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Opinion: XXX domains an obvious failure

On December 6, hundreds of thousands of websites with the .xxx suffix went live.
On December 6, hundreds of thousands of websites with the .xxx suffix went live.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Universities are buying XXX domains to get ahead of porn pranksters
  • Corporations and homes can easily block all .XXX domains
  • GoDaddy.com is registering them for $99 a year, making these domains more expensive

(Mashable) -- Is it just me or is the ICANN plan to corral online porn going terribly wrong? We already have reports that universities are snapping up XXX domains in an effort to get ahead of porn pranksters who want to besmirch a few good online names with smut.

I guess this turn of events was obvious to anyone with half a brain.

Legitimate porn sites have little interest in the triple X domains, which went on sale earlier this week, for their businesses because they see them as potential censorship and, more importantly, they thrive on people accidentally stumbling on their URLs.

In the early days of the web this was common because porn purveyors snapped up known names and brands -- none of which had to feature an obvious porn domain label. That's how "Whitehouse.com" ended up, for a time, as a porn site.

.XXX was designed to improve the situation. No more accidentally typing in, well, something you didn't intend. With a designated porn domain, it's unlikely anyone would end up in the wrong place.

Better yet, corporations and homes could easily block all .XXX domains. That's the plan, but if pornographers stay away and legitimate people, companies, businesses and universities race to snap up any and all XXX domain names that could be construed as theirs, then this triple XXX domain could be an embarrassing failure for the ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers).

Think I'm exaggerating? The AP reports that 80,000 XXX domains were sold in presale and many companies like Pepsi and Nike lined up to purchase adult domains. The University of Kansas reportedly just paid $3,000 for a variety of XXX URLs.

It's unlikely anyone will ever type in www.KUgirls.xxx, but that's not the point. The university just wanted to be safe. I understand the impulse. Even as I'm writing this, I'm wondering if I, too, should try to protect my good name by buying the LanceUlanoff.xxx domain.

I know where to go. GoDaddy.com is registering them for $99 a year, making these domains considerably more expensive than standard domains (which you can buy at various sites at anywhere from $1.99 or $9.99 -- yearly maintenance fees are then more expensive).

According to the website, if I wanted to launch an adult website under that URL, I actually have to become an "Internet Community Member" and then confirm my status of "the sponsored adult entertainment community". My guess is that this is how the ICANN polices the URLs, to ensure that someone isn't registering someone else's brand as a porn site.

I have no plans to do so, which conveniently means I do not have to become a part of the "Community." GoDaddy tells me this too, and is -- fortunately, I guess -- only too happy to help me park my URL for the same exorbitant fee.

Atop GoDaddy's XXX domain registration page is this: "Let's be adult about it. Create an adult Web presence or protect your brand." This is followed by an explanation of why you'd want to register an XXX domain. Note what it starts with:

"Secure your brand. Protect your reputation."

"Perhaps you'd like to create an adult entertainment website. Or maybe you're here to keep your brand from being registered as a .XXX by someone else. Whatever your reasons for wanting a .XXX domain, you've come to the right place. To check the availability of your domain, type the name you want into the search box above. "

GoDaddy has built its brand with coy references to sex (check out any of its Super Bowl ads), but it's not being coy here. The message is clear: If you don't want someone launching a porn XXX domain with your name or brand, you'd better let GoDaddy take your money and register it for you.

While I see the parallels with the early days of the web, this situation is different in one fundamental way: Those snapping up the domains for protection will never use them. No one outside the porn industry wants to run a live XXX domain website. These businesses and universities are simply buying them in what GoDaddy actually calls "Defensive Registrations" to hide them from view forever (and they'll pay GoDaddy yearly fees to do so).

Instead of creating a solution, the ICANN's apparently misguided efforts have spawned a new anxiety: "Your Brand Name in Porn." The fear is so strong that it's got all these people buying up domains just so the wrong people can't get them. As I see it, this could be quite a windfall for GoDaddy. The company should send the ICANN a thank-you note.

See the original article at Mashable.com

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