Most of us would like to think that terms like “sucks” would have been long ago left on the schoolyard, but companies are now suddenly forced to confront the unpleasant slander to protect their brands. Starting at the end of March, .sucks web domains will be open for registration, which means that companies with trademarked names will have a limited early registration period to secure the handle before the domain is available for anyone to purchase starting on June 1, 2015.
And while the cost of these domains for companies won’t come cheap–$2,499 for registered trademarks–many industry experts argue that the startlingly steep price is well worth the investment for companies looking to manage their online reputation. The controversy over the .sucks domain is likely to continue for some time, but to help your business stay ahead of the drama, here is a little background on the issue and 5 reasons why you should buy the .sucks version of your company’s domain.
What is .sucks?
The early stirrings of controversy over the .sucks domain began this time last year, when U.S. Senator Jay Rockefeller sent a letter to ICANN–the organization that manages the internet’s domain system–warning that if the name was approved as a generic top level domain (gTLD), it could force companies and individuals to pay excessive amounts of money to protect their reputation. Unfortunately, Senator Rockefeller’s concerns were not unfounded and the approval of .sucks is potentially poised to be the “predatory shakedown scheme he feared.
What’s the controversy?
Last November, the company Momentous, through their subsidiary Vox Populi, won the auction put on by ICANN, allowing them to manage the .sucks domain. The company has now announced the pricing options and timeline for purchasing these domains, and the news has set many companies and interested parties on edge. Vox Populi contends that the domain will “help consumers find their voices” and enables companies to find “value in criticism”. They’ve even released a video featuring clips of Dr. Martin Luther King and civil rights protestors, supposedly trying to align the domain as a tool for public discourse. This, of course, has only added fuel to the controversy and outrage of many.
Why should companies care?
The biggest issue that the announcement of .sucks entry into the domain marketplace for many people is the price tag. Later in the year, consumers will be able to purchase a .sucks domain to use as a redirect to a discussion forum on the everything.sucks domain and if they want to shell out $249 (or more for “premium” domains) to run their own site with the domain. But the real concern is that companies that have registered their brand name with the Trademark Clearinghouse (TMCH), will be forced to pay an annual fee of $2,499 for each .sucks domain they want. And that price is only during the “sunrise period”, from March 30th to May 29th. After that, any other individual or company is free to do with the domain as they please, leaving a brand to a host of concerns, which leads me to the reasons why you should buy the .sucks version of your brand’s name.
Avoid exposure to negative or false information about your company
If you fail to purchase the .sucks version of your company’s name, you open yourself up to the potential risk that someone else might purchase it and spread negative or false information about your company. At Ignite Visibility, we’ve seen this happen in a variety of forms with regards to online reputation management. From bad Yelp reviews to people purchasing gTLDs along the lines of www.(yourbrand)sucks.com, negative information about your brand on the Internet could potentially be spread far and wide, and once the false or slanderous information is out there, it can require a great deal of time and resources to counteract it. By purchasing your .sucks domain, you can help to circumvent this potentially damaging possibility.
Having your brand associated with the term “sucks” can tarnish your reputation
Even if someone were to purchase your .sucks domain name and didn’t use it to directly attack your business, simply having the word associated with your business can still do significant damage to your online reputation. There’s the likelihood that many of the .sucks domains could be purchased more for supposedly comedic purposes, as opposed to malicious intent, but in either case, you want to avoid people thinking of the term when they think of your company. By purchasing the domain during the sunset period, you can block the address or use it as a redirect to your proper domain and avoid these complications.
The financial impact from negative PR could be far more costly than $2,499
While some companies and commentators may balk at paying such a ransom, reputation management is critical for any company and the steep price tag of the trademarked .sucks the investment is not nearly as costly as the potential financial impact the domain could have on your brand if it fell into the wrong hands. Repairing a tarnished online reputation takes substantial resources and time, and if a brand can minimize or eliminate the negative PR or social media fallout before it becomes an issue, they can save themselves much more than initial the cost of the domain.
Avoid potential SEO damage in the future
According to Google’s Matt Cutts, their search algorithm will likely treat the new gTLDs, including .sucks, just as it would any other .com or existing ones. While it remains unclear exactly how this will play out or how likely a particular domain could rise in the SERP ranks, there’s always a potential that a maliciously aimed .sucks domain could rise up to compete with a companies primary domain. To nip this potential concern in the bud, companies are likely to avoid potential harm or competition down the road.
Eliminate the possibility of extortion
Should another individual or company purchase the .sucks domain for your business, there’s always the potential that they could attempt to charge you a ransom to secure it or threaten you with any of the damage mentioned above. This is particularly risky for companies with particularly high profiles or widely recognized public brands. While we’d like to think that someone wouldn’t resort to such a nefarious tactic, these days any thing is possible. Your company stands a much better chance of staying on the high ground and avoiding this potential extortion if they purchase the domain during the sunrise period.
We’re likely to hear much more about the .sucks domain in the coming weeks, but now is definitely the time for companies to discuss purchasing theirs when the time comes. While some may argue that we shouldn’t submit to the demands or threats of the scheme–regardless of what Vox Populi claims their goal is–the price of the domain during the sunrise period seems to be very much worth the investment given the potential risks.
What are your thoughts on the .sucks domain? Do you plan to purchase the domain for your brand? Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below.
- “Watch Out, Brands: The Controversial .Sucks Domain Is Almost Here” (Marketing Land)
- “You’ve Got To Be Kidding: $25K For A .Sucks Domain Name Registration” (The Domains)
- “Your Company Could Suck: Brands Brace For “Dot Sucks” Domain Trolls” (Fast Company)
- “.sucks” Registrations Begin Soon – At Up To $2,500 Per Domain” (Ars Technica)