There’s a ticker at the bottom of the website promoting the new .sucks domain showing the latest sites to be registered. Just before I started writing this article I noted down a few of the most striking ones to glide by: Nike.sucks, NYPD.sucks, Blogger.sucks, iMovie.sucks, XBox360.sucks and Cortana.sucks.
Vox Populi, the company behind the new domain suggests it will be used for “cause marketing (e.g. cancer.sucks), consumer advocacy and customer service,” but it certainly feels like brands and individuals are being held to ransom – grab your .sucks domain or let someone else build a custom space to shout about how terrible you are.
Adobe’s associate general counsel J. Scott Evans told NPR that it won’t be registering Adobe.sucks:
I basically think it’s extortion. We are not going to participate in any kind of extortion scheme. I’ve told my people the best way not to get included is not to suck.
Vox Populi’s CEO John Berard tells TNW that he disagrees:
We see the .sucks name space as a pointed way to get a word in edgewise. And when one considers the effort companies put behind their marketing, customer service and product development, the new names can be an effective plank in that total platform.
I can’t help feeling that his stance is disingenuous. That’s only amplified by the company’s promotional video which features Martin Luther King Jnr, and US politician Ralph Nader opining that “the word ‘sucks’ is now a protest word.”
Vox Populi means “voice of the people”. Can sticking a hefty price tag on insulting domains really be classed as a protest act? I don’t think so.
Every time a new generic top-level domain is opened up, there has to be a sunrise period of at least 30 days before domain names are available to the general public. During that period, trademark owners can grab domains related to their products before someone else does.
The cost for trademark owners to register .sucks domains during the sunrise period is $2,499 – more than 100 times what it will be on May 29 when it ends. There’s also a list of premium domains which are individually priced according to how desirable they are. Life.sucks can be yours for $1.5 million.
Google has secured a raft of domains including Gmail.sucks, Nest.sucks, and – perhaps most appropriately – glass.sucks. Apple’s list includes iTunes.sucks, iMac.sucks, OSX.sucks, iTunesRadio.sucks, FinalCutPro.sucks, GarageBand.sucks, FaceTime.sucks, Siri.sucks and CarPlay.sucks.
Microsoft’s collection is also pretty extensive with XBox360.sucks, Outlook.sucks, Windows.sucks, WindowsPhone.sucks, MSN.sucks and OneNote.sucks all included. It’s also the only one of the big tech companies to offer a public statement on its .sucks strategy. A spokesperson told MarketingLand:
“Microsoft has registered a number of domains in order to protect the company’s brands. We have done this in order to ensure that these domains will not be used and we do not have any intention of ever using these domains.”
Facebook has secured the obvious choices – Facebook.sucks and Instagram.sucks.
Celebrities have also been rushing to make sure other people aren’t able to have a go-to place on the Web to discuss how much they suck. When Taylor Swift grabbed TaylorSwift.porn, she also nabbed her .sucks domain.
Kevin Spacey has also registered a .sucks site. The actor has a history of protecting his brand online. He fought a long legal battle to gain control of kevinspacey.com, which is now his official website.
While trademark owners can usually purchase domain name blocking – which removes their marks from the pool of available names for anything up to 10 years – that’s not available with .sucks.
I spoke to Elisa Cooper, Vice President of Domain Product Marketing for MarkMonitor, which has been registering a significant number of .sucks domains for its clients. Like me, she’s unimpressed by Vox Populi’s arguments:
“Our clients were very upset when this was announced. This has put them between a rock and a hard place. None of our clients want this TLD at all. Vox Populi is saying this is an opportunity for companies to use these domains. I don’t think any of our clients will use them, other than defensively.”
MarkMonitor objected so strongly to the pricing scheme for .sucks that it has only been charging its existing clients a nominal fee of $25 per registration – in addition to the price charged by the registry.
Cooper says that while some of her clients have opted to take the same approach as Adobe and simply ignore the domain, many feel they have no choice but to deal with the problem:
“It depends on each company’s culture and their aversion to risk. If they absolutely don’t want to see their brand attached to the word .sucks, they’ll buy it even if they don’t want it.”
Of course, it’s hard to shed many tears for corporate titans, even if .sucks feels like a shakedown. Things will get tricker for all of us in September when the price of registering .sucks domains drops to $10, making it a very tempting option for pranksters and more malicious individuals.
You can laugh at big brands having to scurry to defend themselves from a .sucks domain now, but it may not be long before you’re faced by your own .sucks site. If you don’t register it yourself it could be hard to wrench it from the clutches of a bad guy.
While there are procedures for attempting to take control of a domain, they rest on you having a trademark on that name and/or being able to prove bad faith. That’s hard to achieve and could require a costly legal fight, something most people are unlikely to have the stomach or the resources to do.
For all Vox Populi’s rhetoric about people power and its harnessing of Martin Luther King Jnr’s inspirational words, the future of .sucks is more likely to be as a tool for trolling than a place for customer service. If that all seems a little too depressing for you, why not buy Everything.sucks for $2,199 or Everyone.sucks for a cool $375,000.