It looks like you might not be able to buy that .sucks domain name after all. Two months before websites under the new top-level domain (TLD) were set to go on sale to the general public, the whole idea is being called into question in a serious way.
After a huge outcry from businesses, the International Corporation For Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) is investigating whether or not the plan to move forward with the .sucks domains–and charge brands exorbitant fees to secure them–is legal. There’s a chance the domains won’t become available after all, which would be a huge relief for a lot of brands.
At issue here isn’t just the obviously troll-y nature of the proposed domains, but the pricing structure that Vox Populi–the company that’s serving as the registry for .sucks–was planning on implementing. While the domains would be priced reasonably for everyday consumers, companies with registered trademarks would be required to pay an annual fee of $2,500 to secure their name under the new TLD.
On March 27, one of ICANN’s advisory panels, the Intellectual Property Constituency, sent a letter to the organization asking it to step in and stop Vox Populi’s “predatory, exploitive and coercive” practices.
“ICANN is the sole entity in the world charged with the orderly introduction of new gTLDs in a secure, reliable and predictable manner,” president of the panel Gregory Shatan wrote. “If ICANN is unwilling or unable to put a halt to this, then who is?”
The .sucks controversy comes four years after ICANN first agreed to open up a host new TLD possibilities, which would free websites from the constraints of .com, .org, and other traditional TLDs in favor of more descriptive things like .nyc, .dentist, .club, and a long list of others.
The new TLDs will be rolling out in a tiered fashion, and each of them represents new online branding opportunities for companies and individuals alike. One coffee subscription startup, for instance, was reportedly able to skyrocket up the Google search results by nabbing the coffee.club domain.
But there are also concerns about how the proliferation of these new domains could force companies and people to start defensively snatching up domain names like never before. Public figures like Taylor Swift and Michael Bloomberg have already started going on domain shopping sprees, with the pop diva snatching up domains like taylorswift.porn and the former New York City mayor making sure nobody can ever buy ScrewMikeBloomberg.nyc. Darn it.
Of all the newly approved TLDs, .sucks is the one that has been generating by far the most anxiety among brands. The “sunrise period” during which brands can pre-register their .sucks domains began on March 30.
But if ICANN changes its mind, those people may well be seeing a refund check.