Suffixes of web domain names are sometimes used to give negative feedback for certain companies. For example, “.fail” and “.gripe” are two that are live on the internet currently, and someone pay purchase a domain name with a company she does not like with one of these suffixes, as long as the domain name has not already been purchased. However, one domain suffix that will go live later this year is “.sucks”. Vox Populi is the administrator of the .sucks registry, and its purpose for creating this new domain name is to start open debate about opinions of various businesses or goods that consumers interact with daily.
ICANN, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, said that when Vox Populi applied for this domain suffix, there were no objections. The Vice President of ICANN said this is a good thing because freedom of speech is “the fundamental rule of what the Internet is supposed to enable,” therefore curbing the use of domain names like this would infringe on this right.
However, companies have begun to speak up against Vox Populi. Companies that are opposed to this registry are not upset because of the chance that they will have negative things said about them on the Internet, mostly because they realize free speech is highly value in America and people have the right to put their opinions in the open; they are upset because the high price a company must pay to register a .sucks domain name. Currently, a company must pay $2,500 dollars a year to register and keep a .sucks domain name. Some argue that this price makes Vox Populi’s scheme borderline extortion. It should be noted that independent activists that want to purchase a .sucks domain name and vow to blog are required to pay “as little as 10 dollars a year.” The Vox Populi CEO claims the exact opposite of what the companies claim- he says that in the past, his company contemplated charging $25,000 a year for a company to preemptively buy a .sucks domain name to keep someone else from buying it and putting shame on its brand.
With all of this being said, the outcry calling Vox Populi’s method extortion is unnecessary.
While the price is high, companies have a better way of combating bad publicity. Simply produce a high quality product.
That way, free speech actually works to the advantage of the companies. Consumers will use the Internet to praise them instead of badmouth them. Also, if a person is unsatisfied and actually does purchase a .sucks domain name, if anyone else finds this website and reads the content, she will not give the site any merit. It would be interesting to take a survey to see if someone would actually give the opinions written on a website with a .sucks domain name any credibility, anyways. It does not seem very professional, and makes the owner of the website seem like her main purpose is to take a low-blow at a company, not give valuable feedback for other consumers. Currently, litigation has not been started over Vox Populi’s registry, but the threat is there. Let’s hope the unhappy companies do not clog the judicial system with claims concerning this issue, because there are means of overcoming the concerns the companies have with Vox Populi that are outside of the legal realm that may be more effective in the end.