Squarespace gets into domain space, takes on "antiquated" GoDaddy and other rivals

Squarespace has launched a new service called Squarespace Domains to allow its customers to buy domain names directly from the company versus going elsewhere.

The product, which was soft-launched in early April is designed to compete directly with domain name platforms such as Scottsdale, Arizona-based GoDaddy (NYSE: GDDY) and aims to slide Squarespace into an adjacent, multibillion dollar market while making it a one-stop destination for website builders.

Squarespace founder and CEO Anthony Casalena, who answered a few questions via email, took a swipe at rivals, saying he saw an opportunity in an old domains business space that relies on “antiquated technology and interfaces,” and “hidden fees,” that are rarely disclosed upfront. This creates confusion and hurdles for those seeking to build a website, he explained.

“With Squarespace Domains, we’re looking to change all of this,” Casalena said. “Customers can now easily purchase a domain, create a website, build an online store, and connect to Google Apps for a custom email all in one place with very little configuration and a transparent fee structure.”

The New York City-based company, founded in 2004 in Casalena’s dorm room, took its first round of capital only in 2010 and has since raised a total of $78.5 million. With growing ambitions, and a few Super Bowl ads, it has been growing fast over the last several years as it competes with competitors such as Automattic-owned WordPress out of San Francisco, and Wix, based in Israel, which also sell domain names.

Last year, Squarespace surpassed $100 million in revenue and crossed one million paid subscribers, Casalena says. It now employs more than 550 employees and has offices in Portland, Oregon, and in Dublin, in addition to New York.

In trying to own more of the web building experience, Casalena says the company’s edge over existing players like GoDaddy is that it can start fresh and set things up in a way that’s up-to-date and compatible with other technology.

“By not being tied to legacy businesses, we’re able to enter the market with transparent pricing, simple setup, ad-free parking pages, and one click setup for Squarespace and Google Apps (which provides business email and collaboration),” he said.

Depending on the name of the URL that’s purchased, Squarespace charges between $20 and $70 a year. While Squarespace will still charge per site, customers can now buy domains directly versus buying it from another provider and then connecting it to the Squarespace platform. The move opens up the ability for Squarespace to generate revenues from people who just want to grab a domain name and need time to build out their complete website, cover pages or e-commerce stores.

A distinguishing characteristic versus competitors is that it will also include WhoIs Privacy for free, allowing the person setting up the website to keep their contact details private.