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I found out yesterday that Google is winding down their domain registrar business, a.k.a. Google Domains, and is upending their customers into Squarespace’s court.
“In keeping with our efforts to sharpen our focus, we have entered into a definitive agreement with Squarespace for the acquisition of customer accounts of the Google Domains registrar business,”Matt Madrigal, Vice President and General Manager, Merchant Shopping of Google, 15 Jun 2023
You can read more about the announcement in Squarespace’s press release and newsroom article, both dated 15 Jun 2023. Google has also posted a support article on the same day to clarify details about what will happen to Google Domains.
Why I chose to use Google Domains.
With a yearly subscription price around 30% higher than most budget or at-cost registrars, Google Domains is certainly not the cheapest option available. But since it is backed by one of the largest tech companies on the planet, Google Domains has been widely regarded as one of the most reliable registrars you will ever find.
And it comes with all the sharing permissions we have come to expect with most Google products like Google Drive, Google Docs, and Google Sheets. This makes it incredibly easy for a user to help others manage their nameservers, set up email forwarding to their preferred mailboxes, and configure their DNS records.
I registered my first domain with Google Domains mid-2018, and I have been with them ever since. I love using their services and their user interface, and I frequently recommend Google Domains to anyone looking to acquire their own domain name.
So as you can imagine, the news came as quite the shocker for me.
Why I dislike moving to Squarespace.
Despite reassurances that they will honor all existing Google Domains customers’ renewal prices for at least 12 months following the closing of the transaction, I still have my misgivings about the reliability and trustworthiness of Squarespace.
Squarespace has little regard for its users.
For one, as a website building platform, Squarespace has a history of rushing out feature changes and updates before they are ready for actual use, with little to no warning and no way to opt out.
Squarespace users and even designers and developers will often wake up to an unfamiliar user interface, forcing them to relearn Squarespace once again. All while wrestling with new (i.e. buggy and incomplete) additions to the platform.
Another annoying thing about Squarespace is with every major platform upgrade, such as the (relatively) recent transition from Squarespace 7.0 to 7.1, users are told to rebuild or recreate their 7.0 websites in 7.1 to gain access to the latest features.
I have gone into detail about the above problems in an early blog post, and it is one of the main reasons why I chose to give Squarespace a wide berth.
Given their spotty track record thus far, I have zero confidence that Squarespace is capable of performing a seamless migration for Google Domains users.
They can’t even maintain stability within their own platform. How well do you think Squarespace would operate when it comes to relocating millions of users from an external platform built upon a third party (i.e. Google) infrastructure?
Squarespace is primarily a website building and hosting service.
Historically, website building and hosting services do a really bad job at managing domains names, and domain name registrars are really bad at providing website building and hosting services.
Yes, Squarespace loves to tout itself as an all-in-one platform, where you can get everything from website building to hosting, domain registration, email and mailing lists, basic ecommerce and membership functionalities in one place.
However, it is also best practice to keep your website host separate from your domain registrar. This ensures that if anything were to go wrong with your website host, or if you were to get into a dispute with them, they will not be able to keep your domain name hostage and prevent you from transferring away.
With what little regard Squarespace holds for their users, there is a good chance you will get into a dispute with them at some point. So it is always wise to keep your precious domain names safely tucked away from their grubby hands.
Domain name renewals with Squarespace are expensive.
As a domain registrar on the side, Squarespace charges an exorbitant renewal pricing for domain names – more than DOUBLE the regular market price!
Moreover, Squarespace loves to use a dirty bait-and-switch tactic by offering you a free domain name for the first year for signing up to a yearly hosting plan. In the following years, they will mark up their renewal pricing to more than twice the market rates, and continue to overcharge you until you decide to leave.
Squarespace is undoubtedly drooling at the chance to overcharge for the ~10 million domain names that are expected to migrate over from Google. Even if half the Google Domains userbase decides take their business elsewhere, Squarespace still stands to gain a recurring revenue of at least 100 million US dollars per year.
Where should I transfer my domains to?
In an earlier blog post, I researched the pricing structure of several domain registrars, and identified two that are more affordable than Google Domains.
The cheapest option: Cloudflare.
Cloudflare is by far the cheapest option, because they are an at-cost registrar, with no markup and no surprise fees. I.e. you pay what they pay. And they come with all the bells and whistles you would expect from any reliable domain registrar.
The only catch is that if you register a domain name with Cloudflare, you are only allowed to use Cloudflare nameservers for that domain. You do not have the option to use external nameservers at all.
What happens to my nameservers when I transfer my domain to Cloudflare?
Cloudflare Registrar only supports transfers of domains that are active on a Cloudflare full setup. Domains on Cloudflare use nameservers assigned by Cloudflare to the associated account and those nameservers must remain in place for the domain to be Active.Cloudflare Registrar FAQ documentation, viewed 19 Jun 2023.
In my case, I already have my nameservers set up with my website host.
And I’d rather avoid the whole kerfuffle of switching nameservers and checking if everything still works after the transfer. Because if something did go wrong, it can take up to several days to get it fully fixed due to the slow nature of DNS updates.
I simply do not have time to worry about all that, so Cloudflare is a no-go.
My preferred option: Porkbun.
Porkbun is a really affordable budget registrar with unique and awesome branding. It is also one of the very few websites that can elicit a genuine smile as I go through the ordeal of transferring over my various domain names to their platform.
It is also a Reddit favorite, which is always a huge plus.
Like Cloudflare, Porkbun also comes with all the bells and whistles at no extra cost. And more importantly, you can use external nameservers if you so desire!
They do charge a slight markup with their domain pricing, but it is still very close to the wholesale cost. I am more than happy to pay a few extra cents for Porkbun’s services and the freedom and control to use whatever nameserver I fancy.