Sex sells: The .XXX effect

Will the release of .XXX domains mean a fundamental change in the landscape of the Internet or is it all nothing more than a titillating headline?

Let’s face it sex sells. It sells in vast quantities and generates immense revenue across the globe so it’s no surprise that, for technologies destined for public consumption, the adult entertainment industry is one of the first to put their money on the table and test it out.

Much like the early fervent adoption of the now out-dated VHS video format, the Internet was seen as a new, gold-laden, frontier for the adult entertainment industry and therefore they were, and continue to be, large investors and therefore drivers of technology.

While there will always be debates held on the overall virtues of adult content and the distribution of such content across the Internet, the main ambition of the new domain suffix should be to protect and safeguard not only our children, but also simply those who find porn distasteful. As well as that, it should, in my opinion, also act to protect businesses which find their company domain names just an innocent mistype away from one with adult content.

As CEO of Host Europe back in 1997, we used the domain name magic-moments.com for one of our leading hosting brands. Not long into its existence, a customer pointed out that he’d landed on a soft porn website based in Germany simply by missing out the “-“ in the URL.

This similarity in URL and, therefore the inherent potential for confusion between one and the other by our customers, we considered serious enough to, soon after, drop the brand completely and consolidate it under Hosteurope.com. Luckily my new hosting venture’s domain guarantees us no ambiguity!

As the Internet began to evolve, regulations covering domain registration hadn’t been thought out as carefully by the naming authority ICANN as would have been ideal in retrospect – technology simply moved faster than the regulators did.

This allowed the adult entertainment industry to register domain names using any suffix they wished and it therefore became common that a simple typing error for a URL landed you on an adult website as opposed to the one you were looking for.

After living with a system as seemingly absurd as having a high street with a sex shop trading next door to a greengrocer, ICANN finally acted on what everyone had been asking for – to move adult content into its own domain space – and .XXX was born.

XXX is a ‘clean-up’ attempt and, at this point, an attempt only. Without the muscle of a harsher regime of monitoring and regulation, adult content will still be available on common domain suffixes like .com and .net.

Another thing worth considering is that a lot of money has changed hands for prominent adult domains in .com or .net suffixes. Only last year, sex.com sold for $13million and the value of such domains would no doubt free fall if adult content is forced to move into the .XXX domain space.

So where does this leave the .XXX domain? Well, I doubt the well-established porn sites will all change overnight, but it will sell and it gives newer sites the option of a memorable domain that makes what they’re offering crystal clear.

It will also prove to be an important purchase for those outside the adult industry wishing to protect their brand – a successful application under the Sunrise B phase withdraws a .xxx domain from the market.

Will .XXX change the landscape of the Internet?

My answer is unfortunately: No, at least not at the moment. Though .XXX is an important step in the right direction, without enforcement, it can only ever be the first small step towards proper regulation.

.XXX reservation phases

.XXX domains are to be rolled out through several ‘pre-registration’ and reservation phases starting with Pre-Orders available now.

The preliminary Sunrise reservation phase begins on the 7th of September, 2011 and runs through to the 28th of October, 201. This is open to:

  • Adult Trademark Holders – i.e. trademark holders that meet membership requirements of the XXX community
  • People with existing Adult Domains – members of the Adult community who already own and operate an existing exact matching domain name in another prefix
  • Non Adult Trademark Holders – i.e. those not in the XXX community who wish to protect their trademarks (blocking www.theirname.xxx)
  • The ‘Landrush’ reservation phase scheduled to run from the 8th-25th of November, 2011 allows any member of the XXX community to register any other domain
  • General Availability will open to the general public on the 6th of December, 2011 and domains allocated on a first come first serve basis
  • Prices from range from £49.99pa to £199.99pa.

Abby Hardoon is a marketing graduate from George Washington University, Washington DC USA, and has over 17 years of experience in managing marketing oriented businesses. He had gained extensive experience in FMCG marketing prior to founding web hosting company Daily Internet, a leading Internet hosting solutions provider, in 1996. In 1999, Daily Internet was listed on the London Stock Exchange.