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Is .XXX Ever Really Dead?

May 15th, 2006

Nothing this stupid ever goes away.

The .xxx idea has been kicking around almost as long as the unworkable schemes to create a rigidly hierarchical domain name system based on trademark classifications. Anyone for .SOAP or .PAIN?

On May 10, ICANN announced that it would not allow the proposed .XXX to go forward. This followed a communique from the Government Advisory Committee (gak!) expressing its concerns.

.XXX (or .sex, or the idea in any of its guises) is a bad idea. ICANN turned it down for the wrong reasons (Bush administration meddling, according to the time-honored ICANN pillow principle), just as it might have approved it for the wrong reasons.

Family values people hate it; civil libertarians hate it too, many porn people also hate it. Their reasons are similar.

The proposal would have legitimized a few big players in the adult industry, giving a (somewhat safe) haven to those willing to protect their profits by accepting a ghetto status. To the right wing, any legitimization of adult material is unacceptable; to the civil libertarians, legitimization in exchange for ghetto-ization equally unacceptable. To all of us, the willingness of a few porn-purveyors to accept censorship of sexual expression on behalf of all of us ought to give pause. (Though I note that not all big adult companies were so craven — Larry Flynt and Adam & Eve were against it.)

Oh, by the way, one other small detail… it would never work!

Creating a “sex-free” zone on the Internet (as opposed to “free sex” zone, which entirely achievable) is fraught with difficulties, many of which are nicely detailed by Donald Eastlake in an IETF RFC, of all things.

Problem 1: What is obscene? I have some experience of this when I started up the .TM top-level domain years ago in co-operation with Turkmeni Ministry of Communications. Within months I had to shut it down (since rescuscitated) because they complained to IANA that “pizza” and “book” were clearly obscene words, and that I should have known that “yellow pages” should be reserved to the government. In Turkmenistan, maybe all this is true. If so, how on earth would .xxx work?

Problem 2: How are you going to compel compliance? I guess you could continually check every website and have special tribunals with severe penalties, but this might prove too much even for the guantanamistas currently in power in the U.S. And remember, this wouldn’t just be a Great Firewall of China — this would have to reach worldwide. As for voluntary compliance — anyone interested in a lovely bridge for sale?

But .XXX (or its near cousin) is not dead, because dumb domain ideas on the Internet have a half-life longer than plutonium isotopes.

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2 Comments

  1. I had no idea they had shot down the idea of caging sex sites. Basically that’s what it would be. When you start creating domain extensions, just to isolate things that YOU don’t find appropriate, that goes well beyond censorship. In that case I think there should be domain extensions for everything I find repugnant. How about .rel for religion. How about .fas for fascists. How about .mor for morons. How about .myfb for mind your fu%^ing business. That would be a great one. We’d have to change .gov to that.

    Lucinda | August 27th, 2007 at 8:50 am

  2. [...] credit, ICM’s blog has a thorough and fact-filled rundown of the remaining obstacles. My own assessment of .XXX isn’t very positive, but it is a good sign that ICANN is letting itself be compelled to [...]

    What the ICANN Brussels Meeting Means for New gTLDs | Minds + Machines | ICANN new TLDs | July 8th, 2010 at 11:54 am

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