I was recently at the Googleplex in Mountain View, and so was Lady Gaga.. I know why I came but I’m constantly amazed by the parade of famous and not-so-famous who put on their Sunday best to kneel at the altar which is Google – a forward thinking company that has most of us either spellbound, scared, or shades of each.
Looking at the 5 foot something Gaga got me thinking about her superstar stature and her predecessor Madonna. Madonna is the Gaga of my generation.. She was first, she made BIG music – she made BIGGG bank.. And then she stopped. Well she stopped aggressively touring and retired to “living her life” because she had nothing left to prove. I feel that. I’m the domain-businesses version of Madonna – or, as somebody recently told me “Cher” – constantly reinventing myself.. Anyway – this isn’t about me (for once).
This is about Google. Because as much as Lady Gaga is the new Madonna.. Facebook (of late) has become to Google what Gaga has to Madonna.. the newer (not necessarily) better version of the old diva.
You can hardly pick up a periodical or fire up the iPad without hearing about Facebook ‘crushing-it ‘– ”It” being everything. Some of that sparkling veneer has gotten peeled away by the less than hockeystick trajectory of their IPO — but that’s just a moment. Facebook is getting ALLLL the press. Google is doing stuff and making things happen, but they seem to be in a popularity funk of late — out Googled in the media by Facebook.
Well my friends. I’m a pragmatist. I recognize that companies (even those as big and important as Google or FB) come and go. Nothing lasts forever. There are just a handful of companies from the 1960 DJIA that still exist today. That cautionary tale spoken, I am telling you with an entirely straight face that Google has just done something that assures them an eternal Cher-like comeback of their own. They acquired 50 generic TLDS.
The poorly kept industry rumor is that they were contemplating 1000 strings and reeled back their ambitions. They shouldn’t have – but even with a bold reach for 50 generics, they are in a terrific position.
Google is really a company with one dominant product line known by 2 names: … Adwords and Adsense.
Adsense is the audience side. Go to google-maps.. it’s all about the eyeballs. There is targeted audience in them thar maps. Android? It’s about the eyeballs baby. Get a phone in everyone’s hand and control those eyeballs via the platform. Google-Search is the Mother of all audience plays. Control the audience and the advertisers will follow.
On the other side, the legion of millions of credit cards plugged into the Adwords side – that side dutifully buying the traffic – that side which preportedly makes Google the largest forex/currency exchange operation the World has ever known… That little side has not had as much attention or investment.
Google is trying to grow it by appealing to Small and Medium sized businesses. As big as Google is, most of their potential customers just aren’t online yet. How many flower-shops and beuticians and corner stores don’t even have a website? Google are beating the bushes like mad to get those small publishers to get online and backfill the existing Adwords base.. They have teams of people doing very public outreach on the matter. This is incredibly smart but painstaking and difficult work. Domain names are like a Fulcrum loosening that load.
All small advertisers need a website. The advertisers largest hurdle is getting a web presence. Finding a suitable presence is convoluted though. How do you reach those people who’s websites are run by Verisign and Godaddy? So difficult and uncooperative are the management interfaces in-between that folks often give up! I frequently mention my nephew Rylan who’s dot net name was reserved on the day of his birth ten years ago (the com was gone). He recently entered the double digits by asking his Uncle Frank, to set up his domain in Google Apps, so he could mate his domain to GMAIL. Well what a freaking nightmare that was! When I recounted the acrimony to all who cared to listen, folks universally nodded in agreement. Only it’s not Google’s fault. They don’t own the REGISTRY and REGISTRAR. How can Google verify ownership and assist in setting MX records when they don’t control the name? How will they police fraud?
Enter a bunch of generic GTLDs!! Why mess with .COM when you can offer a free .SHOP or .LOL address in it’s place?!? Generic — innocuous – desirable — intuitive! ~ It hits all the marks!! Google will be able to offer a variety of semantically meaningful string choices at low or no cost in exchange for $15 of adwords spend.. The result will be like breaking a log-jam of demand.
I can see the future in my mind’s eye. You’ll go to Gmail.. you’ll pick the extension you desire from the pull down of Google (Charleston Road) registries, and small / medium businesses who are too smart to take and promote the DotGMAIL on their business cards will pick a dot-GENERIC.. Likely an entirely FREE dot-GENERIC string offered by Google; and slowly turn difficult to manage, existing extensions into the iPhone generation’s RIM.
There is nothing wrong with this of course. Google has brilliantly done exactly what any smart business would have. I give a profound high-five to the Googler who had the bravado to step-up and move on new generic Gtlds in such a big way. The domain name industry needed exactly THIS type of disintermediation and it is THIS which will elevate Google to the rafters and positively crush those who don’t counter it, in the years ahead.
We have witnessed nothing short of the itunes store being born. The potential for positive domain centric disintermediation is so great. I simply can not over state it. I see a rising tide lifting all boats, even (remarkably) Verisigns. We have entered the domain name era where billions worldwide who otherwise would not have had the technical efficacy to “run” domain names of their own, will now embrace a URL of their own – maybe even two or three. All thanks to the tools Google will build to support its products.
Before this new TLD announcement, the Facebook buzz could have lulled one into thinking that GOOGLE had lost it’s edge. Well FB blew it. So did Godaddy for that matter.. They should have gone wayyyyyy longer in new-TLDS.. You could argue that I blew it too btw.. I should have gone longer. Well the last hurdle hasn’t passed yet.. There are lots of applicants out there with more swagger and applications than plan or money – who may yet see the bottom of the bus. Most shocking of all though was FB. Too distracted by their IPO to enter this TLD round at all, they risk losing massive competitive advantage to the competitor they took for granted.
Oh and a footnote.. In 1996 I went to Comdex and I sat front row at Bill Gates keynote. He told a joke about somebody panhandling him for money in the Pike Place Market in Seattle. When he declined to acquiesce the panhandler appealed to Gates: “But I have my own URL”!!? To which Gates said, he handed the vagrant $5. Raucious applause followed. I remember the joke because I didn’t know what a URL was at the time.. There was no Google to Google it at.
The man who told that joke could have gone wayyyy longer on the generics.. because I do not think an SMB (the bread and butter of paid search fuel) will build their world on a .HOTMAIL or .BING sub-brand when GMAIL will be offering the wonderfully generic .WEB, and for free if they’re smart.
Amazon also went long but they weren’t at the ICANN meeting to chat with so I can only assume they intend to keep their generics. Shame they missed .AUCTION. Ditto with eBay btw.
In 10 years lady Gaga may have .GAGA and operate the Lady.GAGA site, but for now she can take comfort that her pilgrimage to the Googleplex was not to worship a false prophet. Google is the real deal baby.. Back up the truck on their stock as this is the single most brilliant play of the new .GTLD round. A play which will do everything ICANN intended.. It will foster competition, provide consumer choice and make the Web a more interesting place with lots of cool places to visit. Pitty their competitors who read this post but still don’t get the magnitude of their move in this space.