Google released a new top-level domain that lets website creators throw .meme at the end of their URL on Tuesday, and I for one am already terrified of the websites about to be created.
Internet users can create domains with .meme starting today as part of Google’s early access period, but it will cost you extra. The price drops to its base annual fee on December 5th, when the domain becomes publicly available, but domains are already getting snatched up. Google says “.meme is here to help you lol, spread ideas and express yourself,” but my only question is, did anyone ask? I love internet culture and memes as much as the next guy, but I’m seriously terrified of the cringe-y corporations who will abuse this top-level domain.
We’ve all seen how large brands like Wendy’s, Taco Bell, or even the Detroit Lions, have tried to increase their popularity through active social media campaigns on TikTok and X. Gen Z social media influencers boost corporate profiles with the trendiest memes, and sassy attitudes that make them feel more personal. While these are often funny, these brands are commoditizing memes and internet culture. Google’s .meme feels like the next step in that progression.
I tried to create my personal website with Google’s new top-level domain, maxzeff.meme. If I wanted to make the website on the first day of the early access period, I’d have to pay a whopping $12,520 on GoDaddy.com. The price drops every day until December 5th, when it seems like you can pay a more reasonable yearly price for a domain name. However, you might miss out on the most epic domain names. I didn’t cough up the $12k, so feel free to own me and purchase maxzeff.meme.
Some corporations have jumped the gun and already made some websites, and they’re about as scary as you’d expect. Four out of ten of them are cat websites, including some outdated favorites such as grumpycat.meme, nyancat.meme, and keyboardcat.meme.
One of the websites, marketing.meme, tells you to “stop overpaying for meme media plans” on its home page, offering services to brands looking to get involved with meme culture. The meme marketing company says it’s imperative you “don’t force your brand into unrelated conversations,” but that sounds like exactly what corporations trying to co-opt a meme is.
The entire concept of Google’s .meme feels disrespectful of meme culture in general. It doesn’t consider what memes are: ownerless ideas and jokes that originate organically on the internet. One of the websites, license.meme, even offers licensing services to own a specific meme. Corporations are undoubtedly going to be the target audience of this top-level domain with shameless ploys to commoditize internet culture.