You would think that the formal introduction of .xxx domains for the adult industry would simplify things, but it actually brings along a slew of branding issues. The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) has officially approved of the new top-level domain, and GoDaddy has just announced pricing.
One of the biggest concerns is that of non-adult brands — they certainly don’t want to see their names popping up in .xxx domains if, say, an adult entertainment brand has a similar name. As Chenda Ngak of Tech Talk explained, “You don't need a course in sex education to guess what types of sites will live on .xxx domains…If [adult content] doesn't jive with your brand, you have about two months to prevent a marketing disaster.” Well, family-friendly brands are in fact being given the opportunity to prevent such disaster; while the domains are not yet available for public purchase, “trademark holders will be able to protect their brand by either purchasing a .xxx domain or [blocking it] from being sold” during a brief “sunrise period.” In addition, thousands of celebrities have reportedly protected their names through the ICM Registry. However, another issue is the cost of such protection, whether the domain is purchased or blocked.
Guess who else is concerned about what .xxx domains might do to their brands? Those in the adult entertainment industry. The "herding" of adult brands into a particular dedicated domain will make it easier to restrict or censor such content, particularly since some nations will likely just block all .xxx domains. But now if these brands don’t purchase their .xxx domains, there is the potential for new upstarts and anti-adult activists to do so. The Free Speech Coalition is encouraging adult brands to maintain their .com domains, explaining that “the adult community will not tolerate ICM’s business model, which is built on frightening existing adult companies into paying ICM in order to protect their brand and trademark.” They believe that the “sunrise period” blocking option is “inadequate,” and that the .xxx domains are “bad for the Internet and bad for your business.”
The introduction of the new domain seems to be more trouble than it’s worth. It is — and will continue to — cause problems for branding, both adult and otherwise.