Wolfgang Puck's .food Domain Name Money Grab [The Internet]

Photo: oscar.com

Wolfgang Puck is in Australia lobbying ICANN (the Internet Corporation For Assigned Names and Numbers) to register ".food" as a new TLD (top-level domain) — think websites addresses like "www.wolfgangpuck.food".

We call it like we see it: this is a shameless money grab. We don't think the world needs more TLDs, nor do we think that, as Puck claims, "Owning a .FOOD address is like opening a business on the best street in any city in the world."

Background! Beyond the .com, .net, .edu, and .org and national TLDs, there are a handful of approved TLDs like .aero, .museum, and .travel. Out of fearmongering that we're running out of domains because of speculators, companies are trying to add new "vanity" TLDs like .nyc, .london, and .sport (Al Gore is even trying get ".eco").

Say you're a food-related publication or blog or restaurant or whatever, and you already have an established web address. Here's where the money grab comes in: You're gonna feel pressured to pay Puck for your brand's .food domain out of fear that some dumbass is going to grab it from underneath you. Your cost of business goes up because this directly increases the cost of protecting your brand.

So how much? The Wall Street Journal got in touch with Antony Van Couverine, the vice president of Minds + Machines, a California-based company that is partnering with Puck in the online landgrab:

[T]here are no plans to gouge customers, [Van Couverine is] promising a “low annual cost to do this.” His company will sell in bulk to a registry, which will probably charge a bit more–no more than double–than registries charge today to register domain names (the cheapest currently costs around $10).

So basically their plan is to squeeze at least $20 a year out of all the established food-related websites who already own a .com. And say hello to legal costs: for example, when someone registers "gourmet.food," Gourmet's going to have to send out the lawyers to protect their brand and intellectual property. It's gonna get stupid and ugly and expensive.

It's also detrimental to the internet as a whole. Tim Berners-Lee, widely acknowleged as the inventor of the world wide web said as much, in a piece titled "New Top Level Domains .mobi and .xxx Considered Harmful." Berners-Lee wrote:

Introducing new TLDs has two effects. The first effect is a little like printing more money. The value of one's original registration drops. At the same time, the cost of protecting one's brand goes up (from the cost of three domains to four, five, ...).

What makes .food even worse (as if it needs more ...) is the charitable spin they're attaching to it, which might veil its true nature to those who are too concerned with protecting their brand to read the fine print. dotfood's press release states that "a portion of the proceeds from .FOOD will be donated to funding philanthropic organizations like Meals on Wheels and scholarships at the Culinary Institute of America, among others." That's all admirable and nice and everything, vaguely assuring us that Puck won't just swallow our autobilling annual fees to buy a solid gold smoked-salmon pizza oven or something, but it doesn't change the fact that at its core it is a for-profit enterprise.

In addition, there's some sort of educational spin — on the website dotfoodtld.com there's a video in which Puck says:

On dot food, you'll be able to find out how to eat healthier, how to buy your vegetables, what is in season. And on top of it, you can meet the farmers who grow all this wonderful produce. Dotfood can help you live a healthier lifestyle.

Um, what? Does Puck realize that a TLD isn't a website?

The only clear upside of .food that we see is the enriching of Wolfgang Puck and his partners Minds + Machines, and we call bullshit on the entire endeavor.

—Raphael Brion

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