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Google threatens domain names with Direct Connect

Kevin Murphy, November 8, 2011, Domain Services

Google’s latest social networking play is a potential threat to the relevance of domain names.

The company has announced the launch of Direct Connect, a feature that enables direct navigation to Google+ pages via the search engine.

Essentially, typing a + sign before the name of a brand in the search box will take you directly to that brand’s Google+ page, assuming it has one, bypassing search results.

This video explains it pretty well:

Google said yesterday that at launch a handful of brands, including Pepsi, Toyota and Angry Birds, are signed up, but from where I’m sitting only +google seems to work as advertised.

The feature also only seems to work when used with the search box on Google’s home page.

However, it does not require a massive leap of the imagination to see it quite easily showing up soon in the Google Toolbar and the integrated search/URL bar in Chrome.

Direct Connect was launched alongside Google+ Pages, the company’s answer to Facebook Pages – a way for companies to have their own branded fan page for interacting with customers.

Many companies are already advertising their Facebook addresses, or simply encouraging people to search Facebook for their brand, in print, on TV and elsewhere.

It might not be long before we see +brand advertising along similar lines.

Could Google train people to type +pepsi instead of pepsi.com? It’s an interesting notion.

The + operator was of course until recently a way of telling Google that you really, really wanted to see search results containing your query.

As Google has increasingly crapified its search engine with infuriating “user-friendly” guff over the last few years, I’ve trained myself to automatically put a + in front of every search in order to get the results I want rather than what Google, in its infinite wisdom, thinks I might want.

I’m sure I’m not alone.

While the + function has now been deprecated in favor of enclosing queries in quotation marks, it is nevertheless already trained user behavior in many cases.

I’m not suggesting that Google is going to kill domain names, but at first glance Direct Connect certainly seems to be a step toward attempting to make them less relevant for branding and advertising.

I can’t help but note that Google+ Pages was launched unilaterally by Google with no multi-stakeholder consultation, no battles with intellectual property interests, and no government oversight.

The Association of National Advertisers has yet to demand that Google shuts it down.