XXX Domains Are Coming – Be Afraid, Be Very Afraid?

As Slaw readers will likely know, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) has recently approved a change to the internet’s domain name system that will mean, in the words of the ICANN press release [PDF]:

Internet address names will be able to end with almost any word in any language, offering organizations around the world the opportunity to market their brand, products, community or cause in new and innovative ways.

This is not going to be an easy process, as regards either acquiring a new generic top level domain or coping with the extreme proliferation that’s anticipated. An applicant for a new gTLD will wind up paying US$185,000 — which puts .slaw out of my reach, alas. But there will be many to whom this is peanuts and who see opportunity here not simply to acquire a firmer statement of their brand but also to get squatters rights on territory that brand owners were too slow off the mark to purchase initially.

And, too, there’s other way to get money out of this landrush. Among the new gTLDs already approved is .xxx. After years of batting the question around, ICANN finally decided that it would permit this domain to exist, understanding that it would be used principally if not exclusively to market pornography. Now comes the suggestion that cybersquatters or opportunists might choose to register domains that would embarrass businesses, once the .xxx registration process opens on September 7. The business affected, so it is thought, would then be prepared to pay the domain holder to release the offending name, which could then be suppressed.

Anticipating this form of scam, ICANN has established a process whereby, in the window between September 7 and October 28, a nervous business may for a fee of about US$300 apply to block their names from being suffixed by .xxx. After that period there’ll be a free for all period, when, one suspects, every word in the dictionary and then some will be registered to the left of triple x.

Speaking of xxx, it seems that it has its origin in a British “X certificate” used to designate a film as suitable for an audience over a certain age. In the United States, x was never a movie rating, but vendors of adult material adopted this description to interest their market. Of course, once a single x is in use, xx and xxx won’t be far away: mine’s bigger than yours. Which seems to be a good place to stop.

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Comments

  1. Those who would like .slaw should know that the $185 000 is just the application fee. There are several hundred pages of rules about how one has to conduct oneself as the registrar of one’s new domain, and it will be very costly to comply.

    Some of the fun will be in the ‘broad claims’ class, like .god or .[brand of religion] or .[brand of politics]. Who is pure enough, or right enough, to hold the domain? What of .[political/historical assertion] e.g. .armeniangenocide?

    Is the race to the swift, despite what the Bible says? Could ICANN realistically come up with a list of names that it will simply not issue? It probably won’t issue .[swearword], though one wonders if it will create a banned list that would apply to all languages.

  2. Australians and some others may fight over who gets to hold a XXXX for different reasons.