In 1998, ICANN issued the first domain names and IP addresses. There were not many top level domains (TLDs) to choose from. Each country had its own domain suffix, but the choice was limited to .com, .org, .net, .edu, .mil and .gov. Over the years, a few more options have been introduced such as .me, .mobi, .tv and .biz, but the suffix that has caused the most controversy is .xxx – a TLD intended for websites containing images of a sexual nature.
The .xxx TLD was seen as a method of introducing a red light district to the Internet, cleaning it up aside from a dirty corner that could be policed and easily blocked. Some purveyors of pornography allegedly welcomed the move, while others were opposed to it.
There were protests, but the new TLD was released in December 2011, and ICM Registry – a Fort Lauderdale for-profit business – was assigned responsibility for allocating the TLDs. Incidentally, the contract for this was quite lucrative. ICM Registry expected to make in the region of $200 million per year out of the deal.
Sometimes a good idea on paper doesn’t always work out so well in practice. For instance, some companies had spent a long time building up a brand name. They operated their domain on the .com domain, had bought up the .net, .mobi, .org versions and all other TLDs to protect their brand. They did not like the idea of having to do that again with the XXX version, and neither would they be willing to move their main site over to the .xxx TLD.
Few were in favor of the new XXX TLD
Pornographers were not the only objectors to the introduction of the .xxx TLD. The Bush Administration was opposed to the release. In fact ICANN was asked to withdraw support for the proposal. Criticism of the proposal mounted and ICANN came under a considerable amount of pressure. The American Department of Commerce, that has power over ICANN, received over 6,000 complaints about the introduction of the .xxx TLD. Even politicians who had originally backed the idea in the year 2000 changed their mind a decade later. Naturally, conservative groups also applied pressure to block the proposal. It was not enough. The TLD was released – with a delay of a month – and a swathe of new porn websites were subsequently launched.
Unsurprisingly, there has not been a reduction in the number of .com porn websites on the Internet. The new domain has seen even more created. Go figure!
ICANN was subsequently sued on the grounds that it had created a monopoly and that the introduction of the TLD forced businesses to spend even more money registering domain names to protect their brands from being piggybacked. After a couple of years, the lawsuit was dropped.
Controls put in place to protect trademarks
ICM regulators created the new TLD in order to clean up the Internet apparently. The .xxx TLD was seen as a way to make it easier for people wanting to view pornography to find it (it wasn’t exactly difficult, it must be said – type “porn” into a search engine for example) and as a way of promoting a responsible attitude toward it. It would, in theory at least, eventually lead to a dedicated area where pornographic websites could be housed.
However, trademark and patent protection advocate Inventa pointed out that opposition to the new .xxx TLD was virtually universal. No one wanted it apart from ICANN (and ICM Registry).
As for the fears that domain-sitters and entrepreneurs would take advantage, there were controls to prevent this. Eligibility criteria needed to be met. A company owning the trademarked .com version of a website could purchase the corresponding .xxx TLD to use as an adult domain or to prevent others from using it. Amazon.xxx, for example, could only be bought by Amazon.com. The ICM Registry reserved it for them. If there was no trademark, the domain name could be bought by anyone.
Was it worth all the effort?
ICM Registry would be inclined to agree, but as for making the Internet a safer place for children, cleaning up some porn, and having a dedicated online red light district, that clearly hasn’t worked. The biggest names in Internet porn still use their dotcom websites and have not made the switch to XXX domains. People interested in viewing pornography do not need an .xxx TLD to be able to find it, and don’t care what the name of the website is let alone the TLD, provided it gives them what they are looking for.
It is no easier to block pornographic websites than it was before the release. Simply blocking access to XXX suffixed websites will make no discernable difference to the amount of porn that is viewable online.
Until laws are passed to force porn websites to use the XXX domain – which would be incredibly difficult to implement – the move has not been particularly effective.
The only way to block effectively access block pornography from being displayed is to use a web filter such as SpamTitan Technologies. By using real-time classification, URL filtering, blocklists, keyword filters and other tools, SpamTitan Technologies web filtering solutions prevent the websites from being viewable. Something very important for schools, universities, colleges, charities, and corporations.
Any organization believing written policies on allowable uses of the Internet are sufficient to stop inappropriate use, should bear in mind that surveys have revealed that 20% of men and 13% of women have admitted to downloading pornographic content while at work. A recent pool of 500 Human Resources professionals indicated two thirds had discovered pornographic content on work computers, and the majority of porn is viewed during office hours (between 9am and 5pm).
If you want to stop employees accessing pornography in the workplace, the only effective way of doing so is with a robust web filtering solution.