DotXXX Is Irrelevant to the Future of the Internet
The top-level domain .XXX is still a “maybe” and is certainly irrelevant to the growth of the Internet.
After a lengthy saga of six years, starting with the proposal for this new TLD being rejected and followed by an expensive independent review, the ICANN board gave the nod of approval last week during its meeting in Brussels. However, ICANN merely agreed to “allow the application for the controversial .XXX top-level domain (TLD) to move forward.” The TLD is not yet approved.
ICANN’s board decision has been passed on to its GAC (Governmental Advisory Committee) for consideration at their next meeting in Cartagena, Colombia, in December 2010.
The decision appears to be one that has been forced on the ICANN board rather than one freely given (CEO Rod Beckstrom abstained). Speaking at the press conference afterwards, ICANN chairman Peter Dengate Thrush said: “The board reached a carefully considered decision, paying close attention to the findings of the Independent Review Panel [IRP], and to the extensive public comment on our proposed action."
Not exactly an enthusiastic response compared to what Rod Beckstrom said about the approval of a set of Chinese language internationalized domain names, which he called a “significant change.”
So what is GAC’s involvement in all of this? Just giving a brief background, the fight for .XXX started at least six years ago, with the original application to ICANN by the ICM Registry. After rejection in 2005 due to external pressure from the Bush administration, the IRP criticized ICANN’s decision and the organization’s rules.
ICANN turned to GAC for advice. That raised a number of public policy questions that ICANN is now obliged to report back on.
As far as ICM Registry is concerned, as long as they can now pass ICANN’s “due diligence” criteria, full approval should be just a formality at Cartagena. However, this also demonstrates GAC’s muscle as really the core decision-maker around ICANN, and GAC may still throw up a couple of roadblocks.
Was this a popular decision? Well, maybe it was, if a CNN poll (among others highlighted on ICM’s Website) showing a large majority in favor of .XXX is to be believed. On the other side, though, there is certainly still a large “against” contingency, producing some not-quite-so-obvious “brothers-in-arms.”
From Australia to the US, the porn industry and religious groups are rallying together in a joint lobby against the introduction of a dedicated .XXX suffix.
There is more to this than arguments about “further legitimizing the pornography industry,” or about the potential for increased regulation of the online sex industry feared by big names in the States.
It should be remembered .XXX is not exclusively reserved for porn. Nor will porn suddenly become exclusive to .XXX; established porn sites will still be found all over the Net.
Well known brands of adult sites do not necessarily see themselves as porn, and do not want to be associated with what is generally going to be known as the “place for porn.” Branded sites may well have to purchase the relevant .XXX site, but not necessarily use it, with redirects one way or the other.
So why is all this irrelevant?
Firstly, from a commercial angle, the online porn industry does not want to be ghettoized and leave itself open to wholesale blocking, as will likely be the case for .XXX. Although ICM Registry’s PR stresses an estimated $30 million per annum from .XXX, this is really doubtful.
Take for example .travel, which has been operational since 2005. This only has an estimated 1 to 2,000 purchasers, a long distance from the original estimate of 2 million. As for other examples: Can the proposed .africa or .quebec TLDs compete against established .com sites already far advanced in SEO status?
However, the bigger issue is technological, as any Internet user can see. For example, how many users now type in http://......... or “www...” on their Web browsers? Many users simply type in, say, “Internet Evolution,” and the browser and/or the search engine does the rest from the user's browser history or favorites. This will undoubtedly become even more sophisticated and essentially negates whether it’s a .com, .org, .travel, or .XXX anyway.
The only winners in this expanded TLD scenario generally, and especially with .XXX, will be the cyber-criminals. This will provide a further opportunity to engineer illicit redirects, cloned Websites, and cybersquatting of established porn sites.