Monday, August 18, 2014

Google Domains (Beta) in depth

When Google Domains was announced, it was instantly a hit. It gathered a lot of buzz (and hype) from a lot of people, from the normal army of Google fans, but also IT staff and administrators from all around. Even though it was still in private beta, I signed up for a beta invite.

Now, almost 2 months later, I got that invite.

Google Domains, still in beta

Before I start talking about Google Domains, I'd like to make it perfectly clear that Google Domains is still in beta. This means that features found in competitors can be missing, bugs are to be expected, and everything you see now could be changed in the final product.

Also, the beta is US-only, for now.


Of course, before you are allowed into the Google Domains beta, you have to receive (and accept) an invite from Google. I got mine in my email account yesterday, and here's what it looked like:

Other than that, the email is pretty much uninteresting. I have it archived for historical purposes, but after you redeem the code you're more than welcome to cast it into the deepest depths of hell.

First Impressions

After clicking the button in the email, and pasting in the code, you're taken to Google Domains.
From the screenshot above, you have a clean introductory page. It doesn't highlight much, but the design of the page itself is seen across other Google pages.
Google also has a "Features" page (as noted at the top) that highlights the features of Google Domains even further. One feature that caught (and continues to catch) my eye is free private registration. Although handled through a 3rd party service, Google handles all of the backend stuff for you -- all you have to do is toggle the setting on or off.


I did transfer my domain over to Google Domains, for a few reasons. Two reason was that it was cheaper than my former registrar (GoDaddy), and of course Google Domains offered free private registration.

Unfortunately, I didn't screenshot the process of transfering my domain. However, I can kind of describe what you have to do to transfer a domain, in a numbered list.
  1. Prepare for transfer in
    Before you can transfer a domain over to Google Domains, you have to do a few things at your current registrar. You have to unlock the domain, disable private registration, and grab the authorization code. You won't have an auth code until 60 days after a domain has been registered/transfered from a registrar. You also have to confirm the contact information on the domain's WHOIS listing before proceeding.
  2. Pending transfer
    After you have completed the first measures, Google will formally send a transfer request to your current registrar. In this request, Google basically asks your old registrar (in my case, GoDaddy) to release the domain to them. During this process, it can take up to 5 days. Google also notes that you will probably be contacted by your old registrar to confirm to the transfer, for security and fraud purposes.
  3. Finalization
    After the old registrar approves and releases the domain to Google, they will finish "setting up" the domain. Their smart DNS algorithm will try to import DNS records for a few popular subdomains and the like. However, as of now you can't upload DNS zone files. If Google Domains supported such a feature, I wouldn't have to add 20-something records. It wasn't that of a big deal though, because I screenshotted GoDaddy's DNS manager before I transfered the domain.

    After the domain is finished setting up, It will appear under the "My Domains" tab on the site. From there you can configure the domain's settings, DNS records, and billing options.

Managing a Domain

Great, my domain transfer completed successfully (after a lot of emails from GoDaddy with warnings and confirmation links). Now it was time to check out the core Google Domains interface.


From the overview, you don't see much on Google Domains. Some people are bound to complain about this, but I like it. I don't think an overview page should be cluttered with quick-toggle settings.

Domain-specific Overview

The global overview wasn't very interesting. It's the actual domain overview where things get more interesting. Still, all of the really advanced features of a domain are hidden away in other areas.
If you don't have a website set up  yet, Google does offer 30-day trials to select services that they have partnered up with. I'm surprised that Google Domains didn't recommend their own in-house Blogger or Google Sites. Personally, I think Blogger would suit fine for a lot of people, if the default templates were a bit more clean. The template you see here right now has been heavily modified by me to add in more clean and eye-catching effects, but a lot of the JS bloat could be cut down to one file.

Email Overview

The email overview isn't that interesting either, but Google Domains does allow you to forward email usernames to specified addresses. For example, if I wanted to I could forward "" to my personal email. However, it would have been cool if Google Domains came with a complementary ~5 user Google Apps account. You can't expect everything, though.

Since I already have MX records already set up on my domain, I had a little information box above the email forward settings.


The settings tab contains private info about a domain. It contains billing options, and WHOIS information. It also contains the private registration setting, among other things. I'm not going to post a screenshot of this because of the sheer amount of private info that's on this page. Besides, if I did take a screenshot, ~90% of the stuff would have been blurred out.


The "Advanced" tab is truly the meat and potatoes of Google Domains. It contains your domain's core settings, such as DNS name server(s) configuration, your DNS records, and synthetic DNS records. Still, it doesn't have any seriously advanced features yet, like dealing with zone files. I'm sure that features like that will be added in the future (I hope anyways).


As for Google's support, I haven't tested that out yet. The reason why I haven't is because I have had literally no problem with them. As soon as my domain was transfered, I was set and good to go.


While Google Domains is still in beta, I think that overall, the product is very good. Google doesn't have all of the newest TLDs available (personally I despise that movement but anyways...), but their interface is simple for even the more novice domain buyers. I think Google can only improve from where they are now for this service.

Compared specifically to GoDaddy, I think Google Domains has a MUCH cleaner and less cluttered interface. I can't speak for other registrars because I haven't used any others.

I'll be sure to post updates if anything on Google Domains change, and particularly catches my eye. Stay tuned for updates, or hop in the chat and ask me if things have changed.