Any company can find itself facing a disaster that it must handle. Often the problems are created internally. Sometimes they have help.

Once not so long ago, if someone wanted a domain, it would have to be one of a few types, like .com, .org, or .net. ICANN, the organization that basically runs the Internet, began to allow new generic top-level domains. These gTLDs included ones like .biz.

But the newest is a doozy: .sucks. (Be glad it's just that so far. Some others already proposed include .fail, .gripe, and .wtf.)

Yes, anyone who wishes to mock your brand can do so by claiming the appropriate domain starting with your brand and ending with .sucks. A Canadian company called Momentous won the auction to run the domain.

Who said Canadians are always polite? Or cheap? Pricing for .sucks domains will be pretty hefty. First, the complicating factors. The company has a list of what it calls "premium names." These are a list of names that, in the .sucks world, will carry a heavier price. Furthermore, there will be an early-bird period from March 30 to May 29, during which available registrations are pretty damned expensive: $2499 for premium names and $299 for non-premium. Starting June 1, someone can get a .sucks domain for $249 or block use of a specific domain name for a year for $199. And if you want to host a consumer discussion (and complaint) board, you get a subsidized cost of $9.95.

In other words, the people involved with this venture probably envision companies dropping significant sums for mortals--although a trifling for many businesses--to keep people from mocking their brands. It's probably cheaper than hiring lawyers to challenge whether someone else had the right to use the brand name for mockery.

The .sucks domains only become one more item on the long checklist of potential domain names a company might buy up to keep them out of the hands of competitors or critics. What's an entrepreneur to do? Just forget it. You can't possibly think of all the variations of nasty that people can come up with. Even if you offer credible customer service, there are some out there who will be nasty just because they can. Keep focusing on:

  • improving your product
  • strengthening customer service
  • standing for what you believe in

Eventually the trolls will get bored if you don't react. And if they don't, it may be a sign that your company has some serious detractors who might have a valid point you need to hear.