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As .XXX Goes Live, ICANN Ushers in Virtual Red-Light District

Posted by Sheila Shayon on December 7, 2011 11:02 AM

The Internet got a lot smuttier yesterday as 100,000 plus websites in the newly approved ICANN .XXX top-level domain went live.

Proponents, along with the ICM Registry which owns and regulates the .XXX top-level domain, argue the move makes it easier to avoid adult content as the X’s are clear signals about the content.

Critics, however, claim the lack of requirement for providers of adult content to use the .XXX TLD will encourage sexually explicit material to flourish anew in other domains, making it more difficult to restrict, and might even lead to legislation mandating the new triple X domains for ‘sexually explicit’ content, leading to further litigation about free speech and jurisdiction.

Luxembourg-based Manwin, which manages Playboy.com, YouPorn, xTube, and other sites, recently filed suit against ICANN arguing that .XXX creates a virtual monopoly and adds unnecessary costs to doing business in that space.

“We oppose the .XXX domain and all it stands for. It is my opinion that .XXX domain is an anticompetitive business practice that works a disservice to all companies that do business on the Internet,” said Fabian Thylmann, managing partner, Manwin.

Digital Playground, another purveyor of Internet porn, says the decision to create .XXX is flawed, ICM Registry has abused its position, and they’re also suing ICANN for being "anti-competitive" and "monopolistic."

The age-old argument applied to legalizing drugs or prostitution is heightened as conservative sectors argue the new domain is an endorsement.

"We are not in favor of the establishment of that domain," Patrick Vaughn, general counsel for the American Family Association told Mashable. "It just creates more real estate for the pornography industry, and it doesn't exclude the sites that already exist. It might have been helpful if they set up .xxx, and that was the only place to find pornography. As this is, it just gives [pornographers] more to work with."

The .XXX domains are available on a first-come, first-serve basis, with pricing set by individual registrars; GoDaddy, is charging $99.99 for the first year, while Network Solutions is charging a $129.99 registration fee. .XXX domains will include daily McAfee malware scanning and sport MetaCert electronic Family Safety labels so those wishing to block adult-themed sites in their browsers can do so.

"It has been 10 years in the coming and today the floodgates are open," said ICM Registry CEO Stuart Lawley. "We would hope that the number of domains sold will more than double very quickly…There are economies of scale here, bear in mind that .com sells 100 million names a year…There are some incumbents who would like to keep the status quo but how can a top-level domain name be anti-competitive?"

“Regardless of your views on adult content, it’s here to stay, so let’s be adult about it,” reads the ICM Registry website.

Responsible alternative for pornography or an apocalyptical, digital sea-change, the Internet officially, just went red.

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