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​Here's Who is Buying .sex Domains

Apple.sex, Viking.sex, and VeterinaryPetInsurance.sex are just the beginning.
September 7, 2015, 12:30pm
Paris Hilton. Image: Glenn Francis / Wikimedia

In the next three months, there are expected to be 20,000 new domains ending in .sex.

The latest smutty web address to be launched by ICM Registry, the company that manages the domains .xxx, .porn, and .adult was the most popular yet, according to President and CEO Stuart Lawley.

"It is surprising for us," he said. "We thought .porn would be the most popular because of the nature of the word, but we are seeing already that .sex will get more registrations."

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He said that .sex has seen 25 percent more applications for domains on its first day than .porn, which has racked up 13,000 domain registries since it launched in June, including bids for Paris-Hilton.sex as well as MSN.sex and Groupon.sex. ICM's model has been criticized as being inherently predatory, as it requires brands to pay up or risk having their names used in pornographic domains.

Among the several hundred applications for .sex domains filed in the first hours of its launch was Apple and its many variations, including apple.sex, iphoto.sex, itunes.sex, facetime.sex, and ipad.sex. Universities also preemptively bought names, including arizonastate.sex. Other names seemed more random, like pokemon.sex and pikachu.sex, viking.sex, ieeespectrum.sex, petplan.sex, veterinarypetinsurance.sex, supermario.sex, justeat.sex, oprah.sex, bringyourchallenges.sex, and mormon.sex.

At this rate, ICM anticipates 20,000 registrations by this time in December.

These registrations come as part of the TMCH Sunrise phase mandated by ICANN, the organization that oversees the internet's domain systems. During the sunrise period, trademark holders in the clearinghouse created by ICANN get first dibs on their domains.

According to Lawley, there are about 35,000 brands with trademarks in that clearinghouse, 600 of which scooped up .sex domains on Tuesday. After the sunrise period, from October 5 to October 30, anyone with a .xxx domain will then have a chance to get a matching .sex domain. After November 4, anyone can purchase any remaining .sex domains when the general availability period begins.

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"Where it goes thereafter, who knows?" Lawley said. "It is a big world out there, who knows what people are going to do. We just have the names and make them available and people either buy them to use them or buy them for brand protection purposes."

He said ICM has seen a 50:50 split in registries between porn companies buying them for their expected, adult use and non-pornographic companies preemptively buying them before anyone else can.

Thousands of brands seem to think securing adult sites—if only to prevent anyone else from snagging the opportunity to smutty up their brand—is a worthwhile PR move. Taylor Swift made headlines earlier this year when she scooped up TaylorSwift.porn and TaylorSwift.adult before anyone else could. The singer has yet to purchase a .sex domain, but she has 30 days remaining and Lawley anticipates she will.

The launch and rush to protectively scoop up pornographic domain names comes as other TLDs face backlash for so-called "predatory practices." Earlier this year, one of ICANN's advisory panels, the Intellectual Property Constituency, sent a letter to regulatory bodies in the US and Canada asking them to take a look at whether the practices of the company behind .sucks domain were legal.

National Center on Sexual Exploitation (formerly known as Morality in Media) claims ICM is doing the same thing, forcing people to pay for a domain or risk having their namesake used for pornography.

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"Celebrities and others are being forced to pay protection money to keep their names from being used for pornography," Dawn Hawkins, executive director at National Center on Sexual Exploitation said. "A lot of the universities big companies, celebs, churches etc are being forced to buy domains before pornographers do. There is no doubt there are going to be some top companies that do not see these needs so they'll have a big problem on their hands."

Hawkins also claims the new adult TLDs will contribute to a proliferation of pornographic content online, and more "hardcore" pornography.

"With these new porn domains there is just going to be a lot more material and a lot of unregulated material that's going to be even worse," she said. "The nature of pornography is that it doesn't remain the same, they seek out harder material as it bc more normalized and accepted."

Lawley disagreed, naturally, and said the new porn TLDs will actually allow better regulation of porn on the internet. He said the specific endings will also allow parents to more easily block adult content from children.

"The sheer quantity of pornography available on the internet is very large, I don't think this will change that," he said. "What it does do, is that it clearly signposts that content so people dont stumble on it on accident. You don't type in something like .sex by mistake."