Avocado sucks! I've never liked avocados much. I think it's got something to do with the blandness and the soapy texture. (I'm not even that keen on guacamole.)
Now, the internet already affords me an exciting range of ways to openly express my dislike of the avocado, but next month I'll have another option: paying $250 (£170) to snap up the avocado.sucks domain name from a Canadian company, Vox Populi. It's recently assumed control of the gTLD (generic top-level domain) ".sucks" after a lengthy and expensive application to ICANN, the American organisation that administers such things. So, if you want to get hold of geoff.sucks, cheese.sucks or beaconsfield.sucks, Vox Populi will be the company to approach with your hard-earned cash.
It's not difficult to see the immediate problem with the .sucks domain, but it doesn't appear to have occurred to ICANN. Vox Populi, in a move that could have been predicted a mile off, is now giving companies and famous individuals the opportunity to buy their own .sucks domain for eye-watering sums of $2,500 and up.
Thus far, youtube.sucks, bing.sucks, visa.sucks, bankofamerica.sucks and kevinspacey.sucks have all been snapped up for huge amounts of money in an act of what's known as "defensive registering"; in other words, an attempt to protect a brand or individual by stopping someone else setting up an online monument to their own foaming hatred. Vox Populi's scheme has been described as "illicit", "predatory" and "coercive", while ICANN has, somewhat hilariously, expressed its surprise and horror, asking the Federal Trade Commission to find out if any laws have been broken. Vox Populi says it's doing nothing wrong.
When the domain name system was broadened a few years ago, permitting applications for the likes of .xyz, .london, .porn and hundreds of others, chaos was predicted. People said that this level of expansion simply wasn't necessary, that it would confuse people and cause harm to brand owners. The .sucks furore has been a perfect illustration of this, and while it puts us in the unenviable position of having to side with either an exploitative domain seller or brands seeking to shut down criticism, Vox Populi's benign assertions are comically disingenuous.
A promotional video for .sucks, featuring speeches by Martin Luther King and fronted by former independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader, claims that the domain is "designed to help consumers find their voice and allow companies to find the value in criticism". But .sucks domain names add no extra weight to our online gripes, and companies defensively registering them doesn't stop us griping.
These new domains, of which .sucks is surely one of the most pointless, have all the superfluity of personalised number plates; individuals and companies buy them in a moment of excitement, but when they start using them, everyone else looks on with a puzzled expression, wondering why they bothered. What's more confusing is why brands are obediently wandering into the defensive registering trap that's been set for them. Registering "levis.sucks" will never stop denim-hating individuals creating Tumblrs, WordpPress blogs, Twitter accounts or Facebook pages. And look – there's already an "I Hate Avocado" Facebook page. I can vent my spleen on there. Sorry, Vox Populi. I might save that $250 for something more worthwhile.
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