.XXX Gives Porn Purveyors Official Red Light District

The ICM Registry on Monday launched the general availability of .xxx domain names on a first-come, first-served basis.

The .xxx domain is meant to function as a responsible alternative for sites that offer adult entertainment content and services, ICM noted. All .xxx sites will be appropriately labeled, giving Internet users a clear indication in advance of the type of content to expect.

McAfee will scan each .xxx site daily for malware, a process designed to protect website operators as well as visitors. The .xxx sites will be the only domains in the world to receive daily malware scanning as a standard.

The .xxx domain names can be purchased only through accredited registrars. ICM has created a portal, buy.xxx, that lists all registrars and includes a domain lookup tool. On Tuesday, it received nearly one million visitors.

Manwin Sues ICANN and ICM

Not everyone is hot on the idea of the .xxx designation. Manwin, a company specializing in managing adult entertainment sites, filed a lawsuit last month against ICM and the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) for antitrust violations.

While ICM is the sole operator of .xxx names, ICANN selected and approved ICM for the task.

In the lawsuit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, Manwin maintains that ICANN and ICM conspired to eliminate competitive bidding and any market restraints for certain .xxx registry services with the intent to injure competition and consumers.

The creation of .xxx names forces owners of trademarks and domain names to purchase expensive defensive registrations from ICM to prevent cybersquatters or others from exploiting their names, according to Manwin.

Who Will Buy?

One of the side effects of the new .xxx designation is that businesses having nothing to do with adult entertainment will probably buy their .xxx names to prevent porn sites from using them, Zeus Kerravala, principal analyst with ZK Research, told the E-Commerce Times. “While most people in tech understand that ‘.xxx’ means porn and a thing like ‘walmart.xxx’ is just a porn site trying to leverage the name, many people less technical may not.”

Another question is whether porn sites will be willing to let go of their “.com” designations in favor of .xxx. Chances are, the sites will keep their .com domains while also adding .xxx.

“In theory, it should make it easier to keep porn out of view by blocking .xxx,” said Kerravala. “But I don’t think you’ll see any porn sites drop the .com, .net.”

Many porn sites have invested deeply in promoting their .com and .net sites. They will likely want to keep those addresses even if they add .xxx addresses.

“Porn sites will continue to maintain multiple addresses,” Jim McGregor, chief technology strategist at In-Stat, told the E-Commerce Times. “No one is going to give up valuable real estate.”

What Changes for the Web?

As for whether the .xxx domains will change the way the Internet appears to users, or change user behavior, that is still not clear.

“There will likely be no change,” said McGregor. “Ideally, it would be best to push all the porn sites to the new domain, but the Internet is a free-trade environment with very few rules. That is unlikely to change anytime soon.”

Since most porn sites will likely keep their .com and .net addresses, the .xxx names may have no appreciable effect on the Internet.

“This doesn’t change the Internet much other than making it easier for people that want to view online porn to find it,” said Kerravala. “It doesn’t help unsuspecting consumers from accidentally clicking on the .coms.”

The theory behind the .xxx names is sound, he said, but he doesn’t believe it will have the impact ICM and ICANN are looking for.

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