By Stuart Fuller
In the digital world we now consume ourselves in, reputation is key. One of the world’s richest men, investor Warren Buffett, was once quoted as saying “Reputation is like virginity – once lost it can never be regained” and there’s never been a truer word applied to the sometimes murky world of politics.
Over in the United States, one of the most fascinating Presidential campaigns is playing out in all forms of digital media. A year ago no one really gave billionaire Donald Trump a chance of gaining the Republican Party nomination, let alone a credible shot at The Oval Office, yet here we are less than nine months away from Election Day and he holds a sizeable lead in the race to be the Republican candidate. He currently holds an 18% lead in the voting (according to http://elections.huffingtonpost.com/pollster/2016-national-gop-primary) with Ted Cruz trailing in second place. Further down the card is a familiar surname – Bush. Jeb Bush is the Former Governor of Florida, the brother of George W. Bush and the son of George H. Bush. With 12 years’ family experience in running the country, you would have thought Jeb would know a thing or two about how to run a campaign.
However, it seems the world has changed a bit since his brother left the White House back in 2009. Back then with Social Media starting to become more important to our everyday life, the outgoing President didn’t even have a Facebook page, only setting one up the year after he left office. But even back in 2009, Domain Names were an important asset for any organisation or individual to ensure they owned, none more so for the fact of brand or image protection. Fortunately, George’s people (his Vice-President for Operations) Brian Cossiboom, had the foresight to register the domain name georgewbush.com. If only Brian was on hand to assist Jeb.
It appears that someone decided that Jebbush.com wasn’t cutting the mustard for the Grand Old Party’s nomination and so they switched their allegiance to Trump. Anyone wanting to find out information about Bush’s campaign or even support him financially will now be redirected to www.donaldjtrump.com if they type in www.jebbush.com. Whilst Jeb’s official website www.jeb2016.com still resolves, the key search term being used is still Jeb Bush, although neither websites appear in the top 50 natural search results on Google.
However, it appears that Trump doesn’t have the last laugh here. Back in 2014 the new gTLDs dotRepublican and dotGOP were launched by Rightside and Minds + Machines respectively. Whilst the dotRepublican domains for both Bush and Trump appear to be harmlessly resolving to parked pages, someone who owns www.donaldjtrump.gop has redirected the domain to the Democrat frontrunner Hilary Clinton’s official website www.hilaryclinton.com .
The owner of jebbush.com is a mystery to us all, shrouded behind a WHOIS Proxy registration. With ICANN currently debating the future of such registrations, could this be the last political campaign where such tricks will happen? We hope not. At some point in the not so distant future you would expect Jeb to throw in the towel and so the domain name’s resolution will become a little irrelevant. But there is a lesson for all public figures in this story – understand who owns your key digital assets and how they are using them before you emerge into the bright light of publicity.