YourCompany.Sucks – Dealing with the Future of Domains

April 22nd, 2015 by Search Influence University

When I first read that .sucks domains would be launching in 2015, I chatted with a friend of mine about it. This friend is not in the search engine optimization industry, but he does have a website for his established local business. The whole .sucks conversation boiled down to this: it is a big money grab, he told me. How is he supposed to build his local brand and defend it online when really, he has to focus his marketing budget on offense, not defense?

I can imagine a lot of small businesses having similar reactions, and I assured Angry Friend that this is not a priority for him as a small, locally owned business. If he buys the .sucks of his domain, then he has to invest in domain-squatting for all negative versions of his domain, and he has better things to do with his limited marketing dollars.

Who are “They?”

After repeating a few different variations of “they are just creating a money grab,” Angry Friend asked “and who the hell are ‘they?!’

The mysterious “they” are the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, or ICANN. It is responsible for the domain name system, among other things. This means ICANN establishes policies for the domain system and for introducing new top-level domains (TLDs) like .com, .net, .info, .org, .sucks, etc.

Management of most top-level domains is assigned to specific organizations by ICANN. In the .sucks controversy, Vox Populi Registry Ltd. is the manager and registry of the .sucks domains. It set .sucks domains at prices that are being denounced as exorbitant and predatory. It is a subsidiary of Momentous based in Canada.

.Sucks Domains are Rolling out Now

New Domain Tidal Wave Image - Search Influence

 ICANN will have introduced 600+ new TLDs slowly, a few each month, starting in 2013 and going through 2015. This is a pretty cool interactive infographic that allows you to see which TLDs have rolled out/will roll out each month.

Some of the more controversial TLDs are .porn and .adult and .xxx. And .fail and .wtf. You can imagine the scramble by brands and celebrities to grab their names with these extensions as a defensive measure against slam sites.

Per Vox Populi Registry (nic.sucks), these domains are already registered:

  • burberry.sucks
  • tommybahama.sucks
  • eharmony.sucks
  • urbanoutfitters.sucks
  • beats.sucks
  • hersheys.sucks
  • tupperware.sucks
  • hyatt.sucks
  • mac.sucks
  • internetexplorer.sucks

According to CBS, these .sucks domains have also been claimed:

  • Youtube.sucks
  • Bing.sucks
  • Visa.sucks
  • Yahoo.sucks

Obviously, these corporations and brands have deep pockets and a significant advantage in controlling these domains themselves.

Getting Your .Sucks Domain Is Expensive

A “Sunrise Claim” is an early registration of any new TLD by holders of registered trademarks. Sunrise Claims are usually a few hundred dollars; however, the money grab is afoot with .sucks. Some would say the shakedown has started. The .sucks TLD starts at $2,499—that’s right, starts at.

If a trademark brand opts to not claim anything in the Sunrise period, it may still have to pay the $2,499 or more. Vox Populi has created a “premium” list for trademark brands, and those will have to pay the premium even during the general availability period. For “premium” brands, Vox Populi has ensured the .sucks price will be $2,499 or more no matter when the registration is made, and domain renewals will cost the same as the Sunrise prices.

Consumer Advocate Subsidies Image - Search Influence

The .sucks Sunrise period is March 30, 2015 – May 29, 2015. General availability (or the land rush), which is on a first-come, first-served basis, starts June 1, 2015.

Then, when the land rush starts, an average business .sucks domain will cost $249/year. You can get a blocked domain for $199/year, which means it won’t resolve, you can squat on the domain, and no one else can register it either. EasyDNS says, “It is quite the controversy and our advice to anybody on the verge of getting caught up in all this is quite simply not to play. ”

Really, anybody who wants to complain about a brand or a business has plenty of opportunity to do so already with the variety of legitimate ratings and reviews sites, complaint sites such as ripoffreport.com, the ability to create sucks domains such as yelp-sucks.com, and the availability of .fail and .wtf. If you really felt passionate about defending your brand, you would need deep pockets to defend on the domain front. Those dollars would be a much better investment if used for quality online presence strategies.

Fighting Back

ICANN approved .sucks when it announced the plan to introduce the 600+ TLDs from 2013 through 2015. Big brands such as Verizon and eBay make up an advisory panel that has recently complained about the .sucks availability. Trademark lawyers for Intellectual Property Constituency sent ICANN a forceful letter describing the .sucks scenario as “predatory” and requested a halt to the rollout.

The IPC letter calls into question Vox Populi’s plans to (this is quoting from the letter):

(1) categorize TMCH-registered marks as “premium names,”

(2) charge exorbitant sums to brand owners who seek to secure a registration in .sucks, and

(3) conspire with an (alleged) third party to “subsidize” a complaint site should brand owners fail to cooperate in Vox Populi’s shakedown scheme.

Under pressure, ICANN has now asked the U.S. Federal Trade Commission and Canada’s Office of Consumer Affairs to comment on the legality of the high-priced process used by Vox Populi. If the Vox Populi pricing strategy is found to be illegal, ICANN will be able to declare them in breach of contract, request changes to its policies, and breathe a sigh of relief with the public eye turned to Vox Populi as the bad guy.