I’ll start by sharing that I love Google and many of the services the company offers. I’ve read several articles about Google Domains, and it’s good to see Google making a play in the domain space. I think Google’s entrance will cause domain registrars to increase their attentiveness to customers, make it easier to use their services, and may lead to more competitive pricing and service upgrades. Essentially, other domain registrars are going to have to up their game, which should benefit customers.
Despite the fact that a major player like Google is entering the domain name registration business, I believe it will be difficult for Google to compete with the top established companies in the space. In the next few years, I believe Google Domains will likely become a top 10 domain registrar, but I think the company is going to run into some challenges that will make it difficult to compete with the world’s largest and best known domain registrars.
Here are some of the issues I see that may make it difficult for Google Domains to compete with the companies that have major market share:
Customer Service – The largest domain registrar in the world is GoDaddy, and I think the company’s customer service teams is one of its strongest attributes. Customers can call GoDaddy at all hours (and in many languages) and get a response to their query. Many other registrars also have account managers for their high revenue accounts, and these relationships are strong. Customer service and technical support staff is important, and Google Domains will need to ramp up in a big way to provide the support of other registrars. I don’t know if they will make that big commitment.
Technical Aspect of Domain Name Transfers – Transferring a domain name is not the easiest thing in the world for people who aren’t familiar with the domain space. I’ve sold many domain names to “end user” buyers (ie companies who Google would likely want as customers), and there are regularly transfer issues. If prospective customers find it difficult to transfer domain names to Google, it will be hard to gain market share. Additionally, there seems to be other issues transferring out the new gTLD domain names.
Lack of a Differentiating Factor – From my perspective, domain registrars generally offer very similar products and services. The most important aspects of a registrar to me are customer service, security, and price. I don’t know how Google can exceed the services offered by established companies, and if they can’t, there isn’t much of a reason to transfer my domain names or begin registering my domain names there.
Pricing – Despite the low cost of an annual domain name registration, I think people are price sensitive in this business. One way GoDaddy was able to take market share away from the biggest players was their low cost domain registrations and coupons. For most people who are deal savvy, the cost of registering a domain name with a coupon can be less than $1.00. I can’t imagine Google Domains is going to go the coupon or discount route.
Brand Recognition – Yes, Google does have better brand recognition than just about any company in the world. The double edged sword, however, is that there are many people in the tech space who don’t exactly love Google or like giving Google more information. Many small businesses rely on their web developers to help them choose a hosting company and domain registrar, and they might have difficulty convincing this crowd to use their services.
Large Portfolio Registrants – Many of the largest domain name registrants have deep domain industry ties. Some even own and operate their own registrars. There aren’t many massive domain portfolio owners, and it won’t be easy getting them to transfer their domain names to Google.
One thing to keep in mind is that Google Domains is brand new and some of these factors may change. The company may hire a large customer service and technical support staff to rival competitors in the business. The company may work with ICANN and other groups to make domain name transfers much easier, and the company may also offer cheaper or free domain names as a means of getting new customers to use their services.
It’s going to be interesting to watch Google Domains and what the company offers and promotes. The company has the ability to disrupt the domain name business, but I think it is going to be difficult for Google Domains to compete with the largest companies in the registrar space.