Google on Friday officially became a registrar after completing a contract with the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, the nonprofit body that oversees the Domain Name System, ICANN officials confirmed.
ICANNs approval is only a first step. Google also must negotiate terms with the registries that manage the domains before it can sell registrations. For the .com and .net domains, for example, Google is not listed on the Web site of registry VeriSign Inc. as a registrar. VeriSign officials could not immediately verify Googles status.
So far, Google appears to be less interested in registering new domain names and more interested in using its domain-name role to help its Web search.
"Google has become a domain name registrar to learn more about the Internets domain name system," a Google spokesperson said in a statement. "While we have no plans to register domains at this time, we believe this information can help us increase the quality of our search results."
The spokesperson declined to offer more details on Googles registrar plans. Googles registrar status was first noted on the Weblog Lextext.
Along with .com and .net, Google is authorized as a registrar for names in the .biz, .info, .name, .org and .pro domains.
Google does offer services where domain names play a significant role. For example, it hosts Weblogs through its Blogger service. Those blogs typically have a domain name within the blogspot.com domain, though Blogger also lets bloggers use their own domain names when they host their blogs themselves.
Google also is testing its own e-mail service, Gmail. While Web-based e-mail providers typically use a single domain, such as gmail.com, for e-mail addresses, others also offer premium services that use specific domain names.
Google competitors Yahoo Inc. and Microsoft Corp., among others, already offer domain-name registration services. While not official ICANN registrars, they provide name registrations as part of their Web hosting and small business services.
"Google has a habit of doing things that make you wonder What does that have to do with anything else that theyre working on?" said Andy Beal, vice president of search marketing at WebSourced Inc. "And over a couple of months it begins to make sense."
Beal said that being a domain-name registrar could help Google in another core area of its business: advertising. By registering domains at a low cost, Google could reach more businesses to sell its AdWords sponsored-link ads, he said.
"They would be able to get in front of business owners at the birth of their Web site," Beal said.
Google already offers a service to domain-name holders. Called AdSense for domains, the program places Googles AdSense contextual ads on parked-domain pages, which are essentially placeholder pages for yet-to-be used Web addresses.
Editors Note: This story was updated to include details about the domains for which Google is an authorized registrar.