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.xxx is still a bad idea

  • To: stld-rfp-xxx@xxxxxxxxx
  • Subject: .xxx is still a bad idea
  • From: "Michael Bauser" <michael@xxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Thu, 29 Apr 2004 02:40:20 -0400

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ICANN was smart enough to reject .xxx for the 2000 expansions; I
hope it's smart enough to reject it this time as well. Let's
review everything wrong with this proposal:


I note (with some concern) that most of the messages of support
seem to originate from people who haven't actually read the
proposal; they're non-pornographers who think the .xxx TLD will
be used to force adult content out of the other TLDs. The
proposal does NOT advocate that; if it did, the proposal would
be delusional. Let's review why:


First, the .xxx registry does *not* have the power to make the
other registries stop allowing adult content. (If registries had
the power to retroactively add restrictions to other registries'
charters, the entire TLD system would be unstable to the point
of uselessness; no domain registrant could ever depend on using
a TLD for its original intent.) Does anybody here think that the
.com and .biz registries will *voluntarily* give up all the easy
porn money? (If they do, they're delusional.) As an
non-pornographer, I *have* to object to any policy that would
lead to TLDs unilaterally altering other TLDs' charters.


I'm not even sure ICANN has the authority to issue a top-down
ban on adult content in non-xxx TLDs, but if they did, it would
probably result in all registries raising the (wholesale) price
of registrations, because the registries couldn't possibly
afford to review every web site, mailing list, IRC channel,
etc., *without* raising prices significantly. Again, as a
non-pornographer, I *have* to object to any policy that would
lead to an across-the-Net price increase.


Finally, even if the anti-porn crowd routed around ICANN and
tried to get government intervention to move all adult content
to .xxx, they would have to do so in *every* *country* *on*
*Earth*. Otherwise, all you're doing is giving a competitive
advantage to pornographers in countries that don't have such
laws. Of course, many countries will *never* pass such laws,
some of the countries that might pass them have Supreme Courts
that would invalidate such laws, and the 200 nations on Earth
will never agree on an international definition of "adult
content", which makes the whole issue moot. (Afficionados of
adult content will just end up patronizing content providers in
the least strict countries; at best, Internet anti-porn rules
will be an economic boost for countries will weak restrictions,
and an economic penalty for countries with strict rules.)


(To digress a bit: One of the rationales provided by the .xxx
sponsor is that .xxx domains will be "safe" under a U.S.
domain-naming law that many lawyers believe unconstitutional.
Even if the suspicious law remains on the books, it does nothing
to affect non-xxx domains outside the United States. I think the
.xxx proposal in disingenuous in citing a bad law.)


Now that we've established that .xxx will *not* be the only TLD
to contain adult content, we have to think about how useful it
is as a non-exclusive TLD. The fact is, .xxx TLDs will be at a
competitive disadvantage to non-xxx TLDs *because* they're
easier to filter.


I just *know* somebody will say "Filtering is to protect
children, so it doesn't matter if .xxx is filtered more." Yeah,
right. There are already ISPs and entire *countries* trying to
block adult content from their networks. .xxx's filterability
*will* be used to block content from adults, giving an economic
advantage to non-xxx domains. Given the same content on an .xxx
and a non-xxx domain, the .xxx domain will have a smaller
audience because of compulsory filtering. Does the adult content
industry need a TLD guaranteed to make them *less* money that
the other TLDs? Probably not.


Likewise, people who *don't* want to see adult content will
never be able to depend on non-xxx domains being free of adult
content, which makes it nigh-useless as a filter. In fact, it
may be detrimental to such users, because it encourages them to
depend on simplistic filtering rules.


So, summarizing: You'll never get all of the adult content out
of the non-xxx TLDs, and even if you tried, you'll never get an
international definition of adult content, which means you'll
just be hurting the economies of the countries that create the
strictest restrictions. This can't possibly be a good plan -- it
effects are mostly negative, and the positive effects will be
distributed unequally.


All you really get from the .xxx proposal is a hyper-specialized
version of .com, whose rollout will probably resemble the chaos
of .biz: A series of fights and lawsuits betweeen companies
making defensive registrations and domain-squatters trying to
grab "kewl" domain names. (As someone who used to work for a
domain registrar, I'm confident that the only people who really
benefit from such chaos are the registrars and registries
getting paid for the chaos.)


The .xxx TLD is still one of the worst TLD proposals around.
ICANN should reject it, and reject it loudly, otherwise we'll be
having this debate *every* time ICANN solicits proposals for new
TLDs.


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