We all know that controlling your brand is crucial, especially in big business. You can't afford to let someone else get ahold of your name, and in the Internet era, that means keeping your Web site locked down, far from anyone else's reach.
So it was quite a surprise to me when I found out today, via the Twitter feed of the great game designer Brenda Brathwaite, that Zyngo CEO Mark Pincus could be in real danger of losing Markpincus.com.
According to a Whois search, the URL expired on February 9. And while registrars usually give domain owners a bit of a grace period before putting the address back up for grabs, it's pretty clear that absent some quick action, Zynga could soon be facing a major egg-in-the-face moment.
After all, I can think of a million anti-Zynga game designers, porn sites, pranksters, hackers, and others who would love to get their hands on Markpincus.com. Zynga's lawyers could probably make a decent case that the URL belongs to the company, or to Pincus personally. But if it took them some time to re-possess it, that could no doubt give a bad actor time to do something quite unfriendly to the company.
"Doing business on the Web has become an important, if not essential channel for many businesses around the world, and Web sites are identified with their owners in large part due to the domain name used by the owner," reads a primer on the value of owning valuable domain real estate on Cybersquatting.com "As a result, obtaining a domain name that is closely associated with a business is very important for most ventures.
"In addition to identifying the owner of the domain name and the source of goods sold through a domain name, domain names can become brands themselves. Even the most generic and descriptive domain names, like Pets.com (used on a website selling pet supplies) and Claus.com (used on a Santa Claus-related website), can become brands due to their use in the marketplace and the meaning consumers attach to these descriptive domain names. As a result, acquiring premiere domain names that contain simple descriptive words and phrases is important for many companies in building their online brand."
From a PR perspective, it's also crucial to maintain control of your domain. According to Julie Crabill, CEO of the technology public relations agency Inner Circle Labs, it's essential. "Fully controlling your company and personal story is no longer possible but when you have a polarizing brand and/or personality, it behooves you to look for obvious chinks in your armor that Web trolls can use against you," Crabill said. "Everywhere I go in the Valley, people have something to say about Mark Pincus. If I was Zynga I would do everything I could to retain ownership of Markpincus.com to make sure it doesn't fall into the hands of someone with more nefarious purposes."
For now, Zynga and Pincus are still in safe territory. According to Go Daddy, which was used to register the domain--presumably by Pincus or someone working with him--registrants have at least 25 days from the time their domain expires before it goes back up for grabs. However, it appears that after 25 days, the expired domain goes up for auction.
Zynga could not immediately reached for comment.
In the meantime, Zynga might also want to run over and buy Markpincus.net, Markpincus.co, and Markpincus.org, which are all available. But they shouldn't bother going for Markpincus.xxx. That one is already taken.