Does something suck about This.Sucks?

A couple weeks ago, a new company popped up on the scene called This.Sucks.

The business model is remarkably similar to one that .Sucks registry Vox Populi hoped would be created, offering .sucks domain names to users at a reduced annual price (many for free) in return for using a specialized platform.

It’s so similar, in fact, that some have questioned if Vox Populi is behind This.sucks.

Phil Armstrong, spokesperson for This.sucks, told Domain Incite:

We are not related to anything Vox Populi is doing. Not sure what they are up to, but hopefully they’ll be excited about what we are doing.

It didn’t take long to connect the dots between Vox Populi and This.sucks, calling into question what the relationship between the two companies is.

As it turns out, Vox Populi has lent quite a hand to This.sucks. It ran a design contest to create the this.sucks website and it hosted the this.sucks (and its related this.rocks) domain names. This.sucks apparently ended up using the same Cayman lawyers as Vox Populi as well. And Vox Populi spokesperson John Berard recommended This.sucks spokesperson Phil Armstrong for the job.

It appears that perhaps This.sucks has more than a little knowledge about “what [Vox Populi is] up to”, and This.sucks knows for sure that Vox Populi is “excited about what [this.sucks is] doing.”

After DomainIncite revealed the connections, Vox Populi spokesperson John Berard commented that it had indeed helped This.sucks:

Some ask for help that we offer as we can. This.sucks’ mission appears to be building a profitable social network pegged to new gTLDs. Pretty innovative, we think. We saw no reason not to help with some introductions.

In fact, it turns out that John Berard and Phil Armstrong have known each other for 35 years. Berard told Domain Name Wire that he recommended Armstrong for This.sucks, which is an odd thing to do based only on “appearances” of what This.sucks is doing.

Site design brought to you by Vox Populi.Why does it matter? Many in the intellectual property community believe that the idea of This.sucks was created to convince intellectual property owners they should premium prices for .sucks domain names before their haters get domains at a much cheaper price. It’s a way to get around requirements for registry services, they argue.

So, do the people behind Vox Populi have any ownership interest in This.sucks? It would seem that, should there truly be no link, Vox Populi and This.sucks could quickly come out and confirm that and end the controversy. Neither party will do that, because apparently they don’t know who is behind each others’ business. (Again, I’m surprised that someone would refer a friend to work for another business without knowing who is behind it.)

I asked Berard seven specific questions about This.sucks, including about a possible ownership link. He wrote:

I am not sure I can or need to answer some of the questions in the manner you have posed them. For example, as This.Sucks, Inc. is a private company whose investors I can’t even know, let alone list.

The same is true about whether Vox Populi Registry has a “relationship” with This.Sucks, Inc. Of course it does, it is a registrant with a business model that may lead to hundreds of dotSucks registrations.

I have told Phil we are excited about that. It was during one of many times we have chatted. I have known him for 35 years. I referred him to This.Sucks, Inc. because I thought his experience and Midwestern temperament would serve the company well.

It is not unusual for us to talk to registrants. Just take a look at our blog (www.blog.registry.sucks) for proof of that. In fact, because of their intentions, we sought to be as helpful as possible.

It was in the cause of time-to-market that their domain names were first stood up on the same servers as we have used, with the intention, since completed, to move them to another service. The need for speedy web development likely similarly led to member of our team – in this case, Rob Hall – to leverage an industry contact.

(The “industry contact” Berard refers to is merely an online design contest service similar to 99Designs, that anyone can use.)

So, Berard says he “can’t even know” who is behind This.sucks. If that means he “doesn’t even know”, then perhaps Armstrong can clear this up. I asked Armstrong if the two companies have common investors, and he replied:

This.Sucks, Inc. is privately held, and at this point we are not disclosing investors.

I understand not disclosing who investors are in a company, but I replied “I understand you don’t want to reveal investors names, but can you say whether any owners/investors in this.sucks are also owners/investors in Vox Populi?”

Amstrong wrote back:

We simply are not talking about our investors at this stage of the game, except to say they are optimistic that we can build a solid business based on this concept. Also, I am not that familiar with the ownership of Vox Populi, so once again I refer you to John.

It’s a circular reference, at least as far as Berard and Armstrong are concerned.

Should the companies not have on investor link, then This.suck is in for an expensive startup. It has to pay Vox Populi the wholesale price of over $200 per .sucks domain it registers, even though it plans to give up to 10,000 away for free. If there are common investors, then it goes out one pocket and into the other and no one is concerned about this cost.

Neither company has taken the opportunity to clear up what is a simple question. I’ll let you draw your own conclusions from that.

 

[“source-domainnamewire”]