News & Politics

The 'Dot GOP' Domain Is the Newest — and a Very Funny — Internet Meme

Republicans have once again shot themselves in the foot in an effort to be online hipsters.

Photo Credit: Gunnar Pippel/Shutterstock

In an effort not to be caught flat-footed online in yet another election, the Republican party began selling .gop domainsthis week; and while most can be had at rock-bottom prices ($20.16), many of them are digital gold. 

The party's Leadership Committee,  which set up the .gop domain, says it will help increase the GOP’s online brand for the 2014 election cycle. In 2012, President Obama's re-election campaign raised $504 million in online donations and invested twice as much as the Romney campaign in online advertising.

However, not anyone can go onto Dot GOP and buy a domain name, the Republican Party has control of who can purchase domains. Savvy Internet users aren’t even buying the .gop domain names, instead, they’re checking the availability on the Dot GOP website and posting the screenshots on Twitter and Tumblr, to the delight of many others online. 

Still, Republicans are touting Dot GOP as "the most significant change to the Internet since its inception." Well, if they're right, it might be for the wrong reasons. Here’s a few hilarious examples on Tumblrand Twitter:

Some domain names are sacred to the Republican Party, and they're going for top dollar. For example:

And other domain names are being held by the Republican Party:

Yes, it looks like "Dot GOP" could rival Robin Thicke's Twitter chat for this month's big Internet fail:

Photo Credit: 
Screen Grab

All kidding aside, political campaign veterans say that "Dot GOP" can be a digital minefield for Republicans.

"Republicans are at war among themselves,” says Alan Rosenblatt, a digital communications strategist. "There's a lot of potential for it to be captured by the far right extremists which would really hurt Republican branding."

The Democratic Party does not appear to be planning for a “.dem” domain address to counter the Republicans.

"It's not a strategy, it's not a solution to a problem," DNC press secretary Michael Czin told USA Today. "Republicans didn't lose in 2008 or 2012 because people couldn't find their websites. To the contrary it's because people couldn't figure out what they were campaigning on."

This is not the first time the Republicans have stepped in it online. Back in 2012, Mitt Romney's campaign was accused of buying more than 100,000 fake Twitter followers in order to counter Barack Obama's 18 million followers on the social media service. It was later found that many of these followers were spambots, pornbots, and accounts purely set up to inflate the number of followers on other accounts. 

One of the more amusing finds was that at least five people who followed Romney on the same summer weekend shared the same profile picture, which turned out to be that of an Internet marketer named Ben Sarma.

The fake followers campaign scandal played into the common narrative of Obama supporters that Romney was uncool and couldn't connect socially to real people, that he relied on his riches to buy his successes. The campaign scandal even spawned a hashtag, #morefakemitt, where Romney was mocked with comments such as: “Guys, Mitt Romney isn't buying fake Twitter followers. Bots are just following the candidate they have most in common with.”

In 2008, despite seeing the online infrastructure that was propelling Obama and congressional Democrats to victory, the Republican party virtually ignored online fundraising networks. The race, dubbed by the media as "the first Internet election," saw democratic campaigns and interest groups making extensive use of the Web for organizing, fund-raising, networking, and announcing news.

It wasn't until the final weeks of the presidential race that the McCain campaign narrowed the gap online, by adding fundraising and social media features to its online presense. By that time, Obama’s online social network of registered users had more than five times that of McCain’s, and drew almost three times as many unique visitors each week.

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Cliff Weathers is a former senior editor at AlterNet and served as a deputy editor at Consumer Reports. Twitter @cliffweathers.