June 19, 2011

Go Daddy gets approval to go .XXX

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Several years of fiery resistance from adult-industry leaders, government officials and private-sector trademark holders came down to one vote by a powerful Internet-governing agency in March.

The .XXX Internet domain, which Scottsdale-based Go Daddy will launch to select customers later this year, has joined a collection of others widely used in cyberspace, such as.com, .net and .org

The issue had been scrapped, reconsidered, appealed and even sparked a lawsuit since it was proposed in 2000.

Opponents feared that the inherently sexually suggestive nature of .XXX would unfairly limit their law-abiding businesses, open pathways for trademark infringement and create a "virtual red-light district." Supporters, mainly parents and child advocacy groups, believed it would improve online transparency and help combat child pornography.

In a recent vote at a San Francisco conference, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers approved .XXX, which is set to launch in September. The California non-profit, known as ICANN, is in charge of assigning Internet domains.

Christine Jones, general counsel for Go Daddy, the world's largest seller of website-domain names, called registrars, said ICANN's decision came swiftly after hearing many strong cases against the measure.

"The board went back and approved it," Jones said. "That's what really surprised me."

Go Daddy last week announced that, in response to customer demand, preregistrations for existing adult-industry websites and trademark holders would start this fall, eventually opening up to all consumers. The company is one of the few registrars with the rights to sell website names ending with .XXX.

"On this one, we were very agnostic," Jones said of Go Daddy's position on ICANN's decision.

"We've just been watching it along with everybody else."

The company has made a name for itself primarily through its provocative Super Bowl advertising blitzes that unveil celebrity "Go Daddy Girls" to amp hype around a new product, such as the launch of the .co domain earlier this year.

However, with .XXX, Go Daddy has been keeping an unusually low-profile. Jones said the public shouldn't expect the same marketing parade.

"I seriously doubt we're going to put a whole lot of advertising behind it," she said.

The company expects .XXX to be "somewhat successful," she said.

As for pricing, the only thing that Go Daddy knows so far is that it will be top-dollar.

"It will seem like premium pricing because the registry is charging premium pricing," Jones said.

The .XXX domain caters to the "responsible online adult-entertainment community" and is operated by ICM Registry LLC, a private Florida company that administers domains to registrars such as Go Daddy.

All .XXX registrants, however, are contractually required to follow regulations of International Foundation for Online Responsibility, a non-profit in Washington, D.C., that sets policies for the domain, monitors compliance and sponsors like-minded programs and entities.

Eventually, the domain will be available to everyone, but existing adult-entertainment websites and future registrants in that industry are not required to ditch the.com or .net.

Most big-name companies, such as Playboy and Hustler, will likely always have a presence in commonplace extensions like.com, Jones said.

In fact, that was one of ICM Registry's biggest selling points to ICANN.

ICM said .XXX raises the bar in transparency in the online adult industry mainly because it's inherently suggestive of a website's content.

That makes it easier for parents to monitor their children's web browsing and help others avoid any unwelcomed surprise visits to adult content.

It also reassures that those sites are protected against viruses, credit-card fraud and identity theft, according to ICM.

The registry also contends that it has potential for better customer retention and harnessing more predictable revenue streams.

Jones said the opposition has taken a number of angles, such as potentially endangering free enterprise and "double the porn on the Internet."

ICM countered those concerns by saying the popularity of .XXX was already evident when it was approved in March.

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The International Foundation for Online Responsibility, or IFFOR, is governed by mostly adult-industry representatives and also advocates of online child protection, free speech, privacy and security. Those with .XXX names must abide by IFFOR's policies, which include:

- Clearly identify website content through use of IFFOR-approved labels. This, however, is done automatically for the registrant.

- Agree to automatic monitoring of websites to verify compliance.

- Maintain zero tolerance of use or suggestion of child pornography.

- Block illegal and unsolicited phishing or spam advertising.

- Protect intellectual property rights of others, such as trademarks.

- Be aware that violators will be reported to third-party hotlines and law enforcement. Registrations could potentially be revoked.

IFFOR's revenue is generated by an annual $10 fee for each name, which enables it to sponsor and provide advocacy for the online adult industry through programs that:

- Sponsor child-safety and child-pornography reporting agencies.

- Advance and raise awareness of content-labeling programs, technologies and other organizations.

Information: www.iffor.org or www.icmregistry.com.

by Kristena Hansen The Arizona Republic Jun. 17, 2011 01:52 PM






Go Daddy gets approval to go .XXX

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