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The New XXX Domain Won't Protect Kids From Porn, but It'll Cost Big Bucks Anyway

After protests and years of controversy, ICANN has finally approved the .xxx domain and will start making addresses available as early as this summer. The new domain will fail miserably at its ostensible mission of protecting kids from porn, as no one will force adult sites to switch to .xxx addresses. But it will cost lots of major companies big bucks to prevent squatters and misdirected web links on the new domain.

An opportunity to fleece big brands
Porn companies will have to pony up the money to acquire their .xxx equivalent -- just to catch the users that begin typing in, for instance, Playboy.xxx instead of Playboy.com.

But every well-known company will be affected as well, since any name brand will be a target for unscrupulous .xxx designation. Naseem Javid of the Internet business publication CircleID explains the dilemma:

Squatters and other players might find a moneymaking angle by creating embarrassment and exploiting legitimate business site names by registering them in the .xxx domain. This would be embarrassing to a legitimate business, which would have to explain that it has nothing to do with such a site, such as www.Disney.xxx, www.dell.xxx, www.lg.xxx or www.sony.xxx.

Only properly structured and clearly legit and globally strong trademark holders would be able to protect themselves; the rest with generic business names based on dictionary words, geographic names or general type surnames would have little protection. ICANN has always moved in a very unpredictable manner since inception, and randomly creating additional top level domain (TLD) suffixes doesn't help. Each time a new category is added, it opens a wide debate.


What happens if a company isn't able to grab the .xxx equivalent in time? It'll have to take squatters to court on its own -- and only the biggest brands can afford a lawsuit and prove that their name is big enough to protect.

Expect .xxx domains to cost more
Beyond squatters, the original .xxx domain sellers have every reason to jack up the price. GoDaddy and other providers traditionally charge more to register .org, .co, and other specialized domains. Furthermore, people still seem to think that porn websites are awash in dough -- and the addresses will be priced accordingly.

In reality, as Vivid Entertainment co-founder Steven Hirsch told me at a recent conference, porn has been in a recession for years. The new domain name grab won't help them get out of the slump.

It won't protect kids
Advocates for .xxx say that the domain will help protect people from porn, particularly children. An Internet filter could scan for .xxx websites and make them inaccessible, for example. However, ICANN isn't making the .xxx mandatory for porn sites, so protecting kids from .xxx sites will be a moot point altogether.

And will curious adolescents suddenly stop typing in "sex.com" because of .xxx? Not gonna happen. The same argument was used when the .xxx domain was originally proposed in 2007, and it still doesn't hold water.

For their part, porn companies fear that the .xxx designation will put adult entertainment in a "virtual ghetto" segregated from the rest of the Internet. However, experts say that ICANN has no interest in monitoring and restrict porn companies to the .xxx designation. If anything, the extra .xxx designation dilutes the porn websites that are already established.

The real winners here will be domain providers who can expect to make a killing when the .xxx URLs go live.

Photo courtesy of Dekaritae // CC 2.0
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