New top-level domains (TLDs) are here, and while it’s fair to say that their arrival has been mostly underwhelming.  

One of the new TLDs, .sucks, has sparked a lot of controversy.

.sucks is currently in a sunrise period during which time brands can register their trademarked names prior to general registration.

The goal of a sunrise period is generally to ensure that brands have the ability to thwart cybersquatters. But since .sucks naturally appeals to the general public, allowing those brands to register their names before the general public seems to defeat the purpose of such a TLD.

So what’s going on? Given the $2,499 per year sunrise registration fee, many argue that .sucks is just a money grab for the .sucks operator, a company called Vox Populi.

In fact, ICANN, the company that oversees the domain name system, has reportedly received so many complaints from companies that it has asked the United States Federal Trade Commission and Canadian Office of Consumer Affairs to weigh in on the legality of Vox Populi’s system.

Despite the furor over what brands perceive to be “predatory, exploitive and coercive,” a good number of them appear to have relented and registered .sucks domains.

Even celebrities are getting in on the act. According to PR Week, Kevin Spacey, Taylor Swift and Oprah are among the high-profile individuals who have shelled out for a .sucks domain during the sunrise period.

Just don’t suck

It’s understandable that brands don’t want their names to be shamed with a .sucks domain, even if they see the four figure registration fee as being exploitative. 

But as Misha Dhanak, founder of London PR agency The Romans, told PR Week:

Defensive registration is a natural reaction because no comms team wants to see a site that says their brand sucks. The reality however, is that if consumers want to say something negative about a brand, they don’t need a specific domain to do it – why go to a new site when Twitter is already open in your browser? Far better to focus on improving the elements of your brand that might suck. Or, focus on the people who really love you.

She’s right. When it comes to defending a brand online, making sure that you own yourcompany.sucks is probably not going to be very meaningful.

There are so many other channels for consumers to broadcast their feelings about brands and chances are very few disgruntled customers will immediately type in yourcompany.sucks because, well, a good deal of consumers — perhaps the majority — don’t even know about the new TLDs.

Ultimately, the best way for brands to deal with .sucks is to not suck. If they can’t do that, owning a .sucks domain won’t stop consumers from shaming them online.