(CNN) — Google already is a major player in search, online mapping, social networking and other key functions of the Web. Now it wants to sell domain names, too.
The Internet giant on Monday announced the launch of an invite-only service, Google Domains, to help small businesses find, register and manage their Web addresses. The service is currently in beta testing with a small number of users.
“Businesses will be able to search, find, purchase and transfer the best domain for their business — whether it’s .com, .biz, .org, or any of the wide range of new domains that are being released to the Web,” Google said in a blog post about the venture.
With this move, Google will be directly competing with companies they once partnered with. Their most notable partner-turned-rival will be GoDaddy, the world’s largest domain-management company, which has faced financial troubles in recent years.
GoDaddy has 57 million domains registered to its service, but the company hasn’t generated a profit since 2009 and in the last two years has reported combined losses of $480 million. Earlier this month, the company filed for a $100 million IPO.
The new Google service will allow users to purchase new domain names as well as transfer existing ones. It also offers some perks that other companies don’t, such as free private registration, which keeps the site owner’s personal information hidden from the public.
Google isn’t quoting prices yet, although a window on the Google Domains site suggests that registering a domain will cost $12 a year.
Google hasn’t announced when Domains will be available to the public, although it’s encouraging potential customers to request invite codes to test the service. Google said the beta-testing process will investigate ways to streamline Domains for users, improve customer service and determine which extra services, such as mobile-site design, will be offered.
The service will allow Google to take advantage of 1,400 newly created top-level domain endings, such as the already popular .guru. Google is already on the International Corporation for Assigned Names and Number’s list of accredited registrars for well-known domains like .com, .net, and .org.
Domain-name registration has increased only slightly in recent years, according to the website Registrar Stats. Last year 123,000 new domain names were registered worldwide, up from 121,000 in 2010.
On the other hand, removal of domain names has increased at a more rapid rate, from 85,000 to 119,000 in the past three years.
This may make some analysts wonder if Google is late to the domain-name market. But as a dominant Internet player, Google may be able to leverage this new service in ways smaller rivals cannot.
“The company has a vested interest in getting as many businesses online as possible. It gets them hooked into its many products including Google Apps, Gmail, Google Pages, etc.,” wrote Andrew Allemann for Domain Name Wire, an industry blog. Google then could sell them ads, he noted.
™ & © 2014 Cable News Network, Inc., a Time Warner Company. All rights reserved.