Although the changes to generic top level domains (gTLDs) was intended to free up millions of new website addresses, they have also caused numerous headaches for businesses and individuals across the world. Most decision makers will be focused on whether or not to bid to control the gTLD that matches their business name (YourBiz.YourBiz), preventing other similarly-named firms from capturing additional web traffic.
However new gTLDs also offer potential avenues for rivals or irate customers to embarrass established brands. Currently businesses and celebrities are hurrying to register potentially derogatory .sucks website addresses. This latest rush follows hot on the heels of similar issues with controversial .porn and .xxx addresses – Taylor Swift’s management team quickly registered taylorswift.xxx to prevent her name being associated with pornographic content.
Domain name blackmail?
Managed by domain name vendor Vox Populi, .sucks web addresses are being sold for $2500 (£1700) each, many times the price of a standard .com or .co.uk equivalent. At one point Vox Populi even claimed to be considering up to $25,000 for pre-registrations for specific, high-demand keywords. But what has really upset buyers is the way in which these addresses are being sold.
A complaint lodged by ICANN, the organisation responsible for domain name regulation, alleges that Vox Populi is effectively scaring businesses into paying over the odds for website addresses to head off non-existent problems. A letter addressed to the US Federal Trade Commission alleges that Vox Populi is behaving in a “predatory, exploitative and coercive” manner by encouraging people to pre-emptively register addresses to protect their brand reputation.
Is there really a brand problem?
Registering multiple domain names to protect intellectual property and trademarks is a well-established business practice to prevent fraud and cybersquatting. The difference in this case appears to be the way in which Vox Populi are attempting to frighten purchasers, and the price for each domain name. That said, although the tactics outlined here may be distasteful to businesses, they are not in any way illegal; as the controller of the .sucks gTLD, Vox Populi are free to charge whatever they deem marketable for new website addresses.
Despite the concerns about how a .sucks parody site may affect brand reputation, the reality is that rivals or displeased clientele can make negative reports about any business to a much larger audience, more quickly (and cheaply) using social media or even a free blog from Google or WordPress. It would be a very unusual step for an unhappy client to go to the cost of securing a $2500 .sucks domain name in order to punish a business.
Businesses concerned about a potential .sucks website that would damage their brand will probably find that investing the asking price (£1700) into customer service improvements will yield greater customer satisfaction returns in the long run.
For help and advice on choosing a cost effective domain name or for cost-effective ways to protect your online reputation, get in touch with the friendly, expert team at Broadband Cloud Solutions today.
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