When you’re deciding where to register a domain, it makes sense to look for a registrar that actually wants to manage domains. This might sound like strange advice, but the fact is that a lot of companies that offer domains aren’t as committed as you’d expect. The latest proof comes from one the biggest and best-known companies in the world.
Millions and millions of domains are about to shift from one semi-committed domain registrar to another company that isn’t really a great fit.
Google Domains was launched in 2015, but only emerged out of beta last year. Sixteen months later comes the news that Google Domains is closing down so the company can "sharpen our focus". Squarespace, which is better known as a website-building platform than a domain registrar, will acquire the business and take over the job of hosting around 10 million domains.
How this looks from where we stand
New Zealand is a bit isolated from the effects of all this. Google never offered the full suite of NZ domain names, only .co.nz, and even that put it one step ahead of Squarespace which hasn’t offered any NZ domains at all.
We may not be the biggest national market on the internet, but limitations like these betray a shallow commitment to the domain game. Are there any other Google products that literally just don’t work properly in New Zealand?
This is, to us at least, the most striking thing about this entire $180M acquisition: Millions and millions of domains are about to shift from one semi-committed domain registrar to another company that isn’t really a great fit. Both companies are very good at the things that they care about. Neither company is built around domain names, and nor should they be. So what are they doing?
Any company that staples a domain offering onto the side of its core business, in the hope of making easy money for little effort, is in for disappointment.
To put this another way, millions of people who just want their domains to work are about to go through the upheaval of a migration. It’s beyond their control, and these things never go perfectly for everyone. Once it’s done there will be no guarantee that their new supplier will be any more committed than their old one.
Domains are infrastructure, not tech wizardry
The domain name industry is about as far away from Big Tech's high-growth, move-fast-and-break-things world as you can get. It’s infrastructural and bureaucratic. That means it’s about consistency, compliance, and long-term reliability. You can bet that plenty of people visited Google Domains in its first year and paid for a 10-year domain registration. The supplier hasn’t lasted as long as those registrations!
Any company that staples a domain offering onto the side of its core business, in the hope of making easy money for little effort, is in for disappointment. We can’t say why Squarespace has decided to take on millions of domains that aren’t connected to Squarespace sites, but we can say from experience that it’s not a set-and-forget revenue stream or something that you can manage by checking in once a month.
You want to register domains with a company that has an infrastructural core, and which is going to notice you.
Late last year, for example, the platform that underpins the .nz namespace was replaced by InternetNZ. This was a major piece of work, and registrars like us all had to make technical and policy changes just to stay in the industry. For some companies, like Vocus NZ, the investment didn’t make sense. And that’s fair enough.
Google's selling Google Domains as they make “efforts to sharpen our focus”.
We can say that scale matters, too. If you own 1 or 2 of those 10,000,000 domains that Google is about to jettison, how much do you matter to them, or to Squarespace? You could have hundreds of domains and still not appear on their radar. When you're big enough to matter you receive a different level of service, and the definition of “big enough” changes with the size of your supplier.
This is why you want to register domains with a company that has an infrastructural core, and which is going to notice you. Stability and dependability are important - and they pay off over time. If you have domains with Google, now’s the time to consider whether you want to move to another far-away tech company that has other products it cares about more. Or would you prefer a local domain registrar that has been managing tech infrastructure for nearly 20 years? You have to transfer your domain somewhere (here's how), so it’s a great time to be proactive.