Google as Registrar

According to…), Google is now an ICANN accredited domain name registrar. Google states that it isn’t going to be selling domain names any time soon, though:

However, it has no plans to sell Web addressees for now.

“Google became a domain name registrar to learn more about the Internet’s domain name system,” a company representative said Tuesday. “We believe this information can help us increase the quality of our search results.”

Isn’t this an odd claim? Isn’t the functioning of the Internet’s domain name system transparent? What more is Google going to be able to learn “from the inside” that isn’t already publicly available? And if there is such information, shouldn’t we all have access to it?

Alternatively, CNET speculates that this will give Google a seat at the ICANN table, giving it a larger role in Internet governance. This sounds more plausible than any technical reason for becoming a registrar, but is, in itself, somewhat disturbing. It means you can buy a seat at the table for $10,000. I’d like to think there would be a more democratic way of balancing stakeholders in Internet governance than “whoever can afford a seat.”

This also lends credence to one of the foundational claims of an interesting recent paper on Internet trademark law, Deregulating Relevancy in Internet Trademark Law by Eric Goldman, mentioned on the Trademark Blog. Goldman convincingly argues for the elimination of distinctions in trademark law between various forms of search: domain name, keyword, paid placement, adware, suggesting that the issues for the searcher, the publisher, and the intermediary are really the same in all cases. For two quick examples, consider that several of the top searches in Google are for terms like “” and “” (turning search keywords into a domain name query); and Verisign’s ill-fated attempt to implement site-finder (turning domain name queries into search keywords).

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