opinion

My Views on .XXX

Stephen Yagielowicz
I sent in my letter to ICANN today, expressing my views on the proposed .xxx TLD. Here’s what I had to say:

I’m writing this today to express my own personal opinion of the .xxx TLD initiative, as both an adult website owner and producer of adult content.

First off, the short course is that I’m opposed to the basic premise of .xxx. I would rather see a much more inclusive “.adult” that also contains alcohol, tobacco and other sites that may feature material that is potentially harmful to minors.

If the goal truly is to “protect the children” then you need to look beyond porn and protect the children from viewing all materials not suitable for their age group. A special domain for ‘porn sites only’ does not achieve this goal.

Having said that, .adult or anything similar is not on the table, dot xxx is.

On the plus side, I’m tempted to support the initiative because anything that weakens our enemies’ arguments weakens them and strengthens us. The big arguments against porn involve children; their involvement in, and access to, porn. While .xxx will do nothing to keep children out of porn, it could help keep them away from porn, by improving the efficacy of filtering and other parental control systems.

While a dot-xxx TLD will not in of itself allow a higher degree of filtration efficacy than will, say, a properly-formatted RTA or ICRA tag, the one advantage it does have in this regard is that a .xxx extension will be readily blocked based simply on its extension, whereas proper labeling requires honest, affirmative action on the part of the webmaster and this human factor renders less than ideal results.

Without network-level blockage of .xxx, such as through a corporate Intranet or at the DNS level, both measures (labeling and .xxx) rely on parents (or administrators) to properly equip and configure their computers with filtering software to prevent the unauthorized access of porn sites, adding a factor beyond the webmaster’s control into the equation of how best to block children’s access to this material – but no different a factor than encountered by those currently using RTA or ICRA labels today.

So even if .xxx was a reality, its value as a tool for protecting the children remains to be seen, and is tied to the nature of participation in the TLD; meaning that voluntary usage by a minority of operators simply won’t cut it – for it to be effective, its use needs to be legally mandated – and enforced.

If everyone keeps their dot-com names, then .xxx is only a redundant TLD and that solves nothing; so it’s not only about having .xxx, it’s about legally requiring its usage and implementing the technical means by which its usage is enforced. Sure, a voluntary migration would send a strong signal that the online adult industry has matured and is willing “to do the right thing” as far as going the extra mile to keep the kids away, but as long as some kid in the Ukraine can get his non-.xxx adult site through to the domestic (U.S.) market, the legitimate players will be at a serious disadvantage and widespread industry support will not be found.

To paraphrase an NRA bumper sticker, “When porn is outlawed on .com’s, only outlaws will have porn on .com’s” – and for evidence, one only needs to look at the rise in spam since the passing of the CAN-SPAM act.

Anything which hinders legitimate players will create a vacuum into which criminals will fill the void, and without addressing these realities ahead of time, the passing of .xxx on this account alone is premature and unwise.

With this in mind, however, the segregation of adult content from the ‘mainstream’ Internet into a virtual red-light district will eliminate most of the valid concerns of our industry’s enemies, leaving only their personal objections on religious or moral grounds – objections that do not warrant legislation in a society based upon the separation of church and state. A “legitimization” of porn resulting from .xxx is what they fear; and is why religious and family groups, as well as the United Nations, the Bush administration, and most of the world’s countries, all seem to oppose .xxx.

For some operators, however, the mere fact that the enemies of adult entertainment are vehemently opposed to .xxx is a good enough reason to support it. For these operators, anything that lends legitimacy to our industry is a step towards ensuring that we’ll still be lawfully operating in cyberspace well into the future, and for me, this is a tantalizing prospect that needs to be pursued, but with a better plan than the current .xxx proposal.

Most people in the industry seem to oppose .xxx however, and for a variety of reasons including the fear that their sites will be blocked, traffic sources shut off and a whole host of other doomsday scenarios including the loss of potentially hundreds of millions of dollars in lost revenue and now worthless .com domain names.

While I don’t subscribe to the common “the sky is falling” arguments about how .xxx is the first step in the ‘ghettoization’ of porn with an inevitable path towards the elimination of adult content from the Internet, the basic fact is that the TLD itself will not solve the problem of unauthorized access to adult materials.

Given this, why even bother with .xxx in the first place?

Another common complaint is the cost; with reports of .xxx domain names running $75 per year to register. Many people point to this as their reason for objecting to .xxx, but my perspective is a bit more pragmatic: I’ve been at this long enough to remember when .com names cost $70 to register and as such, I don’t see a five dollar increase in the price of domain names over a 14 year period as a bad rate of inflation.

But it’s not the per-name cost that really bothers me; it’s the needless expense of having to register domain names that I won’t use, but will have to have – meaning, if .xxx is passed, I’ll have to register the .xxx versions of my adult .com names in order to prevent someone else from using them. For me, at this point, this only means five or six names, which is around $375 per year. That’s a lot of money for a small, part-time operator, but for a dollar a day, it’s a cheap price to pay for a fence that will keep other people from playing in my sandbox. Still, that’s one of my big problems with the proposal and price: it’s almost blackmail, as I’m being “forced” to buy into .xxx simply by means of its existence – as will literally thousands of other operators be forced to spend good money on a bad system that doesn’t meet its goals, simply to protect their own interests.

In conclusion, and based upon the factors outlined above, I cannot support .xxx at this time and urge caution in any plans to move the initiative forward.

###

Everyone following this issue has their own opinions about .xxx. These are mine; I’m sure you have yours. In the end, if you are passionate about your opposition to the TLD and feel that it’s only a money-making operation powered by greed, then the best thing you can do to “strike back” is to not purchase any .xxx names. Me, I’ll take a more practical approach and register those names I wish to protect and reserve for my own use (and in fact, have already ‘pre-registered’ those names). How will YOU respond?

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