Vox Populi Registry Inc. (VOX) was in the news last week when it put up a site taking Priority Registrations for .sucks domain names for $250 per domain, per year, and Trademark Priority Registrations of $2,500 per domain threatening trademark owners to act now because if they wait until the Sunrise Period, the cost would be $25,000.
The $25,000 Sunrise fee is a per domain per year fee and of course unprecedented and especially troubling because its being offered to trademark holders in the Sunrise Period that ICANN mandates all TLD’s to have before launching.
Sunrise fees typically are higher than normal registration but I’m not sure anyone has charged more a few hundred per registrations for Sunrise.
I checked out the public parts of VOX application it filed with ICANN to operate the new gTLD .Sucks registry and it looks nothing like pricing VOX announced this week
The question becomes what will ICANN do based on the representations made by VOX in their application?
Is ICANN is going to hold them VOX (and all registries for that matter) to what they represented in their application?
Here is a section of VOX’s application for .sucks:
“18(c). What operating rules will you adopt to eliminate or minimize social costs?
“The registry will seek to create the orderly introduction of domain names in a way that is respectful of trademarks and sensitive to costs.””
A Sunrise period will ensure the protection of rights holders.””
Unless ICANN approves Vox’s application changes, they will be bound to this language.
“Sensitive to Costs” certainly reflected in a $25,000 registration fee for trademark holders.
A $25,000 fee per domain registration for trademark holder, esepcially when they are willing to sell the same registration right now for $2,500 before the Sunrise Period even starts, is hardly respectful of trademarks.
Moreover, this$2,500 act now before Sunrise, seems to be a pre-selling of an unapproved Rights Protection Mechanism (RPM) service which was not listed in the application.
ICANN has issued some pretty strong language about not selling domain prior to Sunrise.
Those registrars that are pre-selling domains through pre-orders or auctions acknowledge in the Terms and Conditions of their sites (TOS) that any such pre-orders or auction are subject to a trademark holder claiming their name in Sunrise. Pre-selling Sunrise domain registrations would seem to raise a whole nothing problem and be at odds with ICANN’s policy, especially when the price is 10 Times higher.
As for the purpose of a .sucks new gTLD here is what the application says:
“Our mission is to create a new address on the web that will give voice to the consumer and create the opportunity for closer contact between companies and their customers.”
“This is no small goal.
One large, branded Internet retailer put it this way.
“We have 200,000 fans on Facebook, but many of them are there to offer criticism of our service.”
“This is good.”
“We can learn more about our products and services from those complaints than we can from the 60 million unique visitors to our company website each month.”
“By building an easy-to-locate, “central town square” available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year, the .SUCKS registry will become a recognized destination not just for that one company, but for all.”
“It will give assurances to customers that their voice can be heard. ”
“And it can become an essential part of every company’s customer relationship management program.”
“In this way, we intend for the .SUCKS top level domain to become a focal point for customer service”
So the idea is company’s should set up a separate site to allow customers to complaint and bitch at them.
I understand the example but still don’t get why a company needs a separate site for bitching and complaining, after all the company is getting that information through their Facebook page according to the example.
The application goes on to state:
“What is the goal of your proposed gTLD in terms of areas of specialty, service levels, or reputation?”
The term “sucks” resonates around the globe, its intention clear and understood. But it is now more than an epithet; it is a call to action. Whether registered by an activist or an executive, this new landscape will be devoted to encouraging an accelerated and legitimate dialog that can lead to improved customer satisfaction and market share.
In fact, ten years ago just such an idea was suggested by noted consumer advocate Ralph Nader in a letter to ICANN.
He said at the time he wanted “to create several TLDs that would facilitate free speech and criticism, and enable consumers, workers and others to organize.”
He concluded by saying that though the registry name might be offensive to some, he thought the “domain will be popular in the marketplace” and generate support “for the free speech rights of individuals and small organizations.”
It is our plan to create the opportunity where the marketplace does not have to rely on a single consumer advocate, but can benefit from the energy, enthusiasm and insight of all.
ii) What do you anticipate your proposed gTLD will add to the current space, in terms of competition, differentiation, or innovation?
As previously noted, the current space is idiosyncratic.
Customer relationship management is currently either narrowly defined by a toll-free telephone number and an “info@” email address or widely viewed through the lens of diverse social media and a thicket of hard-to-find, hit-or-miss, unfocused websites that cater to consumer complaints.
Ultimately, the dialog has satisfied neither the consumer who wants to be heard nor the companies anxious to respond.
Our mission is to create a new address on the web that will give voice to the consumer and create the opportunity for closer contact between companies their customers.
There are few, if any, places for raw consumer commentary and corporate interests to cohere.
