Porn is pervasive on the Internet… if you know where to look. It is made and distributed by professionals, amateurs, aggregators, bootleggers and pirates. Really, it is just like any other type of content you can find on the Web.

When the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) announced the applications for new Top Level Domains, a number of proposed domains were related to adult content, such as .sex, .porn and .adult. Critics say that these domains should be banned from the Web because they will lead to more pornography, while open Internet proponents say there are great benefits to cordoning off porn to these specific domains. Should .porn and its kin be allowed? Vote in the poll below.

There are a variety of arguments to consider in the .porn debate. Morality in Media (MIM), an organization that has opposed the public dissemination of pornography since 1962, lists two specific reasons for officially opposing the new gTLDs. Foremost, MIM maintains that more porn domains will mean more porn on the Internet. Second, MIM says that nonporn entities (schools, brands, companies, individuals) will be forced into buying .porn domains to avoid the humiliation of having their own online identities tied to a pornography-related domain by someone else.

The second point in an interesting one. This type of extortion has been a major reason why many people have opposed opening new top-level domains in the first place. ICANN has worked to address these concerns in the rules it has set up for how domain owners handle their registries. ICANN has two separate rights protection mechanisms (RPMs) that apply to owning a top-level domain, including a sunrise period (where brands can acquire their domains before the registry is made available to the public), as well as a trademark claim service that will be handled by a company called Trademark Clearinghouse. 

There is also the reverse of the extortion equation from the perspective of the porn industry. Many leading adult-content conglomerates were upset when ICANN released the .xxx domain that was approved in March 2011 and went into effect a month later. Porn sites argued that they were being forced to buy new sites on the .xxx registry even though they already owned popular .com domain names. So, the debate slides both ways. 

As for the argument that there will be more porn on the Internet with new top-level domains such as .adult, .porn and .sex, there is little proof that will be the case. Yes, there will likely be more porn site names, but many of those will be placeholder sites by existing porn sites or “defensive” registries. CNET reported in May this year that there were 61 .xxx domains in the top million sites on the Web, with only one in the top 52,000. Overall, there were 215,835 .xxx sites, with 132,859 pertaining to adult content. 

The argument in favor of domain names related to adult content comes from a variety of sectors. Many believe that porn domains will help create a community where people in search of adult content will be able to visit outside of the normal .com or .net sites. It would amount to their own cordoned-off section of the Internet. Also, it is easier for parents and IT administrators to block access to adult content domains that use the .porn or .adult URL paths. 

Groups like Morality in Media are going to protest no matter what. That is what they do. But the situation is not quite as black and white as they make it seem.

What do you think? Should new domains like .porn, .sex and .adult be allowed on the Internet? Take the poll below and let us know your thoughts in the comments.