In the mid nineties, just as the World Wide Web was getting going, Owen Davis wanted to share his frustration with the service he was getting from RBOC NYNEX. And so, he started a movement that struck fear into the hearts of public relations professionals around the world when he created a website called nynexsucks.com. In it, he described the trials and tribulations of getting an ISDN line installed at his company. And that’s when others came out of the woodwork. Others shared their stories which were also published on the website. It’s one of the first times that the consumer was given a public voice, and it caused all sorts of corporate consternation.
Companies responded in the only way that they knew how. By trying to control the situation. They began gobbling up domain names that ended in “sucks.” Today, a quick look at Whois.net shows that nynexsucks.com and BellAtlanticsucks.com (the successor to NYNEX) are now owned by Verizon — who rounded out their collection by grabbing Verizonsucks.com too!
Instead of seeing this as an opportunity to have a conversation with their customers, businesses have attempted to control the bleeding.
But business weren’t the only group to miss the point — consumers and advocate organizations whiffed on it too. The king of the consumers, Ralph Nader, saw this domain grab as a strike against consumers and their freedom of speech. And so in 2000, he waged an unsuccessful battle to create a new set of web domains…the “.sucks” domain.
Hindsight is always 20/20, but there is no reason to create a new set of domains that ends in “.sucks.” In the age of Google, in the age of “tagging” it was only a matter of time before this information was indexed.
For example a Google search for “Verizon Sucks” yields 17,900 hits of which the top one, posted on February 4, 2008 is:
Is this a website dedicated to the destruction of Verizon? Nope, it is a blog called Mama(e) in Translation, written by a stay-at-home mom with a Ph.D. A closer look shows that her blog is hosted on blogspot.com, a Google property that hosts blogs for free.
The business world needs to understand that it lost control a long time ago. Its gone. Bye bye. Sayonara. Au Revoir. And that the longer they deny this, the more silly they’ll look.
It’s time to stop “targeting” your audience. It’s time to start having a conversations with them. Otherwise, the hunters become the hunted.