Google Domains sells to Squarespace in surprise move

Over the year, it’s become commonplace for Google to shutdown one of its many products every now and then. There’s an entire website devoted to keeping track of the services “Killed by Google(opens in a new tab).”

But, this one is very unexpected.

Google is exiting the domain name registration business. In a press release(opens in a new tab) published on Thursday, Google and Squarespace announced(opens in a new tab) that the website builder would be acquiring Google Domains for $180 million. 

As part of the deal, Squarespace would become the new domain name registrar for the more than 10.1 million domains already registered with Google Domains by Google’s customers.

The acquisition would make Squarespace one of the largest domain name registrars(opens in a new tab) in the world, behind only GoDaddy, Namecheap, and Tucows in total number of registered domain names.

“Domains are a critical part of web infrastructure and an essential piece of every business’s online presence,” said Squarespace founder and CEO Anthony Casalena in a statement. “We look forward to serving these new customers as we have served millions using our domain products and are committed to ensuring a seamless transition.”

Google Domains only recently emerged from beta

Google originally launched Google Domains in 2014, however, the service remained in beta(opens in a new tab) up until March 2022. Based on the sales copy on the Google Domains website, Google appeared to view the service as a way to boost its business email and app product, Google Workspace, formerly known as G Suite. Paying Google Workspace subscribers can use their own email address with Gmail as part of the service and Google Domains provided a seamless way for customers to register a domain.

Google Domains often received positive reviews from customers for its simple and focused user interface, which was a stark contrast to some of its competitors who often offer additional services like web hosting and domain name aftermarket sales.

However, according to Google, running a domain registrar no longer fits into the company’s plans. While not explicitly mentioned by the company, the domain name registrars are notoriously a low margin business, with companies making very little profit per domain name registered. This is why many registrars offer those previously mentioned additional services.

“In keeping with our efforts to sharpen our focus, we have entered into a definitive agreement with Squarespace for the acquisition of customer accounts of the Google Domains registrar business,” said Google’s VP and General Manager of Merchant Shopping Matt Madrigal. “Supporting a smooth transition for customers over the coming months, with the help of the Google Domains team, is our top priority.”

It’s important to note that Google specifies that it’s selling the Google Domains registrar business, which sells domain name registrations to customers. Google will continue to run Google Registry, its domain name registry which manages top-level domains under Google’s control such as .app, .how, and .dev among others.

According to Squarespace, the company “will honor ” current domain name renewal prices for Google Domains current customers for at least 12 months after the close of the acquisition. In addition, Squarespace will become Google’s exclusive domain name provider for Workspace customers for at least three years.

Current domain name customers will remain with Google Domains until the end of the transition period unless, of course, they choose to transfer their domain to another domain name registrar.

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