May 25th 2020
The other day I had a mental lapse whilst looking for a new domain name, and for some reason typed 'google' into the domain search box. This is what I saw:
Unsurprisingly, all 200+ domain name endings had been taken. All snapped up by Google presumably.
My curiosity had piqued though, so I tried some other big technology companies: Facebook, Apple, Microsoft and Amazon. Still nothing, absolutely no top level domains left.
I was about to get on with my day when I decided to try one last company: Netflix.
There was one left: netflix.soy (if you didn't click the link, soy means "I am" in Spanish). I was sort of in disbelief when I was able to just go ahead and buy it.
I was still really curious though. The site I was on had around 200 domain endings for sale, GoDaddy, for example, has nearly 500, but in total there are currently over 1500 top level domains in the world, from .horse to .wtf.
I had one question: What if there were still actually some Google domains left out there?
Checking all 1500 endings across every domain registrar would take far too long, so I wrote a tiny script to perform WHOIS lookups on each top level domain and tell me which were available. This was the result for Google:
Great! So there were actually some available.
I started going down the list of English domain endings: .autos, .au, .bm; quickly discovering that each one had a restriction meaning the average person couldn't register it. For example, I actually paid for google.gi (gi for Gibraltar), only to get this email a few hours later:
Although I had once been on a nice holiday to the rock, I was not Gibraltarian. Google themselves own google.com.gi and apparently aren't even able to register google.gi on the basis that they are also not Gibraltarians.
Exhausting all the English domain endings, and realising I'd wasted far too much time doing this, I decided to call it a day. I was just a soy boy with my netflix.soy.
A couple of days later whilst doing actual useful work, I realised I'd never checked out what those weird .xn--zfr164b domains were. What the heck were they? I thought they must have been erroneous domains or something.
Meticulously going through each one, I realised they actually represented characters from other languages: Chinese, Japanese, Russian, Greek, you name it.
Again, they all had strange restrictions, were privately owned, or reserved for Google. No luck.
google.com in Hebrew! And I could actually buy it. It bloody worked.
I felt like Ash Ketchum and wanted to catch'em all. Next I picked up facebook.网站 (facebook.website in Chinese) and microsoft.みんな (microsoft.everyone in Japanese). They were all dirt cheap too.
So, why did I waste time and money doing this? Am I going to sit on these domains for years until Google, Microsoft, Netflix and Facebook pay large sums of cash to get their domains back, then retire as a domain name investing billionaire?
No. They're welcome to have them back anytime they want. They could probably do it pretty forcibly if I refused to budge too (see Microsoft vs. MikeRoweSoft).
Truthully, I think its pretty bad that I was able to do this. If I was evil, I could knock up a fake looking Google login page and be phishing for innocent people's usernames & passwords within hours. People may generally trust a .com domain, but with more and more top level domains being released, .coms are slowly becoming less relevant.
Did you know it costs a minimum of $185,000 to create your own domain name ending? For that kind of money, I think ICANN, the registries and registrar sites have a massive responsibility to ensure that this never happens.
Oh, and my application for apple.beer is still pending.