opinion

A .XXX Reversal?

Stephen Yagielowicz

In a move that made headlines this year, ICM Registry slashed the wholesale cost of .XXX domain names for a limited time, because of a legal settlement with adult entertainment powerhouse Manwin, fueling an upsurge in adoption of the controversial top-level domain. While the discounted price was a primary motivator for many new customers, a growing perception that following the Manwin decision the use of .XXX may now be “OK” from a rank and file viewpoint, also helped sales — as did a renewed offer of industry support funded by a percentage of domain name sales revenues.

According to ICM Registry CEO Stuart Lawley, most of the 12,000+ discounted .XXX domain names recently registered were for a two-year period. This may reflect a wait-and-see attitude on the part of adult operators, but one that is still willing to give the upstart TLD a chance. Recent company reports put the number of registered names in the neighborhood of 206,000; with an estimated 85,000 defensive registrations performed for brand protection, and more than 120,000 active, recurring domain names.

As for the current interest in .XXX, Lawley cites a decent volume of sales at the recent XBIZ Summit in Miami, where some high-profile premium names sold for substantial prices.

As for the TLD’s future, ICM Registry is moving forward with its plans to acquire related extensions such as .adult, .porn and .sex, which in addition to their own value, will be grandfathered to holders of .xxx domains for no additional cost. This will provide an excellent brand-building opportunity, with a high level of protection from cyber squatters seeking to hold one or another extension hostage to the legitimate rights holders.

You have probably heard all of this before, however, but it is not the end of the story.

Last week I had the opportunity to go to dinner with two of my oldest friends in the adult industry — folks that are on the leading edge of all things web/tech related — and the subject of .XXX came up.

In a previous discussion prior to the launch of .XXX’s “Sunrise” period, one of these folks mentioned that it would be cost-prohibitive to obtain the .xxx version of his ten thousand .com domains (or some such stratospheric amount), and that this, coupled with the anti-xxx sentiments expressed by the adult industry, kept him from jumping in.

I explained then that while he had these countless sites, they are all feeders to two flagship domains and that the $260 or so “Sunrise A” registration fee was a small price to pay to protect each of these two major websites and could in fact provide new branding and traffic opportunities. Besides, his site’s name was simply badass when followed by “.xxx.” Likewise, their other premium site would benefit from the protection and branding benefits that this controversial domain extension would provide.

It is not a matter of me being in the tank for ICM, but of seeing beyond the irrational hatred fueled by shills directed by entities upset that their demands for free and discounted domains were not being met by ICM. For those who are interested, a casual reading of the relevant court documents will tell you who your friends really are — along with what was really behind the notion that “adult is against .XXX.”

That is all water under the bridge however; and today is a new day. A new adult industry is emerging and accompanied by a more mature, business like attitude, where being nimble may involve acquiring a couple of new domains, regardless of their extension.

For those who still do not see a need to buy any .xxx names to match their existing .com names, my other dinner companion provided a great reason; but still had not yet come to a place where going that route was “acceptable.”

This operator runs a porn site that is not a porn site and as such garners tremendous exposure and traffic from mainstream sources — including major mainstream advertising partners that would pull the plug at the mere mention of porn on the site’s home page. This had not been a problem, however, until the good folks at Google decided to increase their AdWords rate because the key phrases my friend was buying did not appear on the site’s home page, causing a promotional dilemma: add the required words to the site to please the search giant, but do so at the cost of mainstream support.

While their programming team is working on a redirect strategy that will serve a different landing page to Google — something the search giant hates and which could negatively affect organic search — your humble correspondent offered a simpler approach: grab the .xxx version for a porn flavored page. This would not only save money on their AdWords campaigns, but also allow them to obtain Search.xxx and other traffic sources as well — without tarnishing the great mainstream acceptability of their brand.

It is a tactic with multiple benefits and little downside, which may cause a bit of a reversal in a camp that has long been opposed to the adults only TLD — or maybe not.

Regardless of how these operators choose to approach the future of .XXX, one thing is clear and that is that the playing field and relevant factors are shifting, and there is more than one reason to go .XXX — the choice is up to you if there is a place in your operation for this alternative.

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