Not quite as easy as abc.xyz: Google’s domain war with BMW over alphabet.com

7 Aaron Falloon
K is for

Alphabet. It’s a term that has taken on a completely new meaning over the past 36 hours since Google CEO Larry Page announced the restructuring of his company early yesterday morning. It’s also a term that could find itself at the heart of a legal dispute between the world’s largest search engine and the world’s largest manufacturer of motor engines, BMW.

News broke this morning that Google made the huge decision to re-brand without anyone checking whether the domain alphabet.com was actually available. It just so happens it isn’t. And that’s why Google have had to settle for a URL more fitting of a spam site selling $1 links

(abc.xyz) rather than one that reflects a globally recognised brand.

The site, which went down almost instantly after Page’s post was published on Google’s blog, is owned by BMW and acts as a microsite for their commercial vehicle department. BMW has released an official statement that in short says the domain isn’t for sale – which, in turn, unofficially translates to “haha Google, karma’s a b**ch”.

Why all the hostility? Well those working in search for a while will remember how in 2006 Google blacklisted BMW from their search results which essentially publicly shamed the motor brand after they consequently admitted to using ‘blackhat’ tactics in an attempt to manipulate their organic listings. BMW took a big hit in visibility for their brand and commercial terms, which no doubt impacted sales.

Now the tables have turned and the German company are ready to play hard-ball – apparently a BMW spokewoman was quoted as saying they are “examining whether there are any implications over trademarks”.

However even if Google has no case to answer to, BMW have already achieved two things most businesses can only dream of. Firstly, they’ve exacted revenge on the search engine for penalising them and, secondly, they made Google look extremely stupid in the process.

You could say this is the corporate version of receiving a wedgie off the kid whose lunch money you used to steal…