Will the introduction of the .xxx domain make any difference to the internet?

Opinion by Dan Raywood

I was interested in an article that appeared in the Guardian over the weekend that looked at the debate and controversies around the .xxx domain.

I was interested in an article that appeared in the Guardian over the weekend which looked at the debate and controversies around the .xxx domain.

It focussed on the approval of the .xxx top-level domain (TLD) for adult websites last week, something that SC Magazine looked at last year. It said that the Florida-based British internet entrepreneur Stuart Lawley won the right last week to start selling registrations that were devoted to pornographic content. He believed that the first amendment guaranteeing free speech means any attempt by US legislators to corral sex sites into .xxx is doomed to fail.

He also believed that within five to ten years, he hopes that ‘.xxx will be synonymous with adult online entertainment and will be the first location people look for it'.

When we looked at this last year, my question was: 'Would this allow websites to become more generalised for their content?' This has both positive and negative impacts, particularly as media brands branch out and do not want to be pigeon-holed by a specific detail.

So what is the option? To buy up every domain that relates to a company or brand? Well arguably yes. As MarkMonitor, a member of ICANN, explained to me last year, its main activity is to help brands protect their identities online and find rogue sites ‘and deal with them, offering litigation and trying to reclaim it'.

So now that .xxx has been registered, would brands be expected to buy up domains that feature their company name in order to protect themselves? Charlie Abrahams, vice president and general manager EMEA at MarkMonitor, said that the company's view of the .xxx domain continues to be fairly sceptical that this will make much difference to anything.

He said: “Well trafficked ‘porn.com' sites are likely to stay where they are, as there is no good reason to change and a .xxx extension will not, in itself, protect minors from viewing .com sites. Also it is just another place to police.”

As I said earlier, this could have a positive impact. Frederick Felman, chief marketing officer of MarkMonitor, spoke on issues surrounding TLDs recently. He claimed that a new class of TLDs will be introduced that have a lot of internal character sets that are of a specific geographic nature very soon. He said: “This will be good for individual businesses to target markets and for changes and with fraud.”

I am mixed on how many .xxx websites spring up immediately, primarily because of the stigma attached to a legitimate site and the likelihood of them taking the domain up.

On the other side brands may want to buy the right to ‘their' .xxx domain to protect their future online identity, and also there will be opportunities for short term guerrilla marketing campaigns - can you hear me Lady Gaga?


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