Website 'extortion'? New domain '.sucks' for businesses
A soon-to-be-launched Internet domain name is going to really suck for some business owners, who are being pressured into paying high fees to prevent online "trolls" from attacking their brands.
Effective June 21, you'll be able to splash out $250 for a website named Nickelback.sucks, KimKardashian.sucks or whatever other thing you hate, provided no one else beats you to it.
The ".sucks" domain is just one of several slated for launch on June 21, but it's already drawing the ire of companies afraid their names will be dragged through the mud online. The domain name is expected to launch a bevy of "hater" websites dedicated to bashing big banks, airlines, telecom companies or maligned celebrities.
Tech expert Carmi Levi says businesses are being asked to pay $2,500, or 10 times the regular fee, to secure their .sucks website names before they become available for public purchase later this month.
"Some people are saying that's extortion," Levi told CTV's Canada AM on Monday. "There are those Internet 'trolls' who would like to take a chunk out of a larger company, and will get there before you do."
He added that it's probably worth it for larger companies to "pay the price and save yourself the trouble."
A $2,500 bill might sound like chump change for such big companies as Air Canada or Google, but small-scale startups and local businesses will likely have more difficulty paying to protect themselves against their sucky critics.
Some have accused ICANN of running a shakedown scam with the .sucks domain name. The organization responded to critics earlier this year, claiming the name is "designed to help consumers find their voices and allow companies to find the value in criticism."
Levi says some companies will likely wait until the domain name cost drops to $250, but they'll have to act quick to snatch up their .sucks names before someone else does it.
"Obviously, if you're a legitimate company, you don't want someone else reserving a domain in your name and then using that to launch negative publicity against you," Levi said. "You can't stop them."
Levi recommends business owners revisit their communications strategies to make sure they are connecting to their customers as directly as possible.
The .sucks domain is just one of many slated to launch on June 21. ICANN will also roll out niche-specific domains like .info, .adult and .xxx at the same time.
Internet "squatting" is nothing new. Occasionally, an individual will buy the website rights for an up-and-coming brand or celebrity, then sell the rights at a tidy profit.
There have also been cases where the Internet "squatter" has used a web address to attack a brand. In 1995, for instance, the animal-friendly organization PETA took a man to court for his website peta.org, which promoted eating meat, wearing fur and experimenting on animals.
PETA won the rights to the domain name, but the man was not forced to pay damages for his anti-PETA site