PVV – about the sTLD .xxx (critical commentary)

October 30, 2010 by  
Filed under Twilight Quotes

PVV – about the sTLD .xxx (critical commentary)

Maybe you’ve heard about the mysterious top level domain .xxx? Well hold on to your panties bebes because as of today .xxx has become a very real possibility…

.xxx was originally proposed as a sponsored top level domain (sTLD) in 2004 by the corporation ICM Registry. ICM’s proposal for .xxx has been rejected multiple times over the past six years; however, just today, the non-profit Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) approved the hotly contested TLD.

First of all, for clarification…

Unlike generic top level domains (gTLD), sTLDs are intended to serve and/or represent specific communities. For a mere USk, a third party proposes a new sTLD, ICANN reviews the proposal, and, if approved, the same third party (not ICANN) manages the domain. Persons wanting a particular sTLD in their url must meet the criteria for “specific community served” set forth by whatever version of the proposal is finalized.

So for example, the sTLD .edu is for accredited postsecondary institutions in the US only. Now, this sTLD has been around since the interweb’s baby days (1985) and only switched to this super-restricted status in 2001. Consequently, there are a few rouge .edus out there; however, if you’re a legit college today and want to get an .edu, you must buy it from Educause (the “third party” in this example). Thus, as a citizen of the world with access to a computer and a credit card, I may purchase the gTLD pornvalleyvantage.com; but, because I am not an accredited post secondary institution, I cannot have (buy or otherwise) the sTLD pornvalleyvantage.edu. Get it?

Now, you may be thinking – This computer acronym domain website confusing-ness is hotly contested what?! Oh yes… here are some issues:

First and foremost, many industry insiders fear the inevitability of a highly stigmatizing (virtual) red light district. For sure .xxx is quite the attention grabber, thus making porn and the porn consumer very easily identifiable. In some instances this is a good thing – it would be rather easy for parents and employers to limit access to all .xxx sites; but it would also make it very easy for the curious coed, the adventurous partner with a not-so-adventurous mate, or the generally socially awkward to be called out for their potential exploration of adult content, which is definitely not good at all. Just like the presence or absence of .edu has the power to de/legitimize an organization, sites branded with .xxx would be subject to a whole slew of wider social, personal, and political issues (all content aside).

I have read that many religious and conservative organizations are also against .xxx, the argument being that having one’s own TLD legitimizes a population or community. So, the argument by these groups is that .xxx puts porn on level with .govs, .edus, etc etc as forces to be reckoned with… Really? I seriously doubt that would be the effect, however I rather appreciate this position – I definitely feel that an industry of porn’s magnitude and cultural relevance should be taken seriously, even though those suggesting it seem to be arguing that there is nothing about adult that should be taken seriously at all.

As per usual though, I feel that the more significant (and significantly more messy) issues fall into the grey spaces between good and bad. For example, .xxx registration is not mandatory (at least not now). So an adult company with a solid .com presence does not technically have to buy their .xxx equivalent… but actually they kinda do.

Think about it: would established, prolific, and law abiding industry leaders like Wicked, Vivid, or Digital Playground want to deal with the potential catastrophes that may emerge if some janky .xxx site had their same prefix? Most certainly not. Thus, they would essentially be forced to purchase their respective .xxx domain in order to protect their reputations and, essentially, their livelihoods. And who profits from that? Well that would be Stuart Lawley, CEO of ICM Registry, to the tune of US per site annually…

This brings me to the issue of parody and mimicking mainstream businesses. Just like not everyone can get an .edu, presumably you have to be in adult to get an .xxx. Consequently, mainstream companies cannot be corralled into buying their corresponding .xxx domains in the way established adult companies will. In fact, mainstream companies would not have access to .xxx domains at all.

So the mainstream is safe from being entrapped into buying an .xxx, but that’s not the end of what might concern them about this particular sTLD. Just because a mainstream company can’t get an .xxx, there is still the very real possibility of parody and/or identity mimicking sites (at least in terms of url). Think about this: Starbucks probably owns every relevant gTLD available; however, unless they start doing something funner with their whipped cream, they won’t be able to get ahold of starbucks.xxx. Now, although I would find this (or even sbux.xxx) rather hilarious, I doubt Starbucks corporate would find it funny at all. Moreover, I doubt all those people concerned with protecting children from adult content would find disney.xxx, twilight.xxx, or toysrus.xxx funny either. But until mainstream companies start dabbling in a different sort of twilight toy, this type of mimicking is a very real possibility.

What constitutes porn –that age old question— is also a slippery issue at play here. For example, I already attempted to reserve pornvalleyvantage.xxx, but that certainly doesn’t mean I will get it. ICM Registry asked me to prove that I was already a member of the virtual adult community, but I don’t think my dissertation, my academic papers, or my blog are what they had in mind. But why not? Although there may not be any nakedness up on my blog site, I am certainly engaging adult content. How can ICANN be so sure that the series of .xxx access criteria they and ICM Registry (may) eventually settle on actually constitute porn? And how exactly is ICM Registry going to employ these criteria to evaluate content? Because what looks sexy, naked, boring, graphic, and/or hott (among many other things) to me may not to Stuart Lawley…

The polysemy and ambiguity inherent to porn and sex and a conversation with bcfj also got me to thinking… Since it’s not mandatory to register, what if no one does? I mean, what if no one in the adult industry registers a .xxx? Or, if they do (because you gotta protect your rights and image, especially in this business), they simply have their .xxx redirect to their .com? Even though ICM Registry will still get their 60 bucks, if a concerted enough effort was made, especially on the parts of the big players, .xxx may well go the way of .tv.

What’s that you ask? Exactly.

You may quote anything herein with the following attribution: “Reprinted from Porn Valley Vantage, copyright © Chauntelle Anne Tibbals, PhD (www.pornvalleyvantage.com).”

Porn Valley Vantage – Critical Commentary on the Adult Film Industry

Chauntelle Anne Tibbals, PhD blogs at pornvalleyvantage.com, a site dedicated to shedding fresh critical light on all things related to the US adult film industry.

  • Winsor Pilates

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