.xxx could have marked the spot

By on

At first, the idea to sell a new .xxx domain name suffix to online porn vendors seems rational. Any site using the new suffix would be instantly recognisable by web filters and blocked, if required. Good news for parents, businesses and schools – and an industry seeking to position itself as an acceptable, even necessary, part of Western civilisation.

The move was initiated by the little-known ICM Registry, which hoped to sell the new domain suffix at $60 per year for each site registered.

Given the sheer number of porn sites, and the value of the porn industry, ICM stood to make quite a tidy sum from porn merchants looking to “act responsibly”.

ICM is led by a British-born multi-millionaire. Stuart Lawley made his pile in the internet boom of the 90s and is highly skilled at spotting a money-making opportunity.

With an eye on placating the moral guardians, and not seeming wholly mercenary, part of ICM’s proposal was to contribute $10 of every $60 to child protection groups and insist that every .xxx owner list their content.

This all sounds highly noble, and a fine example of the market freely regulating online content. But critics argued that the porn industry would merely take advantage of the legitimising effect of a .xxx domain – buy a few and look responsible, but leave much of existing content under the .com banner. After all, there is no law compelling porn sites to move to .xxx.

Add in total opposition from a deeply conservative White House, which sees all porn as evil as well as powerful Christian groups, and the domain regulating body, ICANN, could not resist.

In the end, citing “public-policy” concerns and lack of support from the adult entertainment industry itself, ICANN blocked the move. Many porn merchants thought the .com suffix is far more powerful commercially and that change would confuse their existing customers.

Between the opportunism of ICM, the politicking of the US Christian right and the prevarication of ICANN, we may have lost an opportunity. This is a cause for regret.

The idea of some kind of rating system for online porn is a good one. Many adults consume pornography. It’s a fact of life. Governments should accept this, live with it and work out viable ways to block access to minors and to inappropriate environments.

It’s time for an adults-only domain that is internationally sanctioned, legally enforced – and which doesn’t necessarily mean making even more millions for entrepreneurs.

Copyright © SC Magazine, US edition
Tags:

Most Read Articles

Log In

Username:
Password:
|  Forgot your password?