opinion

.XXX, One Year Later

Amidst ongoing legal challenges and an orchestrated campaign to squelch legitimate discourse on the topic — including examples of an irrational hatred punctuated by countless excretory images posted to discussion threads on industry forums — the .XXX initiative is rapidly approaching the first anniversary of its rollout, and despite the fears of opponents, little has changed for the industry at large.

From unfounded fears of cybersquatting and trademark infringement, to claims of governmental control and cultural ghettoization, to calls for content censorship and outrage over the costs involved in purchasing the premium priced names, many critics have heralded “the sky is falling” in regards to .XXX.

Much of the panic and irrational fears that accompanied our launch in various quarters have been shown to be not valid ... —ICM Registry’s Stuart Lawley

While there may have been legitimate concerns and objections to .XXX, now a year after its launch, it is important to ask, “What has really happened as a result of .XXX?”

Among other things, new sites have come to market, new companies have formed to capitalize on new opportunities in the adult space and a level of accountability and oversight added to an industry that has long shunned supervision of any sort — while the majority of trademark disputes have been swiftly resolved in favor of the legitimate rights holders.

Although companies such as Manwin (perhaps the most monolithic of adult entities) ironically argue that .XXX represents a monopoly, while the company continues to extend its dominance of the industry, and industry trade association Free Speech Coalition opposes ICM’s plans to add .adult, .porn and .sex to its portfolio under similar monopolistic concerns, many firms are adopting the controversial extension.

According to .XXX parent ICM Registry’s CEO, Stuart Lawley, the new top-level domain (TLD) has comfortably exceeded the company’s sales expectations — based on the figures it communicated back in 2003 and 2004 in its original application to ICANN.

“We had forecast around 25,000-40,000 registrations by now and a total of 125,000 after five years and we currently have more than 225,000 names under management,” Lawley told XBIZ. “With that said, it would be disingenuous to not say that the economic hardships faced by the industry and the actions of certain parties have affected numbers.”

While it is still early in the renewal cycle, with most .XXX names not coming up for renewal until December, ICM is seeing preliminary indications that renewal rates will be high — a key indicator of the potential longevity of the TLD’s commercial viability.

“Around nine percent of original registrations were for multiple years,” Lawley notes. “And with 60 days to go to the launch anniversary, most registrars are reporting that renewal numbers are exactly in line, or in many cases, ahead of those enjoyed by other registries.”

Adding further incentive for .XXX name holders to develop live websites on the TLD (and then renew those names for additional years), is ICM’s recent launch of the Search.xxx directory — a resource that is already changing the playing field, by driving traffic and sales to eligible sites, boosting the value of .XXX.

Lawley explains that Search.xxx is the company’s first major initiative to add extra value to the TLD, demonstrating ICM’s commitment to its customers.

“[Search.xxx] has wildly exceeded our expectations with millions of page views, fantastic time on site and super low bounce rates,” Lawley told XBIZ, adding that .XXX registrants with active websites are delighted with the free traffic that the company is sending them.

Search options include “all,” along with Premium, Video / Tube, Images, Cams and Stores / DVDs — as well as a niche-specific Quick Search function that lists nearly 50 genres of adult content — allowing Search.xxx visitors to find the exact material they are searching for. Other options include straight / gay selectors, as well as results delivered in 20 language choices.

Further refinements to this search engine will provide even more traffic and revenue opportunities to .XXX websites — in a move that the company hopes will encourage more registrants to activate and develop their domain names.

ICM also released around 1,000 premium generic keywords, which Lawley expects to be very popular now that Search.xxx has launched and webmasters can evaluate the traffic they will be receiving from their targeted keyword domains.

“[For example,] Luxembourg based IRIS SaRL recently invested almost $650,000 in premium generic .XXX names and have been busy entering into content deals,” Lawley explained. “This is new blood into the adult ecosystem and, in our opinion, should be welcomed.”

According to Lawley, there are many .XXX success stories, and the registry plans to release several case studies detailing examples of how registrants have maximized the performance of their sites and how the TLD has brought a range of new entrants into the adult market.

Search.xxx and new names are not the only initiatives that ICM has planned to boost .XXX, however, as the company is moving ahead with its plans to bring new billing choices to the online adult market.

“We expect to launch our cross platform micro payment system in the middle of 2013 and expect that to be a game changer by allowing the hundreds of thousands of visitors to Search.xxx and other .XXX sites to easily buy content — safely, reliably, anonymously and securely — for as little as 99 cents.”

Any stable entrant into the adult billing arena would be a plus and may serve to solidify .XXX as a viable outlet for adult content marketers seeking new opportunities and a competitive advantage over entrenched entities that may control the lion’s share of existing marketing channels.

“Overall, the first 12 months has been satisfactory and in many quarters we exceeded our expectations,” Lawley told XBIZ. “Much of the panic and irrational fears that accompanied our launch in various quarters have been shown to be not valid, and our acceptance in the industry has undoubtedly grown during the year.”

While the overall anemic state of the adult industry and the controversy surrounding the new TLD may be hampering its growth, Lawley remains optimistic about the future of .XXX.

“As a company our viewpoint has always been very long term and we will continue to be that way,” Lawley concluded. “Our registrants can rely on us to stay the course and deliver on the things we say.”

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