How ICANN enabled legal Website extortion

The .sucks domain was all fun and games until a greedy but enterprising Web registry decided to blackmail major corporations into paying up

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I turned 21 in a medium-sized Massachusetts town (not that one) that shall remain nameless. Though I may have tasted the sweet nectar of alcohol prior to the legal line in the sand, it in no way lessened my enthusiasm for the day.

For the audacious occasion, I imbibed a local vintage called State Vodka. In our one and only encounter, we established a level of intimacy I’ve rarely found in other parts of my life. Our evening together began early, accompanied by friends and food, but as our relationship deepened, it turned dark and solitary. The search party found me at a construction site the following morning, bloodied, bruised, and surrounded by pocket of booze and bodily fluids.

I groaned and complained, but when I finally whined to my roommate, “Why did you let me drink so much?” his reply was merciless and annoyingly accurate: “Because you’re 21 and you should know better.” I hated him that day, but since then, I’ve taken his snottiness to heart, devoting time and effort to perfect a level of drinking that’s become legendary even among salivating scribes. Today, I understand his lack of empathy, and I regret deliberately vomiting in the back of his Jetta. He was right. I should have known better.

ICANN's willful ignorance

And so should you, ICANN. I know you want the money, and $185,000 for gTLD registrar rights can add up to quite a bundle. But to approve an extension like “.sucks,” then run around crying foul and help when an opportunistic troll-snogger begins selling it in a “predatory manner” -- how could you not have known better? How was this not a veritable freight train of obvious consequence? Were you really expecting only Hoover and Dyson to apply? Puuuh-leeese.

You saw it coming, but you wanted the bucks and now you’re trying to pass off responsibility to our poor, beleaguered government, even though several of its representatives gave you express warning that the idea of approving .sucks, er, sucks. Now we get to pay for a flurry of government-sponsored investigations, trials, and boondoggles while you cash in on this gTLD bonanza.

Allow me to offer a different and final extension to this drama, namely .justdonteffingbother. The crux of the issue is that Vox Populi (a troll-spawned name if I ever heard one) is selling .sucks domains to trademark owners in advance of the names becoming publicly available -- and for a pretty penny. In essence, Vile Populace is shaking down companies with well-known names to purchase its negative gTLD before someone else does and puts up anti-whomever.sucks propaganda sites. It's cute and at the very least semi-ethical, but hardly original.

Instead of dishing out $2,500 to Vague Polyp-pain, companies should spend the money on something that might actually help their public image, like buying free drinks for press. If it’s not .sucks, it’ll be something else.

Think about it. Microsoft probably doesn’t want us visiting a cyber nook called Microsoft.sucks. But if someone really wants to devote a site to spewing anti-Redmond bile, they’re going to do it with or without .sucks for two reasons.

First, the current list of proposed and somewhat-approved gTLDs is huge: upward of 1,900. In the time it took for me to drain one scotch tumbler, I scanned and found several gTLDs that would concern companies as much as .sucks. How about Oracle.WTF? Whitehouse.porn? AppleWatch.Free? GovernorPence.LGBT? Those extensions are all on the list and proposed by registrars, not individual trademark holders. Chasing such domains and writing checks simply to keep from having your name pop up to the left of one is ludicrous. There are too many, and it gets too expensive.

Second, if someone wants to create their own cyber spot devoted to spreading bile about your particular brand, they’re going to do it, weenie gTLD or no. Witness Microsoftsucks.org and paypalsucks.com, for example.

Legal blackmail on the Internet

Trolls and vile cyber spew are a sad and unfortunately thriving fact of digital life. That ICANN decided to cash in on the trend is disappointing, but its public hand wringing and crocodile tears shouldn’t serve to advertise companies like Vapid Putzmongers and frighten ill-informed PR execs into pouring money into this scheme. This is a digital protection racket, plain and simple, only you don’t get protection even if you pay. There is no protection aside from current slander laws, and the FTC can't do anything in the short term to change that.

Ignore these slime waffles and their .limp extensions. The InterWeb is based on .com, .net, and .org, and it’ll stay that way for legitimate sites for a long time. Many sys admins have already largely banned .biz and .tv via firewall rules, and when this ridiculously expanded list of gTLDs suddenly floods the Web, the rules will only get stronger. (Dare I say white list?) Tell cyber thugs like Vox Populi to go hang and worry about things that matter.

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