With the upcoming availability for thousands of new TLDs (top level domains), an amazing new opportunity for extortion has arisen for entrepreneurs to extract money from brands and companies to protect their reputation. To the tune of up to $2500 per domain for the hot ones like .sucks.
Joe Wilcox at BetaNews hits the nail on the head, saying:
As someone whose name also is his brand (welcome to 21st-century journalism), I watch with interest the new .sucks top-level domain, which is available for select preregistration through May 29—the only time to surely secure your.sucks. Today, I looked to a reputable registrar to see what joewilcox.sucks would cost me. Cough, cough: $3,797.99 now, during the so-called Priority Access (e.g., Sunrise) period, or $407.98 when general pre-reg starts in June.
The new TLD is just one among hundreds of available or forthcoming domain extensions sanctioned by governing body ICANN. “I think the motivation behind the release of all these new domains is money”, says Roger Kay, who describes the sellers as shady land speculators. “The .sucks domain is particularly nasty”, the president of consultancy Endpoint Technologies Associates emphasizes. “It’s pretty close to blackmail”. But is it really? This analysis means to help you decide.
The early consensus among several experts is consistent, and not what I expected before starting reporting: If you’re a big brand, the gun to your head is a bluff. If you’re smaller, be concerned if not afraid: Pay up now, or pay more in brand equity later on.
“My sense is that the big brands won’t go for it”, Kay says. “They’ll let the chips fall where they may”. His reasoning: Larger companies can afford to wait and see whether or not .sucks, or some of the other new domain extensions, poses any image problems—and there is always the option for big brands with lots of resources to later sue someone who squats, say, applewatch.sucks.
Amit Peri agrees. “Small and medium size businesses should worry more than the big ones. Applewatch.sucks wouldn’t matter much to Apple, but it could damage small businesses’ reputation”. As owner of the Android Newbies blog, he speaks with legitimate concerns for a smaller brand.
However, the two men’s opinions contradict published news reports, that I cannot confirm, asserting many big-brand companies are paying big bucks to lock in .sucks during the Sunrise period. They also are in better position to pay up than smaller businesses.
“I would only be worrying about snapping up the .sucks TLD if my brand or customer service actually does suck so much that the .sucks will get real attention if a critic hijacks it”, Mark Traphagen, senior director of Online Marketing for Stone Temple Consulting, says.
Some domains recently registered that might fit that criteria: adp.sucks; applecare.sucks; eharmony.sucks; facetime.sucks; fios.sucks; flickr.sucks; johnhancock.sucks; klipsch.sucks; mac.sucks; rogers.sucks; seabourn.sucks; and starbucks.sucks.
Traphagen’s response got me to wonder: Would his company consider obtaining its .sucks domain and for the hefty fees demanded before June 1. “I don’t believe we would be interested in buying our .sucks domain, especially at those prices”, he answers.
The Price You Pay
How hefty are those fees? ICANN granted Vox Populi Registry administrative rights over .sucks. There is something seemingly stereotypical about pricing, blackmail accusations, and location—the company is based in the Cayman Islands.
“Our suggested price is $2,499, but many registrars are offering the names in ways and at prices that are more variable”, John Berard, Vox Populi CEO says. “At least one registrar is committing to registering names at $2,024″. But he didn’t offer to say which (I should have asked). The registry’s complete suggested price list varies based on when you acquire a .sucks.
His response surprised, because doing my own spot price checks at several registrars, including Network Solutions, I got the aforementioned $3,800. Something else: Buy early to secure your brand from .sucks and pay the same price—again $2,499 Vox Populi suggested—for the renewal. That pay-it-again-for-another-year cost is more reason some companies might wait, see, and sue if need be rather than locking in the domain expense.
Okay, we get it. The money grabs on the internet are massive at this point, but the shame is that it all degrades your experience as a surfer. You want to donate to the Red Cross, but end up at redcross.nigeria ? Good luck there. Get an email from Visa.support? Be very, very careful, Mister Rabbit.
We saw this coming during the 10 year period of ICM Registry plowing through the ICANN approval process with massive opposition from the adult entertainment industry.
But, ICM Registry prevailed and, in fairness, have not done anything terribly wrong to date. The point is, the dot-xxx approval opened the floodgates. Surfers beware!
To end up, a PSA we produced years ago during the dot-xxx battle that is both funny, and illustrates why new TLDs and GTLDs come with a lot of risk to both brands and consumers. Enjoy!