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Domain-a-Palooza

Domain-a-Palooza

June 29, 2011
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As expected, Internet regulatory agency ICANN at its meeting in Singapore last week approved the addition of specific gTLDs, like .Disney, .boobs or .whatever.

And, while ICANN and the registrars rejoiced – all of a sudden, the Internet seems on course to become a very complicated, crowded space. News about the coming changes has been rampant and, at best, very mixed as to how this will help or hurt the Internet. Many are of the opinion that the new gTLDs represent a very lucrative opportunity for ICANN, especially with a registration fee of $185K, and annually fees of $25K. This prohibitive price is certain to allow only serious brand-builders into the Brave, New Internet.

The general state of confusion over what will result from ICANN’s action was expressed in this article from The Christian Post, where ICANN CEO Rod Beckstrom said, “No one can predict where this historic decision will take us.”

Well, that’s good to know – we’d venture to predict that a lot of big brands will feel that they’ve been taken to the cleaners, while ICANN and registrars go to the bank.  Web businesses may be left out to dry while consumers try to chart their way to online destinations, and cyber-squatters try to grab their piece of the pie.

Of course, as the adult industry trade association in the U.S., FSC’s primary concern is the .XXX sTLD, scheduled to roll out in September. In this article by Dan Gillmor (one-time candidate for the ICANN Board) in The Guardian, he questions whether ICANN is actually necessary, and points out the inherent flaws of .XXX:

“Contrary to Icann’s rationalisations, .xxx is a terrible idea. Should it succeed, it will enrich its promoters. But it will also likely lead, should the domain actually be adopted widely, to widespread censorship and manipulation. Governments are keen to restrict access to what they consider to be pornography or block it altogether; look for laws requiring adult sites to use the .xxx domain, so they can be more easily fenced in – or out. India has already announced it will block .xxx entirely.

I hope this wretched move fails for practical reasons. Adult content providers possessing common sense will hesitate to move their operations into a censor-friendly zone of this kind. Indeed, the Free Speech Coalition, an adult entertainment trade group, is urging its members to boycott .xxx and stick with the tried and true .com suffix that most of them already use,” Gillmor added.

Mainstream businesses apparently missed the memo on .XXX, and now law and marketing firms are warning their customers to avoid having their brands contaminated with a .XXX para-site. This firm warns its Middle Eastern clients to avoid having their brands associated with the adult industry. This story suggest that brands NOT rush to pay for blocking during the Sunrise period of .XXX, and to wait until after the domain launches, when .XXX overseer ICM Registry will purportedly install a system to prevent cyber-squatting – but that certainly hasn’t prevented registrars from offering to block .XXX addresses at $300 a pop.

Here’s an interesting question: If you were a mega-brand like Disney – notorious for protecting thousands of its brands, from Mickey to the Little Mermaid – would you be willing to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in what amounts to “protection” money, to prevent your brands being squatted on? Or would you simply pay $185,000 to buy .Disney and send all your consumers there? When you look at it like that, seems like it would be more productive to build your brand, than to play into the hands of online carpetbaggers.

And make no mistake, in the blinding light of the Sunrise period, as mainstream companies are grappling with protecting their major brands – it seems only natural that they will blame the adult entertainment industry as a whole for the trouble with TLDs – not ICANN or ICM Registry. Maybe even to the point where they support conservative legislators that will propose governmental mandates on .XXX sites? If that were to happen, there will be few safe harbors in the light of that new day.

And in more .XXX news:

ICM last week announced the members of its IFFOR Policy Board, which will oversee operations and set policy for .XXX domains. The new members include Former American Civil Liberties Union President Nadine Strossen, child-protection authority Sharon Girling, law professor Fred Cate and attorney Robert Corn-Revere. In addition, mainstream businessmen Clyde Beattie and Sébastien Bachollet have been named to the organization’s board of directors – a very impressive-sounding list that does not include any members of the adult online industry – but will be setting policy for .XXX adult webmasters.

This week, ICM also announced an $8M deal with online security provider McAfee, so that every .XXX website will be scanned daily for malware and phishing programs. While this may reassure the nervous consumer that hesitates to go to adult sites, fearing a flurry of pop-ups and possible viruses – it also implies that .com adult webmasters are shady or uncaring about their customers. In fact, in 2009, security provider Symantec released a list of “dirtiest websites” and 52% had nothing to do with adult content. Perhaps ICANN can arrange for the entire Internet to be scanned on a daily basis, and then get rid of those pesky pirates who have NO problem going to P2P and tubesites for their adult entertainment.

In any case, responsible adult webmasters that have invested in building their .com brands are not going to destroy their reputations by exposing their customers to malicious Internet gremlins. That’s why they have survived, while low-quality, less reputable adult sites have been swallowed up in the Great Recession.

And if you are a responsible adult webmaster – do you need daily monitoring? Do you want to be obligated to follow policies set down for you by a governing body? Would you willingly link your successful .com business to a .XXX address that must comply to monitoring and oversight – a .XXX address that is likely to be blocked or becomes the default for curious kids trying to find adult material?

As this article from The Register explains, $60 of the $70-$135 fee for a .XXX address will go to “ICM and its policy body.” Funny thing – The Register’s editorial policy seems to be to use the euphemism “pron” when referring to “porn” in a headline; this is a common tactic to prevent filters from blocking access to the story link. Guess you won’t be seeing TheRegister.xxx anytime soon.

FSC leads the opposition to .XXX and urges all adult online businesses to stay .COM – say “NO” to .XXX. – jc

(Graphic courtesy of the Library of Congress)


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