ICANN announced recently that it has begun negotiations with an applicant for another ‘sponsored’ (non-open) top level domain, .XXX.
There has been a fair amount of coverage, for and against.
My initial reaction is (with the proviso that the public information to assess these things is always insufficient): .XXX seems plausible for what it is but it isn’t what many probably think it is.
First, the basics. The applicant is the ICM Registy of Jupiter, Florida. The sponsoring organization is The International Foundation for Online Responsibility. The back-end provider appears to be Afilias (the .info registry, which itself is a consortium of many registrars). ICM estimates that it will register 500,000 such names so the usual suspects stand to make some money.
The application is here. It states as its purpose:
The .xxx TLD is intended primarily to serve the needs of the global online adult-entertainment community. The online adult-entertainment community is defined as those individuals, businesses, and entities that provide sexually-oriented information, services, or products intended for consenting adults or for the community itself. The terms “adult-entertainment” and “sexually-oriented” are intended to be understood broadly for a global medium, and are not to be construed as legal or regulatory categories. Rather, the referenced Community consists generally of websites that convey sexually-oriented information and for which a system of self-identification would be beneficial.
The application goes on to indicate that benefits include:
“potential defenses in domain-related litigation, enhanced acceptance by search-engines and therefore increased functionality, better opportunities to negotiate with credit card and transaction providers, and new marketing opportunities.”
And that’s the key to understanding this. This TLD is intended to be a trade association and is not a form of regulation.
.XXX (and I, for purposes of this conversation) sidestep the hottest hot button issue with porn which is whether it is immoral.
But .XXX also sidesteps other hot button issues. Consider the various ‘harms’ associated with ‘adult content’:
1. Exposure of porn to minors;
2. Involuntary exposure to adults, through misleadingly labeled sites, ‘dropped’ domain names, spam, ‘cloaked’ search engines results, etc.;
3. Workplace exposure;
4. Harm to consumers (i.e. credit card theft);
5. Harm to sex industry workers.
It seems that the idea of a voluntary .XXX TLD will have little or no effect on issues 1 to 3 and seems only targeted at 4 and 5.
It’s true that filtering will be made easier if an ISP can block anything containing an .XXX but of course if someone’s business (or scam) is based on deception of some form, they aren’t going to migrate to .XXX (cf. FTC bulletin “Requiring ADV Labeling for Commercial E-Mail Wont Reduce Spam “ If adolescents (or employees) behind a .XXX filter want to access porn, then it won’t matter that 50% or 95% of the porn in the world has been blocked.
To its credit, ICM Registry doesn’t really push filtering as a selling point for .XXX (at least not in its application). IFFOR does make statements that it wishes to combat child pornography. I don’t think the TLD itself will do that, maybe giving money to IFFOR will.
THe TLD actually targets harms to consumers and to industry workers (which of course serves a public interest). The registry seeks to become something of a better business bureau for the online sex industry, as it promises to ‘incorporate a best business practices provision into the registrants domain name registration agreement and will develop compliance mechanisms to address non-adherence.’ So perhaps there would be some harm reduction on that score.
As to whether ICANN should be doing content-oriented TLDs like this at all, there is much discussion on, for example, ICANNWatch.
As to whether Congress may be seek to push all adult content into this TLD, maybe.
As to how not to do a voluntary inclusion zone, see .KIDS.US.
As to how it affects you? Probably not that much.