Similar to how it’s getting harder these days to differentiate actual news from The Onion satires, reality takes on a somewhat surreal timbre when it starts to imitate your April Fool’s gags from yesteryear…
In 2011 we joked “easyDNS To Launch .SUX TLD”, in which we posited a thinly veiled extortion racket to goad squeamish IP holders into “defending their trademarks” under a TLD which was “not intended to encourage registrations which disparage any company or entity.”, but would be available for registration at blatantly exorbitant prices.
Among the steady barrage of new TLDs in the Great Namespace Expansion launched by ICANN in recent years we have Vox Populi and their .SUCKS domain, which is quite literally, the exact business model we joked about in 2011. A business to scare rights holders into “defending their name” under the .SUCKS TLD
The Intellectual Property Constituency outlined their concerns in a letter to ICANN asking them to halt the rollout of the controversial new TLD.
If you’re not immersed in the naming business you may find the jargon in it hard to understand. The basic upshot is this: the IPC believes that the mechanisms that were enacted to protect trademark holders during the deluge of new TLD rollouts are being gamed by the .SUCKS TLD operator to extort inflated fees from trademark holders.
Consider that a “Sunrise Claim” (an early registration in a new TLD by holders of registered trademarks) typically run a few hundred dollars, under .SUCKS they start at $2,499. It gets worse – if your mark happens to be one the registry has designated as a “premium” name, the Sunrise price will be even higher. (Oh, they also renew at those prices).
Then when land rush starts, a normal, unencumbered .SUCKS domains will cost $249/year, if you just want a blocking registration (the domain won’t resolve but nobody else can register it either), those are $199/year.
The coup de grace, in the opinion of IPC is their “Consumer Advocate Subsidized” registration, which clocks in at a much more reasonable sounding $9.95/year – but in IPC’s minds it is a strong-arm tactic against trademark holders: “Pay us the inflated fee now, because anybody else can pony up $9.95 later to snag yourname.SUCKS!”.
It should be pointed out that those subsidized names are “locked”, they will only be able to be hosted on the .SUCKS’ “everything.SUCKS” platform and their name servers cannot be modified (for us, that’s a deal killer right there. We unceremoniously dropped support for .TEL domains for this exact reason).
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. It doesn’t matter.
The fear card being played to induce rights holders to pony up inflated fees to defend their marks under .SUCKS is similar to what I have often termed “the domainer fallacy”, or confusing the map with the territory. Let me explain: there is a train of thought amongst some “domainers” (defined as those who invest in domain names) that by owning a “category killing” domain, you automatically lock up your category. In other words, if you can get your hands on “search.com” then you can kill Google. Much in the same way owning the domain books.com enabled Barnes and Noble to put Amazon out of business. See how that works?
It doesn’t. That’s The Domainer’s Fallacy.
.SUCKS is the corollary of this, where rights holders would be succumbing to a notion that they can control the conversation, especially negative ones, about their brands simply by virtue of holding their respective .SUCKS domains. A company influences the conversations around their brands by their deeds and their ethos, not the symbolic representations of their labels. The former is the reality, the latter is voodoo.
Anybody who thinks this through will finally realize how ludicrous the idea is. If my company is doing something badly enough to warrant a protest domain, message board, discussion forum or protest website about us, they aren’t going to not do it because we already own the easyDNS.SUCKS domain.
If they really want to incorporate the name of our company and “sucks” into a domain name, there are now, thanks to ICANN, about 1000 other variations to choose among, everything from easydns-sucks-donkey-balls.com to easydnssucks.wtf . There’s no heading it off, it’s just going to happen.
Further – if and when somebody does register easyDNS.SUCKS, we are damn sure we aren’t going to raise our public profile by going after them. Unless they are doing something blatantly fraudulent (like phishing our customer passwords or passing off our products), the best approach would be to simply join into the discussion and engage. After all, we’d probably learn something.
This is why we’re not going to register easyDNS.SUCKS, and we aren’t going to offer .SUCKS registrations either. The latter stance is for the following reasons:
1. The “locked name servers” on the subsidized price level is a show stopper.
2. We frequently avoid Sunrise periods because sunrise is a pain in the ass.
3. We don’t feel like getting into the middle of all the inevitable legal fracases this TLD is guaranteed to ignite.
The only possible exception would be if we could get dotsucks.sucks but I doubt they’ll release it (remember, in our April Fool’s gag “easydns.sux” was a reserved name).
Google should blacklist all *.sucks domains and blacklist domain registrars that sell them. Done.
Arpan Ganguli says
Yes, that seems like a good idea. Except that when Google will do that, someone will complain Google of curbing freedom of expression, or something like that. There's no way to win such things, unfortunately.
John Robinson says
And they said the 90's was the "Wild West" days of the Internet. If anything, just the opposite!