Brands swoop in to buy .porn and .sucks before the trolls do

Taylor Swift buys domain name to protect image

Anyone can buy a .porn, and .sucks website starting June 1st, so brands are trying to scoop them up before the Internet trolls do.

In 2011, the nonprofit Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers decided to expand the number of generic top-level domains, or gTLDs, such as .com and .net. There were 22 at that time and now there are over 547 new gTLDs on the Web, with new suffixes released every month.

Before June 1, a select group of people and companies, including trademarked brands, are getting first dibs on some of the more controversial domains. During this so-called "Sunrise period," which is mandated by ICANN, some brands have already taken advantage.

For example, Microsoft has already registered Office.porn and Office.adult, according to Stuart Lawley, CEO of ICM Registry, which operates the .porn and .adult top-level domains. The same goes for TaylorSwift.porn and TaylorSwift.adult.

After June 1, it's a .sucks and .porn free-for-all.

"It's first to the buzzer [then]," said Lawley.

ICANN claims that its program to expand gTLDs will be beneficial for all Internet users, because descriptive domains, such as .healthcare, .deals, and .amsterdam, help ensure Web users arrive at their intended destination. They can also provide businesses more unique addresses to set up shop.

Some, however, like .porn and .adult, pose a different set of marketing issues.

"At the end of the day, a TLD is really a brand," said Steve Miholovich, SVP of marketing at Safenames, a domain registrar and advisory firm for websites.

Not all of Safenames' customers are eager to buy Web properties to protect their brand image. Some are very against the idea of owning a website with a not-safe-for-work extension, according to Miholovich.

Corporations don't like to be associated with anything that's really negative, he explained -- even if that means their brand name could be set up on a domain like .sucks.

"They want positive images -- they want positive messages. They're not going to turn [.sucks] into a positive," Miholovich said.

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This is why Taylor Swift bought taylorswift.porn

However, companies may want to consider buying property on a negative or R-rated domain if they want to prevent it from being bought and used by someone else.

Miholovich suggests companies look at all the brands they own to determine which ones are the most important, and which ones need most brand protection.

Consumers who are worried about seeing their names on an adult-content gTLD have fewer options.

"People who have bad intentions are going to do what they're going to do and there's nothing to prevent that," Miholovich said.

Those who want to be proactive can keep an eye on all of the savory and unsavory new gTLDs being released and applied for on ICANN's website.

But even if people are uncomfortable with the idea that there may be a .porn or .adult site associated with their names, at least they know the nature of the content on the site.

"To me it's very responsible," Miholovich said.

He added that another benefit to having more descriptive domains is greater parental control over which websites their children visit. Blocking isn't always as easy for .com adult content sites.

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