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Adult Websites Will Soon Get Their Own .XXX Brothels, But Not All Are Excited

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This is a guest post from Andrew Allemann, author of Domain Name Wire, a blog covering the business and policy of domain names. He has been active in the domain name industry as a buyer, seller, and consultant for over ten years.

A new .xxx top level domain name is coming soon, and a lot of people aren’t happy about it.

On Friday, the Board of Directors of Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) approved entering into a contract with ICM Registry to operate a .xxx top level domain name (TLD). The first domain names bearing the new TLD are expected to hit the web later this year and will sell around $75-$100 each.

Getting .xxx on the web hasn’t been an easy task for ICM Registry. It originally applied for the domain in 2004 and it was essentially approved by ICANN’s board. But then conservative groups such as Family Research Council and Focus on the Family started lobbying governments to halt the new web extension. ICANN ended up canning the idea, leading to an independent review against the non-profit coordinator of internet naming systems.

This opened .xxx back up to discussion in February 2010. Ironically, a group of adult web site owners that are part of adult entertainment trade group Free Speech Coalition joined conservatives in opposition to the new domain.

They worried that governments would try to restrict adult web sites to .xxx and then censor the domain. They also are upset about paying to defensively register their “brand names” in .xxx. Free Speech Coalition organized a protest with placards reading “No to .XXX” outside the ICANN meeting in San Francisco this past week. They only mustered up a couple dozen people and a homeless guy who had been bumming cigarettes off meeting attendees all week.

While conservatives and some adult web site owners fear .xxx, this sort of domain name backlash will only escalate in the coming year.

In June, ICANN is expected to approve guidelines that will allow just about anyone to get their own new top level domain name if they can afford the six-figure price tag that comes with it. This could result in literally thousands of new top level domains within a few years, from .Shop to .London to .Google.

Some of these will be controversial. .Gay and .sex will certainly be opposed by conservative groups. Governments want to protect all matter of geographic terms. And trademark owners worry about cybersquatting and the cost of registering their trademarks across more TLDs.

It’s governments, with instructions from their intellectual property lobbyists, that have pushed back the most on new TLDs. While ICANN has to listen to advice from its Governmental Advisory Committee, it doesn’t have to follow it. In fact, it disagreed with its advice on .xxx.

But steamrolling governments might present long-term challenges to ICANN and the future of the domain name system. The U.S. government still controls key aspects of the internet and an important contract it can hold over the head of ICANN.

Later this year, the crucial contract to run Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) comes up for renewal. More worrying would be if some governments get fed up and create an alternative to the existing domain name system.

In the meantime, you might want to go pre-reserve your own .xxx domain name.

According to the ticker on ICM Registry’s website, over 280,000 domain names have already been pre-reserved.