The .XXX Porn Domains Have Landed

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Hello Wednesday and welcome to a new Internet, where domain names with a proper top-level dot-XXX suffix will take you by the hand and lead you, well, somewhere they used to lead you with dot-nets and coms. No, I don’t mean a bunch of websites dedicated to the “kiss” half of “hugs and kisses,” or that lionize a winning game of Tic-Tac-Toe. We’re talking adult entertainment, which—whatever your position on the matter—is one of the biggest, fastest growing online industries.

Yep, .XXX domains are now live, though the Washington Times reports some online porn companies aren’t exactly up and dancing. In fact a few are balking because they’ve done well enough with their existing domains and don’t want to fork over additional cash to protect the .XXX equivalent. What’s more, the company handling .XXX registrations, ICM Registry LLC, is apparently targeting non-porn entities (say, Hollywood celebrities or name-brand companies) to pay a one-time fee in the hundreds of dollars or risk their names and brands showing up as .XXX sites. You know, like GeorgeClooney.xxx, or if we’re talking companies, hypotheticals like Apple.xxx, YMCA.xxx, or Google.xxx.

(MORE: Coming Soon: A Search Engine Just for .XXX Domains)

The purpose of .XXX? To make it easier to avoid adult-themed sites…or find them (take your pick).

Porn’s big business, by anyone’s measure. According to TechCrunch, in 2006, U.S. porn sites generated $2.84 billion in revenue (thank you, mostly men—72% were then listed as porn viewers). More recent statistics put the number of pornographic websites at 4.2 million (about 12% of total, a substantial slice), Internet porn sales at nearly $5 billion, peg porn-related materials to a full 25% of daily search engine requests, claim 42.7% of Internet users view porn, and note that it’s not just guys crawling the web’s steamier side these days—one in three visitors to adult websites is female.

If you’re a brand or IP holder, you’ve got 50 days to pull out your wallet and submit an application, followed by a 17-day period in which would-be adult sites will have a shot at grabbing one. After that, it’ll be open season.

Sounds like a recipe for unanticipated celebrity and branding busywork. Take Alice in Chains (the band) for instance, who share a soundalike name with the obviously riffing porn star Allysin Chaynes. Or Darryl Hanah (the celeb’s spelling: Daryl Hannah). Or Dru Berrymore (celeb spelling: Drew Barrymore).

Who wins in a quarrel over domain rights? According to BBC News, conflicts will be resolved through arbitration.

Yep, I’m thinking the same thing: Good luck with that.

MORE: Are You Ready for .XXX Action?

Matt Peckham is a reporter at TIME. Find him on Twitter at @mattpeckham or on Facebook. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.

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