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“.xxx” domain name could cause more problems than it solves

X marks the spot, except online, where you don't want triple X to mess with your brand. The pending launch of a “.xxx” top-level domain is leading to a new Internet gold rush, one that could be harmful and costly for businesses that don't engage in the business of selling porn.

The creation of an “xxx” domain name was suggested by a private business, the ICM Registry, which justified its creation as a way to responsibly protect children from viewing online adult entertainment pornography. The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), which oversees the Internet, agreed and approved the “.xxx” earlier this year. It will become operable on December 6 and already ICM, as the manager of “.xxx”, is counting the dollars, mainly by raising fear among non-porn businesses that their brands could become damaged if a cybersquatter gets hold of them.

This is almost blackmail. ICANN has generally stood by the right of brands and celebrities to protect their names on the Internet, generally awarding them domains that others have bought in the hope of making money by selling them to their rightful owners. Really, you should not be worried. However, the protection has not always been upheld, and the cost and time of taking these cases before ICANN can be daunting, giving ICM space to make some money.

As with the introduction of some of the newer top-level domains, such as “.biz” and “.name”, a sunrise phase before launch allows brands to pre-register and protect their trademarks from cybersquatters, or others who just want to own the name of their favourite company.

Rather than use the top-level domain, businesses are registering and paying up to $300 a domain simply as a cheaper alternative to hiring a lawyer to defend their brand. Media reports put the pre-registration requests at 900,000, of which 80% are not pornographers.

ICANN is creating more top-level domain names as a way to create more space on the Internet by giving people and businesses more domain choices. It's very hard to find a good “.dot” com name now, unless you are ready to create a whole new word.

However, I do believe ICANN dropped the ball on this one by badly managing its introduction. The “.xxx” domain is in a different category due to its sensitivity and the ability to hurt businesses and people. ICANN should have outright restricted the use of all names to current and future porn sites. It should have required ICM to remove from use all domain names already trademarked, for no cost.

Lastly, “.xxx” will not lead to porn businesses moving to the new domain. They will be there and at a “.com”. Actually many think dot xxx is a waste of time, as now these domains can be more easily blocked since they are readily identifiable.

Rather than fight the cybersquatters over an “.xxx” domain bearing your brand name, it's probably best to ignore it. I don't think a lot of people will be going to it in the hopes that a reinsurance company, say, or a bank, is also hedging its investments with porn.

Companies would do better to wait until next year when ICANN will start allowing companies to apply for their own top level domains, such as “.RoyalGazette”. Those will be names worth defending, holding and actually using.

Office reloaded

It seemed like only yesterday when I moved my laptop from the terrible Vista to Windows 7, which works fine, thank you. I still keep Windows XP on my old desktop as I need it to run my Nikon photoscanner.

Now, Microsoft is due to roll out Windows 8 next year, which I am sure many businesses will dread, given the costs of upgrading. Many simply skipped Vista due to the problems and waited for Windows 7, once the major bugs had been squashed through subsequent fixes. At least that's where the smart money was, given all the screaming about Vista's problems. You can get a look at the new operating system, which caters to the world of apps and touch screens, at Microsoft's press section.

Open a couple videos and start planning for your next changeover.

Send any comments to elamin.ahmed[AT]gmail.com

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Published September 14, 2011 at 10:00 am (Updated September 14, 2011 at 10:22 am)

“.xxx” domain name could cause more problems than it solves

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