The .SUCKS name space will enable the benefits of the dialog without dampening its usual initial vehemence. With its specific focus, it will make it even easier for consumers to find, suggest, cajole, complain and engage on specific products, services and companies.
The opportunity for registrants to innovate in support of this exchange is wide. It could come in the form of coupon or loyalty or other offers from companies and higher influencer scores (a la Klout.com) for consumers. The ability to integrate social media feeds, upload videos and store a history of the exchange and its outcome could well lead to broader media exposure for the best of the watchdogs and enhanced corporate reputations.
There is an age-old question that asks, “If a tree falls in the woods and no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound?” Such is often the case with criticism, complaints and suggestions. The essential user experience goal is to create a name space where everyone’s voice is heard.
There are few, if any, places for raw consumer commentary and corporate interests to cohere. The .SUCKS name space will enable the benefits of the dialog without dampening its usual initial vehemence. With its specific focus, it will make it even easier for consumers to find, suggest, cajole, complain and engage on specific products, services and companies.
It is our belief that the focused of the registry, the value of feedback in customer service and product development and the effect digital technologies have had on the expectations of consumers and companies alike all will combine to deliver a meaningful, responsive and amplified community.
By establishing certain registration policies (discussed below), it is our intent to keep registrants focused on delivering a platform for promoting an open door for companies and address for customers to “mail” their commentary.
We subscribe to the view that it is better to light a candle than curse the darkness.
iv) Provide a complete description of the applicant’s intended registration policies in support of the goals listed above.
In introducing the registry, there will be a number of restrictions on the names that can be registered in .SUCKS. Some of these are contractual requirements from ICANN, but others are a matter of registry policy. In addition, reserved are the names of territories, distinct economies, and other geographic and geopolitical names, as required by ICANN.
The registry also has a small list of names that it has reserved for itself. Some will be offered via an RFP process aimed at generating important services in support of the registry, some will be retained by the registry (this is a confidential list) and others will be offered to strategic partners.
As our mission is to enhance the conversation between companies and their customers, certain policies will be implemented to guard against registrants that diffuse this mission.
To that end, we will have a rapid takedown procedure to deal, at least, with these three (3) potential scenarios:
Cyberbullying: If a complaint is made that any DotSUCKS site engages in cyberbullying (as defined by (http://www.stopcyberbullying.org/), and that complaint is proved, the site will be the subject of rapid takedown policies.
Pornography: Registrants who host pornographic content will similarly be subject to rapid takedown should a complaint be filed and upheld.
Parked pages :It will be the policy of the registry to limit parked pages. If such a complaint is filed about a DotSUCKS page is made and proved, the site will be the subject of the registry’s rapid takedown policies.
A Sunrise period will ensure the protection of rights holders. Each will have the opportunity to register protected names in advance of the General Availability. These names will be subject to annual renewal.
Then a Landrush will open for all.
Competition for the same names in both the sunrise and landrush periods will be sent to an auction.
Finally, General Availability will open.
v) Will your proposed gTLD impose any measures for protecting the privacy or confidential information of registrants or users? If so, please describe any such measures.
All registrants will be encouraged to balance the privacy needs of individuals and the necessary public nature of a productive back-and-forth. From the point-of-view of the registry, the sites created on .SUCKS ought to be focused on facilitating such a dialog.
The diversity of approaches to meeting that goal will likely be a wide as the range of sites created in the registry’s name space. It is our plan, by our marketing and our operating principles, to encourage registrants to make a similar commitment.
The registry’s decision to host a thick and verified WhoIs database is one instance where it will seek to lead by example. Privacy and transparency are not mutually exclusive values; each is totally appropriate. So, too is accountability.
Describe whether and in what ways outreach and communications will help to achieve your projected benefits.
The history of consumer criticism is long and deep.
It is our plan to partner with consumer groups of longstanding to accelerated public awareness of this new town square. Organizations like the Consumer Federation of America based in the U.S. can be a direct channel to the users the registry seeks to energize.
Consumer criticism and corporate marketing are persistent subjects of media reporting. The corps of reporters, editors and bloggers who follow those stories are also channels for the registry’s message.
At the same time, the direct marketing, advertising and sales functions of businesses around the world are hypersensitive to opportunities to hear what customers are saying. It is, by one company’s view, essential.
One large, branded Internet retailer put it this way. “We have 200,000 fans on Facebook, but many of them are there to offer criticism of our service. This is good. We can learn more about our products and services from those complaints than we can from the 60 million unique visitors to our company website each month.”
The disparate energy devoted to this task – whether by social media, consumer website or corporate URL – suggests a keen interest in hearing and understanding. A registry that can align, organize and encourage interaction will draw the attention of those players who now have no one address.”