The company selling off .SUCKS domains is making celebrities and brands pay premium prices to snatch up their .SUCKS addresses before their enemies do first. This is pissing off ICANN, the group tasked with regulating domains, which sees the scheme as a coercive shakedown.

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Vox Populi, the company selling off the new .SUCKS domains, is taking full advantage of how freaked out celebrities and brands are about their haters using the power of .SUCKS against them. Vox Populi is charging celebrities and brands between $2500 and $25,000 to buy a domain before sales open up to the general public.

So, to stop anyone else from registering TaylorSwift.SUCKS when it’s an open market, Taylor Swift would have to pay a premium fee to nab the pejorative domain prior to haters-gonna- hating. And that’s exactly what the songwriter did last month. (TaylorSwiftsCat.SUCKS is still available, so apparently Swift’s not as concerned about Olivia Benson’s reputation.)

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Companies like Microsoft, Verizon, and eBay are petitioning ICANN to shut .SUCKS down.

Two weeks ago, the advisory body called the Intellectual Property Constituency representing major companies and industry groups asked ICANN in a letter to halt the rollout of “.sucks,” calling it a “shakedown scheme” and “predatory.”

ICANN is listening: It has asked the Federal Trade Commission and Canada’s Office of Consumer Affairs to look into Vox Populi’s scheme, to see if it’s up to anything illegal.

ICANN.SUCKS

And that’s the battle over .SUCKS. It’s silly, and it gives us the unappealing choice between rooting for the rich and powerful or rooting for money-grabbing opportunists. But it is also an opportunity to remind ourselves how messed up ICANN is as an organization, and how chaotic the domain registration system is in general. Let’s not forget that ICANN is the reason why .SUCKS exists in the first place.

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So ICANN controls domain names. For a long time, it limited the number of domains, which is why you go to so many URLs that end in .com and .org instead of, like, .eiraskjfkdsajfkdsaj and .ballsack. Since domains were limited, companies have been squabbling over who deserves certain addresses since the beginning of the internet.

A few years ago, ICANN decided to expand its offering with 1,400 new generic domains— hence, the birth of .SUCKS.

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There is no practical benefit to ICANN’s haphazard process of distributing domains, other than the fact that ICANN can make money from introducing new ones. There was no shortage of unique web addresses from within the small pool of original domains.

Yes, people want the new generic domains because they make it easier to come up with a short, memorable address. But that’s assuming that web users will be able to remember TaylorSwift.SUCKS more easily than TaylorSwiftSucks.com, or that web searches will easily surface the new generic domains. Based on how poorly websites that shelled out for .XXX domains have done, traffic-wise, those are two bad assumptions.

An MIT Technology Review essay summarizes why ICANN’s decision to introduce domains like .SUCKS sucks so hard:

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This expansion isn’t happening because we’re running out of unique Web addresses under the existing set of [generic domain names]. Far from it. It’s happening because the body in charge of these things—the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, or ICANN—thought it would be fun and profitable.

ICANN introduced the new domains, including .SUCKS, because it knew people would pay money for them. And they have—every bid for a new generic domain brought ICANN $185,000! Kind of makes the $2500 Vox Populi is charging seem relatively less extortion-y, right?

The fight over .SUCKS is happening within a dumb and chaotic system controlled by a profiteering monopoly, so it’s not surprising that it’s such a quagmire.

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In the meantime, this is still available:

[AP via Ars Technica]


Contact the author at kate.knibbs@gizmodo.com.
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