by Lee Gesmer on October 17, 2008

Did you ever wonder how many large companies register their own “sucks” domain names (as in “microsoftsucks.com” or “AIGsucks.com”) in order to prevent someone else from doing so? Like, some unfriendly nasty that wants to use the site to bash the company?

How many “CIOs” (“chief information officer,” for the uninitiated; don’t blame yourself if you didn’t know this), wish they had registered variations of their companies’ names before the “gripers” got ahold of them? Many, I suspect. Check out ebaysucks.com or alitaliasucks.com for example. Nasty stuff, for sure. Not good corporate publicity, for sure.

Bet the folks at eBay and Alitalia wish they’d grabbed these domain names before they were picked up by gripers. The cost of buying “ebaysucks.com” before someone else does is close to zero. It’s just a matter of anticipation.

Of course, its hard for companies to challenge the ownership of sites like these, since a clever owner can claim First Amendment protection as long as he or she doesn’t misstep and use the domain in a way that results in consumer confusion.

We often tell clients to buy up all the “surrounding” names for their domain of choice. The dot-COM, dot-ORG, dot-NET top level domains, and any offensive variations.  Sometimes they do, sometimes they don’t. Occasionally, I’ve wondered how many of the large, Fortune 500-type U.S. companies create this kind of protection for themselves.

Well, it turns out that someone has actually done a detailed study on exactly this, and it turns out that the majority of large companies haven’t bothered to register offensive variations on their domain names ahead of their critics.

You can read the study here: The Power of Internet Gripe Sites.

Oddly, almost all of the companies that have had the foresight to do this have the “sucks” domain name resolve to their main site, which doesn’t make a lot of sense. The authors suggest that if a company does buy its own “brandsucks.com” site it should consider what Loews Theaters (now AMC) does, and take the user to a “guest satisfaction survey.” I disagree; I suggest that any company that owns such a site take the user to a page that looks like this:

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