Why .sucks domain names really suck for businesses

In June, .sucks domain names will go on sale, and companies that want to buy them to thwart trolls or critics will have to pay an absurd $2,500 per site address.

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Credit: Marketingland

In an age when it's all too easy for Internet trolls to make life difficult for regular people, businesses and movie stars (yeah, they have problems too), why on earth would the group that says yay or nay to new domain names authorize .sucks and .porn web addresses?

That's simply asking for trouble and, no surprise, it's already creating problems. The group that won the right to sell .sucks has jacked up the price to a ridiculous $2500 per address. The people with the most interest in buying these domains likely represent businesses that want to stop trolls (or even a reputable critics) from getting there first.

Imagine a "dot sucks" site such as Comcast.sucks. Everyone's favorite cable company would like to put that one into a dark closet and lock the door. Comcast could easily afford to pay $2,500 a year for the address, but many smaller businesses could not.

"The entire extension is based on brand extortion,” said Rick Schwartz, one of the domain industry's most successful entrepreneurs, in an article on Marketingland.com.

Here's some quick background. Every Web address has a top level domain (TLD), such as the familiar .com, .org and .edu. As websites proliferated, there was a shortage of Web addresses, so ICANN, the international body that supervises much of the Web, created many more. (My own personal website is billsnyder.biz, which I bought because billsnyder.com was already taken.)

During the next few years, as many as 1,300 new domains will be available, courtesy of ICANN, and the next bunch will be up for sale starting in June. Most are reasonably priced. However, a company called Momentous won ICANN's auction last November via its subsidiary, Vox Populi, giving it the right to operate .sucks, according to Marketingland.com. The company is charging companies an unheard of $2,500 for .sucks domains.

Vox Populi's pricing scheme is complicated. If individuals want to purchase .sucks domains, they'll only cost $9.95 per address, but domains registered for this price cannot be used for websites — they must instead redirect traffic to a discussion forum on everything.sucks.com. Consumers who want to use .sucks domains for regular websites must pay $249 for the name.

Vox Populi says it has a high-minded reason for using dot sucks. "dotSucks is designed to help consumers find their voices and allow companies to find the value in criticism. Each dotSucks domain has the potential to become an essential part of every organization's customer relationship management program," according to a statement posted on the company's website. Vox Populi even had the gall to promote itself via a video featuring images of Dr. Martin Luther King.

Meanwhile, other similarly stupid domain names are floating around, including .porn. Female actresses, already subjected to trolls that post revealing photos online, now have to worry about bozos putting up sites such as Taylorswift.porn to embarrass them. (Swift reportedly bought that domain.) ICANN is allowing some trademarked brands and public figures to buy early.

In theory, a domain like .porn or .xxx could be useful. If the majority of adult content used these domains, parents could use filtering software to block a child's computer from accessing objectionable sites. Given the ugly, anything-goes culture on the Web these days, the trolls are more likely to benefit.

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