Now that Google has taken the next step with its GMail service and is now allowing you to manage your own domain name via GMail, my tip is it won’t be long before the free domain name train rolls back into town.
Remember, during Dot Com V1.0 there were a number of companies offering free domain names. As far as I know none of those companies are still around, but Squash reckons the idea is about to be pulled out of the closet once more.
Actually, that’s a given. Microsoft has already promised that all users of its Office Live offering WILL receive a free domain name. Google with this latest managed domain announcement has clearly demonstarted it wants to run interference on Office Live. So, where it can it will almost certainly match Microsoft offer for offer.
Both Microsoft and Google will do this because a free domain is the ULTIMATE lock-in strategy. I suspect the offer will work along these lines: We’ll register your domain for you for free, but we retain ownership of it. You can use it as the basis for your email and IM identities. We’ll also throw in some free webspace tied to your domain for your website, photos, etc. And all you have to give us in return is your loyalty.
Let’s face it, if your domain name becomes your online identity, you’re never going to change it. If people know that they can check out your webspace at yourdomain.com, email and IM you at yourdomain.com, see your photos at picassa.yourdomain.com, you tell me how you’re EVER going to churn to another online provider.
The question is whether the couple of bucks that it costs to attain and then annually retain a customer’s loyalty returns enough to make it to justify the investment. You’d have to say that only Google and Microsoft, maybe Yahoo and possible eBay have the strategy, product offerings and income streams to make this strategy worthwhile. It appears more and more likely every day that any other online company is going to stand any chance in the future of dismantling the online oligopoly.