Google plans to submit applications for several generic top-level domains (gTLDs) before the April 12th deadline for this round of submissions. ICANN previously said that 200-300 new TLDs will be approved in this initial round and each one annually, “with no more than 1,000 new gTLDs... added to the root zone in a year.”
The search giant doesn’t necessarily need to lock down TLDs unless they plan to use them, though they’re in a better position than some to foot the $185,000 bill per application. ICANN has stringent guidelines about who may register what, as far as TLDs go; Google needn’t worry about an enterprising squatter scooping up the .Google, .YouTube, or other TLDs for trademarked names.
As for their actual plans for the new TLDs, Google isn’t talking. A Google spokesperson did confirm to Advertising Age Google’s intent to purchase, saying in a written statement: "We plan to apply for Google's trademarked TLDs, as well as a handful of new ones. We want to help make this a smooth experience for web users -- one that promotes innovation and competition on the internet."
That statement seems to hint at changes for Google account users. It seems far more likely, in mind anyway, that Google would assign users an address corresponding with their username, rather than actually selling off domains for $10 or $20 a year. For example, a Google+ page address could become username.google, or a YouTube channel username.youtube.
It would be an interesting solution to the Google+ custom URL issue. Currently, it doesn’t seem brands can set a custom URL for their Google+ page; not through Google, anyway. If Google has been waiting to assign custom URLs from their own TLD, it would explain why a pretty necessary and expected feature has not yet been made available.
Google has taken a lot of flack for the lackluster performance of Google+ to date, but like I said back in February, “Google is shooting for a model that makes the entire web, or as much of it as they can lay claim to, their ecosystem.” This really does seem like the next logical step for them.
Google reps who have spoken at various events about Google+, including Larry Page, Vic Gundotra and Bradley Horowitz, have always seemed confident. They are comfortable and happy with its growth, they are staying the course, they have a long-term strategy, etc. Giving users their own unique user.google web address makes sense as a part of that strategy.
As an interesting aside, this round of TLDs will mark the first time non-alphanumeric characters will be allowed. Could we see branded URLs such as cocacola.google+ for Coca-Cola’s Google+ page, or even www.cocacola.g+? It would certainly help Google make their social media platform a more integral part of their bigger brands’ online marketing efforts.
Over at Facebook, Pages have had the ability to set a custom URL for years. It’s no surprise, then, that Facebook spokesperson Brandon McCormick told Advertising Age they hadn’t applied for a Facebook TLD (at least, not yet). Brands and individual users at Facebook have already locked down their unique web addresses as facebook.com/username; switching now would be a nightmare.
Still, the application deadline isn’t for a few days yet. Time will tell which companies make the cut and how many of the 200-300 available gTLDs each are able to secure.