Via Jim Boykins blog, a guest article by domain name expert Nick Wilsdon that looks at what Google knows about domain names. It's not only a great look at how the domain name industry works but also shares info about what info Google has access to as a domain name registrar. The company became a registrar in February 2005. A very interesting read.
However it seems that Google did not start signing as a Registrar in order to buy or sell domains; they did this to have greater access to domain information. Now to clear some of the FUD that was speculated about this. Google as, say a .com Registrar, does not have access to all the customer records of Verisign. They can only access the further details of domains which they personally sold. Tucows and GoDaddy are both Registrars with Verisign, do you think they have access to each other?s entire customer database? Certainly that information would be well worth the $3500 fee. No. Unless the domain is within their own account they have exactly the same access as you or me using the public WHOIS records.
He goes on to offer his views, what he later calls speculation, on why Google became a registrar:
I believe Google has built or is building a tool to analyse domain names. The API access they were given as a Registrar allows them to carry out the level of automated queries they needed for this. I would also go further and suggest this tool is building up a historical picture of each domain through regular scraping of their WHOIS records.
Postscript: Since we're on the subject of domain names, let me answer I question I frequently receive. When I share newly registered domain names on the blog I get the information using a combination of my time and the WHOIS.sc Mark Alert service. For $15/month I receive daily updates of domains that are registered containing the word Google. I track not only the word "Google" but numerous other names. The service tracks .com,.org,.net,.info,.us,.biz, and .web domains.
Then, I spend some time each week reviewing the lists and checking the ownership. It's not only useful (I hope) but also interesting (often amazing) to see what people are registering. That same $15 fee includes access to the Whois History database that provides historical ownership info back to about 2001. If you're looking for some basic domanin name stats, WHOIS.sc offers them for free on this page.
If you're wondering, the answer is yes, other services exist that can provide similar types of info more quickly and in an easier to use format. However, they are often very expensive. Examples include:
+ Thomson Compumark
+ Dialog offers file 225, offering fielded searching (numerous options) of domain name info back to 1997. Caveat: The last time it was updated was September 2004.
Again, all of these services are fee-based.
Note: Dialog's Open Access Service offers limited access to the Dialog 225 file. It's very limited in the what fields you can search. So why mention it? It doesn't require a subscription use, searching is free, and you can pay for records with a credit card.