concludes that they are not useful, profitable, or interesting enough to do. Conversely, Google has introduced projects that I don't believe firms such as Microsoft would attempt, like a toll-free 411 information service that allowed people to search for phone numbers on Google by calling Google. This lasted from April 2007 to November 2010, when Google decided it had enough voice samples for improving a voice recognition system, at which time they shuttered the service.

Frequently, discontinued products from Google are displaced for enhanced replacements, as is seen in the case of the closure of the mostly ignored Google Friend Connect, itself replaced by the intensely disliked Google Buzz, which was closed in favor of the often criticized Google+, which has burrowed itself into other Google services to widespread disapproval. Google+ has been the subject of speculation of receiving the axe following the departure of project head Vic Gundotra.

What about you?

Would you trust Google to be your domain registrar? Have you applied for or received a beta invitation to Google Domains? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section.

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