What It Is and What It Does

What It Is and What It Does

© Joe Casad, Editor in Chief

© Joe Casad, Editor in Chief

Article from Issue 174/2015
Author(s):

I recently ran across an article in Ars Technica on the impending launch of the .sucks domain. The article linked to another piece on .sucks at the Marketing Land site. When a company called Momentous picked up the rights to the new .sucks top-level domain (TLD) at the generic TLD sale late last year, the concept of site owners registering a domain in .sucks the way they register a domain in .com made the rounds as an office joke. But now, a few months later, it looks like the operation is really ready for business.

Dear Linux Pro Reader,

I recently ran across an article in Ars Technica on the impending launch of the .sucks domain [1]. The article linked to another piece on .sucks at the Marketing Land site [2]. When a company called Momentous picked up the rights to the new .sucks top-level domain (TLD) at the generic TLD sale late last year, the concept of site owners registering a domain in .sucks the way they register a domain in .com made the rounds as an office joke. But now, a few months later, it looks like the operation is really ready for business.

A company called Vox Populi (reportedly a subsidiary of Momentous) even has a website [3], where they express their ideals and explain the arcane pricing options. The company bases its pitch around free speech and consumer advocacy. A quotation on the home page states: "By building an easy-to-locate, 'central town square' available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year, dotSucks is designed to help consumers find their voices and allow companies to find the value in criticism. Each .sucks domain has the potential to become an essential part of every organization's customer relationship management program."

The homepage even links to a video with what appears to be an endorsement from consumer-advocate-turned-polititian Ralph Nader, playing amid moving footage of a speech by Martin Luther King, Jr. What the website doesn't include is a quote from former US Senator Jay Rockefeller, who is quoted in the Marketing Land article calling the .sucks domain "… little more than a predatory shakedown scheme."

Imagine the possibilities … if you think something "sucks," you can register a website to talk about how it sucks. Well sort of, but as I mentioned, the pricing options are a bit arcane. Is Vox Populi offering the .sucks space as public service, to provide a forum for healthy feedback on companies, products, and services? They certainly say that's what they're trying to do.

Declaring that something "sucks" didn't used to be regarded as "healthy" feedback. I realize this might be a dialect thing, and to a new generation, "sucks" might mean something more like, "If I might but offer a bit of kindly advice … ." Most experts, however (except for apparently Ralph Nader), believe the ultimate goal of the dotSucks experiment is to force trademark holders to ante up registration fees to protect their brands from getting roasted. According to the Vox Populi site, the company has decided on a list of "Premium" site names that will cost $2,499 per year to register. If ProductA is on the list, the company will charge the trademark holder $2,499 for control of the URL ProductA.sucks. The Vox Populi site describes several other levels of pricing, including a "Blocking" rate, which would allow a company to block the use of a domain for only $199 per year; however, they won't let you block a site that is on the Premium list.

What would you do if you had a big company? Certainly $2,499 per year is a bargain compared with the damage that could be done by a disrespectful website populated by people who hate your product. But the problem is, you don't really solve the problem by reserving your own .sucks domain. In fact, there might already be a disrespectful website out there populated by people who hate your product that existed even before the incubation of .sucks. For that matter, a customer might easily juxtapose "sucks" with your product name in a dozen other ways without resorting to the predictable TLD formulation: ProductA_sucks.org, ProductA_really_sucks.net, ProductA_certainly_sucks.ca.

Given that no vendor is seriously going to believe they can lock down the possibilities for negative press just by registering a .sucks domain, I'm inclined to think the creators truly don't just see this as extortion and honestly believe they are giving a new meaning to the term "sucks" that will usher in a bold new era for Internet feedback. But seriously, though, even if it isn't evil, doesn't this idea seem a little unpolished? You might even say it doth promote a negative fluid pressure, resulting in a local pressure differential and the accompanying flow …

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