ICM Announces New XXX TLD

A new .xxx top level domain (TLD) is on its way, according to ICM Registry.

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) has approved the new TLD, and ICM says it’ll sell .xxx domains sometime in early 2011.

If all goes to plan, this could open up the door for a gold rush – or it could be a massive flop.

The .XXX Story So Far

The .xxx TLD is designed to help filter and promote adult content online. ICM has wanted to sell .xxx domains since 2005, but the proposal stalled.

Now, more than 180,000 .xxx domains have been pre-registered with ICM, and M&C Saatchi will be in charge of marketing.

Naturally, not all TLDs are the success stories they’re made out to be. Few people use .mobi or .eu, for example; .com is still king, and .xxx probably won’t change that.

The adult industry says that .xxx is more about money than filtering; prices have been set at around $60 per year. ICM is turning many of the most valuable .xxx domains into free-to-list directories in a bit to promote positive reactions, but it may not be enough to spark widespread use.

Who Needs .XXX?

There are three reasons to reserve or buy a .xxx domain.

  1. You have a trademark in the adult industry. Although ICANN has a dispute policy, it is cheaper and faster to just bag your trademark straight away.
  2. You want to start a new adult site.
  3. You want to protect your brand from being tainted by association with an adult-oriented website.

While .xxx sounds like a sensible way to moderate (or advertise) porn, past experience shows us that new TLDs don’t often make much of an impact.

Update – July 2015:

Was .XXX a Success?

Yes, and no. For ICANN, this new TDL brought in substantial profits. Over 250,000 .xxx domains have been sold, for over $50 million. These sites were purchased both by the adult industry looking to expand into the new domain space and by established brands looking to keep themselves out. Target, Nike, Pepsi, and even the University of Kansas all rushed to secure several .xxx domains in an effort to safeguard their brands from affiliation with the adult entertainment industry.

The Rise of Vanity TDLs

There is certainly value to be found in the new .xxx TDL. For customers looking for adult content, the .xxx provides a go-to location. For newcomers to the web or sites struggling to find an audience, .xxx offers a chance to be found amongst all the other adult sites out there. In late 2012, ICM launcheda .xxx search engine, providing an exclusive search location for all of the newly-registered adult domains.

In fact, the .xxx TDL has been so popular, ICANN is now moving to launch .adult and .porn.

Of course, this could also just be part of the new vanity TDL trend, which has been sweeping the internet (or at least domain registrars) in the past few years. Gone are the days of simply choosing between a .com, .net, or .org TDL. Domain registrars now offer hundreds of TDLs to choose from.

Everything from .plumber to .ninja are up for grabs. The idea is to make locating specific services easier than ever, though Google has stated having a vanity name will not give your site an SEO boost.

And Yet, Nothing Has Changed

The idea of corralling all of the adult sites into an easily-identifiable domain simply hasn’t worked. Yes, many adult sites have adopted the .xxx domain, but the vast majority of them still maintain their .com presence. The new .xxx domain has simply become another avenue for porn seekers to find their site.

While no one knows the exact number of pornographic websites in the world, some estimate that there are approximately 25 million. That’s 10 times the number of registered .xxx domains. So no, nothing has really changed.

So Why Haven’t Adult Sites Made the Switch?

.xxx sites are expensive. GoDaddy charges $99 a year; whereas .com sites typically go for $12-15.

Throwing yourself into the easily-identifiable arena also means making yourself easily-filterable. And while that’s good news for businesses and households with kids, it doesn’t offer much incentive to adult websites looking to maximize visitors (and profits).

Registering for a .xxx TDL requires considerably more effort that registering for a .com address. You have to first complete a membership application with the ICM Registry, in order to prove you are a sponsored member of the adult entertainment community. Not only is this a time-consuming process, but it also makes it all-but impossible for start-ups to go with a .xxx domain. And where would the Internet be without start-ups?

Do I Need a .XXX TDL?

No. You can continue to register adult-oriented websites with traditional TDLs. If you’re interested in adult hosting, there are plenty of providers available to get you set up.

Whether you register your site with .xxx or .com, there are always more restrictions in place for adult content than, say, your personal blog. Those vary by location, so make sure you’re aware of your local guidelines. If you live somewhere with particularly strict policies in place, you could also consider offshore hosting, though this is no guarantee you won’t still be in violation of local laws.

The bottom-line is, .xxx was a smart business move by ICANN, and one more avenue for adult sites to market themselves. It won’t change how people find adult websites, any more than .ninja will change how you search for…well, actually, I have no idea what you’d be searching for.

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