Controversy Rages Over ".Sucks" Domain Name

John Lister's picture

The company that operates website addresses ending in ".sucks" has been accused of trying to exploit people worried about sites set up to attack them. However, nobody seems quite sure if it breaks any rules or who, if anyone, has the authority to do something about it.

The controversy involves a major change to the way website registration works that took effect in 2012. Until then, all website addresses ended in one of a limited number of "top level domains" such as .com, .org, or country-specific domains such as .ca for Canada.

Anyone Can Become an Administrator of a Top Level Domain

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), the closest thing to the administrators of the Internet and world wide web, then changed its rules to allow top level domain registrations for virtually any name.

Doing so costs an eye watering $185,000, but whoever buys up the right to a particular top level domain can then turn around and sell individual domain names. For example, somebody could buy the top level domain ".taxis," and then sell domain names such as "www.newyork.taxis" or "www.boston.taxis".

'Rightful' Name Owners Get First Refusal

One of the rules for selling domain names in this way is that there must be a 'sunrise period' during which web owners with strong links to a particular domain name (such as a trademark or a prominent public figure's name) get the first right to buy up their domain before it becomes available to anyone else for registration. For example, Coke.com would get first dibs on Coke.sucks before anyone else could register the domain Coke.sucks.

Obviously, top level domains can have unwanted connotations. As such, some web owners have registered domains in a manner known as "defensive registration", where the aim isn't to use the domain for a site, but rather to block anyone else from doing so. One example is when singer Taylor Swift registered the taylorswift.adult address. (Source: bbc.co.uk)

Canadian company Vox Populi, which controls .sucks, is charging $2,000 for any registration made during this sunrise period. That appears to be considerably more than happens with other firms and other names; indeed Vox Populi plans to charge only $250 for registrations made after the sunrise period.

High-Profile Names Charged Excess Fee

Vox Populi has also put together a list of "premium names" where the price is $2,499 and the domain can't be registered during the sunrise period at all. That list appears to be largely made up of names where an associated person or organization has already made at least one "defensive registration".

It's led to claims that the pricing is a deliberate attempt to exploit people who are worried about 'their' domain name being used in a negative way - for example, if somebody registered "www.johndoe.sucks" to set up an abusive site.

ICANN is now investigating whether Vox Populi has broken any of its registration rules. It's also asked the US Federal Trade Commission and Canadian Office of Consumer Affairs to investigate if it has broken any laws - something that's sparked debate about exactly which country would have jurisdiction in such a situation. (Source: domainincite.com)

What's Your Opinion?

Should the owners of ".sucks" be able to charge higher fees to people who have a claim to a particular name and don't want it associated with the .sucks suffix? Should ICANN have allowed the registration of top level domains that have negative connotations? Is regulation or legislation appropriate in such situations, or is it a free speech/free market issue?

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Comments

dan_2160's picture

The mere existence of the .sucks domain extension opened the door to Vox Populi's legalized extortion scheme. The equally greedy folks running ICAAN should revoke .sucks and give Vox Populi its $185,000 back -- as well as Vox Populi refunding the extortion payments it has garnered so far.

.com domain names register for around $10/year -- yet Vox Populi is extorting $249/year from ordinary nonprofits, businesses, and individuals and a whopping $2000 to $2400 per year from big name entities.

I've always believed in minimal regulation, but this extortion scheme cries out to be prohibited by the FTC or FCC, whichever is appropriate. As an attorney, I feel confident that this is not a free speech issue -- it's an extortion issue that needs to be stopped in the bud, now!

Dennis Faas's picture

I completely agree and couldn't have said it better myself!

AlpineKris's picture

I cannot relate to ICANN as a natianal entity! You both see this as a soley US or at least english language Countries problem. Only because the word "suck" is "dirty" and used in slang language in your neck of the woods, its nothing alike everywhere in the world. So why should YOUR FCC or any other agency be in charge? They might be able to prevent from beeing used or sold to US-clients... maybe....

I am sure, you won't care a minute, if the top level domaine would be abusive in a foreign language.

Maybe you US-people should start looking outside of their own garden fences.... world does not stop there!

stephen3588's picture

Hey, anybody can charge any crazy amount they want for anything. Extortion (also called shakedown, outwrestling, and exaction) is a criminal offense sure, but I don't see anybody holding a gun up to someones head to pay up or else in this issue over domain names.

If I want to charge $2000.00 for a genuine New York City Kosher Kraut Dog and some fool agrees to pay it, I'll take their money gladly! $$Cha Ching$$!!

And whats wrong with www.JohnDoe.sucks anyway? He just MIGHT at that! Lord knows we could all use more TRUTH on the internet than fiction.

How about somebody create www.Everybody.sucks! Then we would all be covered for free!

hybridauth_Google_111273332135951939051's picture

your remark about .com domains going for about $10 a year is ... not wrong as much as it is "uninformed". BlowDaddy, I mean GoDaddy, does basically the same thing. If you (and I have) go to GoDaddy and enter a .com domain name that blowdaddy has decided is a popular .com domain name and therefor could generate more revenue for blowdaddy than the current .com pricing scheme you can be hit with a price of over $2,000 and one of the names was $3,000 or so dollars. Just because
B/D felt that domain name was cool enough or was a popular enough name that somebody would pay through their blowdaddy hole for it. It happened to me twice within a span of 5 searches. When the search software quoted me a $2,000 plus price tag for the domain name I called CS and they "enlightened" me. Less than 5 searches later it quoted me, IIRC, $3,000 plus. Now that .sucks.