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Making Sense of Google's .xyz gTLD Branding

Alex Tajirian

Google has a newly created parent, a holding company that is now its official owner. Of course, Google will keep using its extremely well-known name for its core search and related businesses. But the company now operates under an entity known as Alphabet — to give its name with extension, Alphabet.xyz. Here specialists in gTLDs may be scratching their heads. Why .xyz? Why this little-known domain for one of the world's great corporations?

My theory: Google is trying its hand at a new style of inconspicuous consumption. Note that I say inconspicuous. We all know about conspicuous consumption, the drive many consumers feel to flash designer goods with accompanying logos. But a recent paper by professors Wilson, Eckhardt, and Belk entitled "The Rise of Inconspicuous Consumption” highlights an emerging consumer trend toward "discreetly marked products, subtle but distinct styles, or high-end brands that fly beneath the radar."

Luxury brands have taken notice of the change. Louis Vuitton and Tesla have begun downsizing their logos, while the logo for Tiffany has shrunk from the company's full name to a simple "T." Handbags sold by Michael Kors hide the company's name in the lining, and Tom Ford puts no logo on its clothes at all. Apple can play it inconspicuous as well. Marketing the high-end iWatch, the company never hints at status, instead highlighting the new device's outstanding practical benefits. High-end farm-to-table restaurants provide another example. They sell beer, chicken, and produce, not Dom Pérignon, Kobe beef, and beluga caviar. But the beer is home brewed, the chicken is free-range, and the produce is organic. Expensive fare that isn't marketed as a luxury, just a way for customers to be ethical and healthy.

Now, with Google's mysterious choice of Alphabet.xyz, we may have another example of inconspicuous branding. After all, Google doesn't need a traditional mainstream .com branding. Its attitude may be something like "Everyone will remember and recall us as Alphabet.xyz."

The most obvious choice would have been Alphabet.com. However, the domain, owned by BMW, is reportedly unwilling to sell it, and Google has the money. Another choice would have been a .brand strategy. Using .Alphabet would have made a strong statement, and it would have reduced cost and risk. Or there's .global, since .tech might be too narrow for all the companies that may go under Alphabet's umbrella. But Google chose .xyz. If it had a reason, inconspicuous branding seems like the best candidate. (They might also have chosen a name other than Alphabet. The Twitter @Alphabet handle is owned by a third party.)

Whatever Google's reason, the move is heaven-sent for .xyz, which now needs to take full advantage of this manna. To focus the new gTLD on benefits to users, .xyz might adopt my .com-competitor underdog strategy, with attention to warding off cybersquatting and phishing. The registry should also coordinate a unified inconspicuous branding message with potential registrars. Although Alphabet may be successfully (recognition and recall) branded under .xyz, it is not obvious to me that other businesses can expect the same result. True, such companies can associate their gTLD branding with that of Google, but who would remember which companies were under .xyz?

With business demand uncertain, and the fight against cybersquatting and phishing likely to be expensive, the success of the .xyz gTLD is far from obvious.

And with the .xyz registry's long-term viability in question, Google faces a bit of a risk. If the company winds up buying the registry, other registrants will have to be compensated before Google can operate it as a closed gTLD. Odds are it isn't smart to jump on the .xyz bandwagon.

By Alex Tajirian, CEO at DomainMart
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Obvious? Todd Knarr  –  Aug 16, 2015 8:33 PM PDT

The choice of the gTLD seems obvious to me (and probably to most geeks). Once the name Alphabet was chosen, there were only 2 obviously-appropriate gTLDs for it and I doubt the American Broadcasting Corporation would give Google a spot in their private TLD.

Google might have chosen "Campbells" as the name for the holding company, but I think the soup manufacturer would've objected and even geeks may've missed the meta-in-joke without the "Alphabet" clue being there.

Not quite John Levine  –  Aug 17, 2015 7:43 AM PDT

This article would be more credible if the alphabet.xyz domain had anything to do with Alphabet or Google. But it doesn't.

Domain Name: ALPHABET.XYZ
Domain ID: D6573337-CNIC
WHOIS Server: whois.dynadot.com
Referral URL: http://www.dynadot.com
Updated Date: 2015-08-14T03:12:51.0Z
Creation Date: 2014-12-02T04:30:12.0Z
Registry Expiry Date: 2016-12-02T23:59:59.0Z
Sponsoring Registrar: Dynadot LLC
Sponsoring Registrar IANA ID: 472
Domain Status: clientTransferProhibited https://icann.org/epp#clientTransferProhibited
Domain Status: inactive https://icann.org/epp#inactive
Domain Status: serverTransferProhibited https://icann.org/epp#serverTransferProhibited
Registrant ID: CPF-133351
Registrant Name: Super Privacy Service c/o Dynadot
Registrant Organization:
Registrant Street: PO Box 701
Registrant City: San Mateo
Registrant State/Province: CA
Registrant Postal Code: 94401
Registrant Country: US
Registrant Phone: +1.6505854708
Registrant Phone Ext:
Registrant Fax:
Registrant Fax Ext:
Registrant Email: privacy@dynadot.com
Admin ID: CPF-133351
Admin Name: Super Privacy Service c/o Dynadot
Admin Organization:
Admin Street: PO Box 701
Admin City: San Mateo
Admin State/Province: CA
Admin Postal Code: 94401
Admin Country: US
Admin Phone: +1.6505854708
Admin Phone Ext:
Admin Fax:
Admin Fax Ext:
Admin Email: privacy@dynadot.com
Tech ID: CPF-133351
Tech Name: Super Privacy Service c/o Dynadot
Tech Organization:
Tech Street: PO Box 701
Tech City: San Mateo
Tech State/Province: CA
Tech Postal Code: 94401
Tech Country: US
Tech Phone: +1.6505854708
Tech Phone Ext:
Tech Fax:
Tech Fax Ext:
Tech Email: privacy@dynadot.com
Name Server:
DNSSEC: unsigned
Billing ID: CPF-133351
Billing Name: Super Privacy Service c/o Dynadot
Billing Organization:
Billing Street: PO Box 701
Billing City: San Mateo
Billing State/Province: CA
Billing Postal Code: 94401
Billing Country: US
Billing Phone: +1.6505854708
Billing Phone Ext:
Billing Fax:
Billing Fax Ext:
Billing Email: privacy@dynadot.com
>>> Last update of WHOIS database: 2015-08-17T14:40:46.0Z <<<

PS: abc.xyz, on the other hand, ...

Before going live, Ali Farshchian warned me Alex Tajirian  –  Aug 17, 2015 8:49 AM PDT

Before going live, Ali Farshchian warned me that Alphabet.xyz did not resolve, while abc.xyz resolved to an Alphabet site. TheDomains.com had reported chatter that Google had bought the domain name Alphabet.xyz on the secondary market. Given Alphabet’s focus on .xyz, I believe that they will seriously consider branding under Alphabet.xyz.

Uh huh John Levine  –  Aug 17, 2015 12:08 PM PDT

One of the biggest companies in the world drops a bombshell as they rebrand themselves, and next week or month they're going to say, oh, by the way, the URL we told you about when we announced it, never mind, we're using another one.

Some people would have just said oops, I goofed.

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