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Does the price for a .sucks domain suck? FTC asked to decide

Technically Incorrect: Taylor Swift and Apple have already registered to protect themselves before the new domain rolls out. But is it just another way to make money? Is there some justification for a .sucks domain?

Technically Incorrect offers a slightly twisted take on the tech that's taken over our lives.


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Notice the interesting use of the Apple logo. Hullo, Apple's lawyers? Screenshot by Chris Matyszczyk/CNET

Where does it end?

Will there be a .isinsane domain? What about .eatssaladwithbarehands? Or .isactuallyanalien?

These exciting thoughts breach my cerebral dam after hearing that several famous people and brands -- well, people are brands too, just as companies are people -- have protected themselves from publicly sucking.

I refer to Apple, Microsoft and Taylor Swift, all of whom reportedly have bought their own .sucks domain, so that no one can make them suckers by registering a .sucks domain in their dishonor.

Now, it seems, some are wondering whether this is all one big and very sucky racket.

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers is asking the Federal Trade Commission to investigate whether this is all something of predatory racket. ICANN is a nonprofit organization that oversees the Internet address system. It is also the organization that approved the .sucks domain in the first place.

In writing to both the FTC and Canada's Office of Consumer Affairs, ICANN worries that the .sucks rollout is "predatory, exploitative and coercive."

Yahoo Finance reports that ICANN is especially concerned that laws may have been flouted.

A Canadian company called Vox Populi secured the contract to distribute the .sucks domain. Its Web site is a veritable marketing delight. It isn't headlined: "Pay $2,000 and make someone feel really, really bad." Instead, it offers: "Foster Debate. Share Opinions."

Because of course anyone going to a site with a .sucks domain wants to share opinions rather than nascent spittle.

But that's not the way Vox Populi sees it. It declares: "Each dotSucks domain has the potential to become an essential part of every organization's customer relationship management program."

Essentially, companies have a limited period to pay around $2,000 for one. In June, normal, ordinary, friendly people will be able to register for a .sucks domain for $250 or even an exciting $10-per-month option. ICANN sees the idea of thousands of dollars are potentially outrageous, given that the normal cost to register a domain is very much less.

As the Washington Post reports, the $2,499 that Walmart paid to keep its name out of sucky clutches represented a 250-fold markup.

Still, Vox Populi insists that there is a great opportunity for domain names such as cancer.sucks to show its positive intent. I wonder, though, how many will want to dedicate just 10 little bucks to glory in the idea that someone they know sucks. Which is why, perhaps, VoxPopuli believes it's worth thousands for companies and individuals to protect themselves.

I contacted Vox Populi to ask whether it believes ICANN's move sucks. Its CEO, John Berard, told me: "VoxPop has colored well within the lines both of ICANN's rules and national laws so I was surprised by the request. I would first have expected a question from ICANN or an aggrieved party, but got none. Perhaps it is driven by genuine concerns or it may be a case of the squeaky wheel. Either way, we see real value in bringing these names to life online. There is much to be learned from criticism."

I also contacted the FTC to ask whether it has received the letter and can offer comment. I will update, should I hear.

I just googled VoxPopuli.sucks. Oddly enough, the page didn't load. (You'd think they might have been allowed to open an early showroom to demonstrate how well the .sucks idea works.)