On Dec. 6, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), the nonprofit organization that controls the Internet's top-level domain names such as .com, .biz and .gov, officially turned on the .xxx domain in hopes that adult entertainment companies would use it to more easily identify their websites. Florida-based ICM registry owns the .xxx top-level domain and in turn sells domain names with that extension to registrars like GoDaddy.com, which then sells them to customers.
Colleges and universities along with companies with well-known trademarks have been buying up related domains with the .xxx extension to protect their image. It's to avoid the problem that haunted the White House in the early days of the Internet when WhiteHouse.com was a porn site (the real website for the president is WhiteHouse.gov.)
Schools such as the University of Kansas, the University of Chicago and Northwestern have bought several .xxx domain names similar to their .edu web address to protect them from misuse.
"It's typical for us to register any new form of technology that offers an address with that," BYU's Michael Smart said about why the university bought up those .xxx domains. "We did it with Twitter and ... with Google+."
The University of Utah has not bought up .xxx domain names related to the college, according to school officials, and Weber State University will address the issue in a committee meeting with information technology officials this month, said university spokesman John Kowalewski.
"We're aware of this trend and entertaining the possibility, but we have not made a definitive decision," Kowalewski said. "It's at least worth discussing and maybe worth identifying a handful of domains close enough to the university."
Part of the problem, Kowalewski said, is weighing the need to keep domain names such as WeberState.xxx away from porn purveyors versus the cost of buying them. Unlike .com addresses that are relatively cheap to buy as little as $10 for a one-year contract a .xxx name is 10 times that cost. And a university would have to buy up many domain names to cover its bases.
The value of domain names in the new .xxx arena is undeniable.
In the first 24 hours registration was available to the public, 55,367 .xxx domain names were sold, according to ICM spokeswoman Jocelyn Johnson. Just before that, adult entertainment companies and trademark holders (such as Coca-Cola or Pepsi, for example) could buy up domain names during a closed, two-month period. More than 160,000 .xxx domain names have been registered, Johnson said. ICM is paid $60 for every domain sold.
Johnson said there hasn't been any concentration in the types of businesses buying up the domain names.
"There has been interest across the board, especially from the larger brands and trademark holders who want to keep a very tight control over how they want their brand used."
It took ICANN 10 years to approve the .xxx domain, said ICANN spokesman Brad White. The road to approval was awash with controversy.
Some argued it would create a "red light district" that would make it easier for people to find adult sites. Meanwhile, some in the adult entertainment industry filed a lawsuit last month claiming the .xxx system encourages a monopoly and is too restrictive.
In order to be approved for the .xxx domain, adult sites must abide by a series of restrictions to prevent fraud. All .xxx sites also go through daily malware and spyware checks by anti-virus company MacAfee.
Google+: +Vincent Horiuchi
Domain names fetch big dollars
Just before ICM opened up the sale of the .xxx domain to the public, it held a private auction for what it thought would be the more valuable domain names with the .xxx extension. Here are some of those domains that were purchased and how much they fetched.
Gay.xxx • $500,000
Shemales.xxx • $200,000
Fetish.xxx • $300,000
Chat.xxx • $100,000
Dating.xxx • $100,000