Jay Rockefeller Wants to Save the World From ‘www.you.suck’

The Democratic senator is concerned about a new Web domain name.

Sen. Jay Rockefeller
National Journal
Brendan Sasso
March 12, 2014, 1:02 p.m.

It’s a joke that would be funny only to a sixth-grader. But a top Demo­crat­ic sen­at­or has real con­cerns over the pos­sib­il­ity that web­site ad­dresses end­ing in “.sucks” may be used to mock people or or­gan­iz­a­tions.

Sen­ate Com­merce Com­mit­tee Chair­man Jay Rock­e­feller said Wed­nes­day that a Web do­main like .sucks has “little or no so­cially re­deem­ing value” and could be used for ex­tor­tion.

“I view it as little more than a pred­at­ory shake­down scheme,” Rock­e­feller wrote in a let­ter to the In­ter­net Cor­por­a­tion for As­signed Names and Num­bers, the in­de­pend­ent group that man­ages the Web’s ad­dress sys­tem. “The busi­ness mod­el be­hind this [do­main name] seems to be the fol­low­ing: force large cor­por­a­tions, small busi­nesses, non­profits, and even in­di­vidu­als, to pay on­go­ing fees to pre­vent see­ing the phrase ‘sucks’ ap­pen­ded to their names on the In­ter­net.”

IC­ANN is cur­rently im­ple­ment­ing a plan to ex­pand Web end­ings, known as gen­er­ic top-level do­mains, well bey­ond the tra­di­tion­al .com and .org. Web­sites could soon end in words like .car, .mu­sic, .love, .pizza, or thou­sands of oth­er pos­sib­il­it­ies, in­clud­ing brand names such as .coke.

Three com­pan­ies — Donuts Inc., Mo­ment­ous Corp., and Top Level Spec­trum — have all ap­plied to own .sucks, and IC­ANN will have to de­cide which com­pany (if any) to award the do­main to. Mo­ment­ous has already star­ted so­li­cit­ing ap­plic­a­tions so that people can de­fens­ively buy .sucks Web ad­dresses to pre­vent them from fall­ing in­to the con­trol of oth­ers, Rock­e­feller wrote.

Ma­son Cole, a spokes­man for Donuts, ac­know­ledged that “in cer­tain hands, the do­main name could be prob­lem­at­ic.” But he said trade­mark own­ers can ask Donuts to block cer­tain terms for a “small frac­tion of the cost” of re­gis­ter­ing new web­sites.

“Donuts’ busi­ness mod­el is fo­cused on provid­ing In­ter­net users around the world with real choice in how they craft their on­line iden­tit­ies,” Cole said. “We are not so­li­cit­ing, and have no plans to so­li­cit, ‘de­fens­ive re­gis­tra­tions.’ “

IC­ANN is an in­de­pend­ent non­profit, and there is little the U.S. gov­ern­ment can do to over­ride any of its de­cisions.

“As a com­mit­ted sup­port­er of the multi-stake­hold­er mod­el of glob­al In­ter­net gov­ernance, I feel a re­spons­ib­il­ity to speak up when I see IC­ANN con­sid­er­ing steps that could dam­age its repu­ta­tion,” Rock­e­feller wrote.

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