Who's Opposed To .XXX Domain Names? Not Exactly Whom You'd Think

Members of the adult entertainment industry and its trade groups gathered in San Francisco in March to oppose the creation of a separate Internet address for adult entertainment websites. i i

hide captionMembers of the adult entertainment industry and its trade groups gathered in San Francisco in March to oppose the creation of a separate Internet address for adult entertainment websites.

Anonymous/AP
Members of the adult entertainment industry and its trade groups gathered in San Francisco in March to oppose the creation of a separate Internet address for adult entertainment websites.

Members of the adult entertainment industry and its trade groups gathered in San Francisco in March to oppose the creation of a separate Internet address for adult entertainment websites.

Anonymous/AP

Education has .edu, .gov belongs to the government, and now, adult entertainment has .xxx.

Since last week, anyone can go online and buy a domain name ending in .xxx — but it's not all adult entertainment companies that are rushing to purchase the new addresses.

Colleges and other institutions have purchased .xxx domains pre-emptively to prevent others from doing so and associating their names with adult content. And many big names in the adult entertainment industry are opposed to the possibility of censorship by places that could block the entire .xxx domain.

Stuart Lawley, chief executive officer of ICM Registry, the company that owns .xxx, has been fighting for approval to add the adult domain to the Web for the past 10 years. He says the domain acknowledges adult entertainment exists: People can then identify the content, he says, and either select it or avoid it as they see fit.

So far, more than 100,000 new domains have been registered for .xxx addresses — and some of those are quite specific.

"We've had requests for like 62-character-long names, and I have to admit, [for] some of them I've had to go look them up in the Urban Dictionary to find out what they mean," Lawley says.

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers — ICANN — governs domain names. The first seven were introduced in the 1980s:

.com, .edu, .gov, .int, .mil, .net, .org

In the 2000s, more were added by ICANN:

.aero, .coop, .museum, .asia, .cat, .jobs, .mobi, .tel, .travel

In 2011, .xxx joined the list. In addition, many countries have their own domain name. ICANN is now considering allowing any group to register for their own.

Source: ICANN

These new websites are advertised as virus-free, and they'll be harder for kids to get to. Lawley says every .xxx site is automatically given a child protection label, and browsers can be set to automatically filter those sites out.

It sounds like a win-win for the adult entertainment industry and for people worried about child safety on the Web, but not all agree.

"We don't see it as a silver bullet," says Stephen Balkam, the CEO of the Family Online Safety Institute, which advocates keeping online adult entertainment away from kids. At most, Balkam says, the group sees .xxx as a modest filtering tool.

"It's not a quick and easy way to avoid porn, because there are many other sites, of course, that use the .com space that probably won't be using .xxx," Balkam says.

And that's the problem: Some of the largest online adult entertainment companies hate the new domain.

"We're not a believer of .xxx," says Michael Klein, president of Hustler. "We don't think it should be out there, nor have we registered any .xxx domains."

Klein argues that if the adult entertainment industry moved over to .xxx, adult sites would be too easy to censor, because all a country or a locality would have to do to block those sites would be to block .xxx.

And he says it's too expensive to bring all of Hustler's .com domains over to .xxx. The company owns thousands and thousands of domains, and at $60 to $80 each, it would be too much to spend every year on another set, he says.

Those views are shared by some of the biggest adult companies on the Internet. They say .xxx is too expensive and too restrictive, and they're staying away from it completely.

But so far there are thousands of .xxx domain names registered, so who's buying them? Some have been purchased by adult companies, but others are bought by institutions looking to protect their names.

Schools like Indiana University, Illinois State University and the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, just to name a few, all bought up combinations of their names back in September — so addresses like UNC.xxx are off the market.

Even NPR has bought up NPR.xxx. If you go there, you'll see a message telling you, "This domain has been reserved from registration." And in case you were wondering, there aren't plans to develop it anytime soon.

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