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Google turns on shiny new .google top-level domain – but WHY?

Just one gTLD and a redirect as ad giant readies to enter domain market

Google UK office logos

Google has turned on its namesake top-level domain (TLD) with the creation of 'nic.google' representing the internet giant's entry into the domain name market.

Currently the domain redirects to Google's registry page where it outlines the other internet extensions it has already won the rights to, including: .ads, .dad, .fly, .how, .new, .mov, .new, .rsvp and .zip.

In each case, the "nic" subdomain for each of those extensions is the only domain currently registered and all have temporary 302 redirects to the google.com registry page, suggesting that Google is planning some kind of mass release.

Why does this matter? Two reasons. First, ".google" represents one of the very first so-called "brand TLDs" to go live.

Of the 1,400 applications for new internet extensions, exactly one third were the names of well-known existing companies and the world's biggest brands, such as Apple, BBC, Intel, Lego, Ferrari, Fedex, Heinz and so on.

In almost all cases, these companies have opted to have complete control over the domains registered under their extension - a radical departure from the current system of companies trying to sell as many domains as they can to whoever is willing to pay for them.

No one - not even the brands themselves - know yet what to do with their slice of the internet. Most are simply sitting on their internet registry until they see what others do and being to understand how this new wave of domains is panning out.

There have been suggestions that a company like Canon would give a free domain to each new customer and then use that online address as a direct connection to the internet to run cloud services, photo uploads etc.

Likewise, there has been some excited chatter about the enormous marketing potential that a brand TLD can offer (picture the ad campaign for the next iPhone: "Visit iphone.apple".)

The opportunities and possibilities are huge and many will be looking to Google to help draw out the future.

Market disruption

The second reason that Google's entry into the domain name market is a big deal is because the company is known as a market disruptor, especially with online services. And it has the enormous resources to make whatever its plan is stick – until it gets bored with it.

Gmail completely overhauled the webmail market by offering huge amounts of storage for free. Its Android mobile operating created an entire new arm of the phone market. Its Google Maps wiped out the GPS navigation device market almost overnight. Google News has massively reordered how people find the latest information online. Google Calendar forced a huge shift in the calendaring market.

Even where it has not been overwhelmingly successful, such as Google+ and social media, or Google Play and online streaming, its entry has caused massive ructions.

And so it is possible - no, likely - that the giant's entry into the domain name market is going to cause a similar impact. What are Google plans? Well, it has been very tight-lipped, but it has set itself up as both a registry and a registrar so it is not reliant on the existing channel to market, most famously represented by GoDaddy. It has the name and the techn know-how to sell direct to consumers.

Google also has a long history of offering products for free. Beyond the fees it needs to pay ICANN - a flat fee of several thousand dollars a year and 20 cents per domain - costs which Google could easily eat, it is possible that Google will simply explode the market with completely free and easy-to-register domains.

It could also use its existing hosting infrastructure and stats engines to provide free, high-quality hosting for websites. Maybe free just so long as you allow it to run Google Ads on your website.

If it does provide this service, then the US$50 a year plus $100-$500 hosting costs of other domains may suddenly start looking a little steep.

So while 'nic.google' looks like nothing today, it may represent the biggest change to domain names and websites since the Netscape browser. ®

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