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  • 03.16.15

Your Company Could Suck: Brands Brace For “Dot Sucks” Domain Trolls

The new unsavory domain names will cost brands $2,500 per year.

Your Company Could Suck: Brands Brace For “Dot Sucks” Domain Trolls
[Photo: Flickr user Guian Bolisay]

Well, this kind of sucks. If you’re a brand, maintaining a squeaky-clean, troll-free online presence is about to get harder. Come the end of March, “.sucks” top-level website domains will be open for registration. That’s good news for irate consumers and nefarious pranksters. But if you’re a trademarked brand of any kind, prepare to pay up.

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Starting March 30, companies and individuals will be able to register these new .sucks domain names, according to Marketing Land. For everyday people, the domains will cost anywhere from $10 to $249 per year to register. Dot-sucks domains for registered trademarks, on the other hand, will go for an annual fee of $2,500.

The top-heavy pricing scheme has many up in arms, and for good reason: Any brand wishing to preempt trolls and prevent their brand from being used in an unsavory way has to fork over $25,000 over the course of a decade. The alternative? Let the domain sit there, available to whichever competitor or disgruntled former customer would most like to drag your brand’s name through the mud.

Vox Populi, the company that won the bid to oversee the .sucks domain registrations–and one of the companies who proposed “.sucks” to the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) in the first place–has been accused of extorting brands. But some say the anxiety is overblown.

Writes Marketing Land:

Andy Beal, CEO of the branding and reputation management agency Reputation Refinery, told us via e-mail that he doesn’t think most companies need to worry about .sucks. “The $2,500 yearly price tag isn’t worth the investment when you consider that, for $10, a detractor can register YourBrandSucks.com and have the same impact,” he says. “When was the last time you read about a negative domain causing a reputation issue for a company? A negative tweet, Yelp review, or blog post can do far more damage.”

It’s not clear how the new top-level domains will be treated by search engines, but in 2012, Google’s Matt Cutts indicated that the company’s search algorithm won’t treat newly introduced TLDs all that differently from .com and other existing TLDs. So, in theory, an ill-intentioned .sucks site could climb the ranks for a given search term, provided it returns what Google’s bots figure is relevant content.

Also of some concern–albeit much less discussed–is the ease with which individuals will able to troll one other by snatching up .sucks domains tied to their personal brands. Granted, somebody could just as easily buy johnpaultitlowsucks.com, with or without the availability of johnpaultitlow.sucks, but the new TLD makes for a more novel and brandable flavor of cyberbullying. That said, please leave me alone.

About the author

John Paul Titlow is a writer at Fast Company focused on music and technology, among other things.

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