Google Purchases ‘g.co’ Short Links (and What That Means for the Web)

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In a blog post this week, Google announced that they’d purchased the rights to g.co, the company’s official URL shortcut. The internet giant already owns its own public link shortener, goo.gl, which works just like bit.ly, but g.co will redirect to official Google products.

“The shorter a URL, the easier it is to share and remember,” writes Gary Briggs, VP of Consumer marketing at Google. “The downside is, you often can’t tell what website you’re going to be redirected to. We’ll only use g.co to send you to webpages that are owned by Google, and only we can create g.co shortcuts. That means you can visit a g.co shortcut confident you will always end up at a page for a Google product or service.”

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It’s a huge victory for the company that operates the .co addresses as they’ll be landing quite possibly the biggest client on the web. The company’s website says, “.CO is for creators. For the people and businesses who make the world turn.”

Link shorteners rose to prominence in 2009 to supplement Twitter, whose 140-character limit made each space a commodity. Now, they’re each a measurement tool that allows companies to track metrics like what people are actually clicking on. For an algorithm-driven company like Google it’s a no brainer.

But Google’s purchase of g.co could have broader implications for web culture in the near future. First, I think it’s a fervent nod to the staying power of Twitter, which has been at the forefront of some pretty intense discussion in light of Google+, here and elsewhere.

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It also speaks to how critical Google understands branding to be, even in minute secondary details like a URL.

Thirdly, another potential story line to keep your eye on is whether .co is Google’s line in the sand regarding top-level domains, which will be available for bidding starting in early 2012 by ICANN. If a company as big as Google is essentially saying that a custom domain isn’t a big deal, it’ll be interesting to see if others on the web follow suit.

Chris Gayomali is a writer-reporter at TIME. Find him on Twitter at @chrigz, on Facebook, or on Google+. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.

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