Dot-XXX Domain Won't Clean Up the Web

ICANN has approved XXX as a top-level domain. The adult entertainment industry will soon have its own glaringly obvious domain, but unfortunately that doesn't necessarily mean that dot-COM domains will suddenly be porn-free.

ICANN finally approved the XXX top-level domain, but don't expect it to reduce porn on other domains.
From a security (or parenting) perspective, it would be nice. While there are certainly legitimate Web sites offering adult entertainment sans malware, it doesn't take more than a click or two to enter the dark and shady side of the Web--where malware of all sorts lies in waiting to infiltrate and compromise unsuspecting seekers of porn.

It couldn't get much easier to block employee (or child) access to inappropriate adult material than simply banning all access to the XXX domain. As a matter of fact, once the XXX domain is up and running it seems fair to assume that IT administrators and parents (or consumer security vendors) will do just that. It's a no-brainer.

However, porn sites will be like dolphins. All dolphins are whales, but not all whales are dolphins. Dolphins are a subset of the larger whale family. Similarly, all XXX sites will be porn, but not all porn sites will be XXX. Many porn sites have a long and established presence as a dot-COM domain and will not simply abandon that.

As it is, many adult Web sites have multiple domains that redirect. Both Playboy and Penthouse own their respective dot-NET domains as well, but if you try to visit them you will be automatically redirected to the primary site at playboy.com or penthouse.com. Adult sites will simply purchase the XXX domain equivalent and redirect it accordingly.

What is more likely to happen than dot-COM getting cleaner, is that more respectable businesses will be forced to purchase the dot-XXX equivalent of their primary domain simply to ensure it isn't purchase by a purveyor of porn. For example, Disney certainly doesn't want customers to visit disney.xxx, but it also doesn't want disney.xxx to be purchased by a shady adult site. So, Disney will purchase the disney.xxx domain and redirect it to disney.com just as it has done with disney.net and disney.org and many other domains that are even remotely similar to the Disney name. Disney wants to ensure that you get to Disney.com no matter what you enter in your Web browser.

Of course, the same sort of brand and trademark protection works in reverse, too. Even if Playboy or Penthouse chose to convert their primary domain to XXX, each would still own the dot-COM and dot-NET equivalents and redirect them to the dot-XXX domain to ensure that--no matter how you enter Playboy or Penthouse in your Web browser--you arrive at their Web site. Playboy is not going to abandon the established playboy.com domain and leave it to be purchased by some other opportunistic business.

The only way that the XXX domain could clean up other domains like dot-COM and dot-NET is if an actual rule were established requiring porn sites to only use the XXX domain. However, that is an exceptionally slippery slope open to all sorts of interpretation--and probably protracted legal battles.

The problem with trying to define such a rule is twofold. First, porn is in the eye of the beholder. I mentioned Playboy and Penthouse, but many (myself included) don't truly consider the material on those sites to be pornographic. It is certainly of an adult entertainment nature, but its not porn.

Second, adult entertainment companies are also--well...companies. They are companies that engage in commercial activity. By definition, they have a right to use the dot-COM domain for those endeavors.

Perhaps the XXX domain will make inappropriate adult content easier to filter from corporate networks, but IT administrators will not be able to let their guard down on defending the network against porn on other top-level domains. And, IT administrators might want to get a jump on purchasing the dot-XXX equivalent of their existing domain in order to protect the brand and reputation of the company.

You can follow Tony on his Facebook page , or contact him by email at tony_bradley@pcworld.com . He also tweets as @Tony_BradleyPCW .

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