Top stories: Squarespace buys Google Domains

Google exited the domain name business this year, giving Squarespace a huge opportunity.

The words "2023 top stories Squarespace Buys Google Domains"

Perhaps the most surprising news this year was Squarespace’s acquisition of Google Domains.

Squarespace (NYSE: SQSP) announced the $180 million acquisition in June and closed on it in September.

At the time the deal was announced, Google Domains had about 10 million domains under management. Over half of those were .com domains, making Google the #5 registrar by .com domains under management.

Google entered the business in 2014, at first taking it very slowly. But the registrar became a juggernaut thanks to a combination of its brand name, high Google rankings, and attaching domains to other Google products.

It’s unclear why Google exited the business, but I have some thoughts.

The news came as a shock to many people, including competing domain registrars. It seems that few were invited to bid on the asset, and Squarespace might have gotten a leg up due to an existing partnership with Google.

Squarespace isn’t new to domain names. It’s an accredited registrar with about a million domains under management pre-acquisition. But its customer base is very different; it’s mostly made up of people who created a website on Squarespace and attached a domain name to it.

Its registrar functionality is basic. It wasn’t until October this year that it added domain forwarding and bulk updates.

It remains to be seen how many Google Domains customers Squarespace is able to retain as domains come up for renewal. The easiest thing for people to do is keep their domains there, but if Squarespace decides to increase its prices, many will consider switching.

Google Domains charged $12 for most domains. Squarespace previously charged $20 but now charges $12 for the first year and $20 afterward. It promised Google Domains customers that it would honor Google’s existing prices for a year.

One registrar is aggressively courting Squarespace’s domain name customers. Automattic, creator of WordPress, is offering to cover the transfer and renewal price for domains moved to its platform.

Despite being peeved that they weren’t given the opportunity to acquire Google Domains, other registrars must be thrilled. Getting rid of a tough name-brand competitor means more business for them.

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