The First .XXX Search Engine - It's Surprisingly Demure

It was bound to happen at some point: Search.xxx, a new search engine from ICM Registry, the operator for .xxx domains, has made its debut. So why does it look so much like other search engines?

Search.xxx is a surprisingly demure site that lets users search for their preferred brand of "content" based on sexual preference, even allowing them to switch up languages, for a more global-friendly porn search. Results are scanned by McAfee for malware and labeled by MetaCert as adult content to keep younger eyes away.

Unlike other porn searching sites, there's no gyrating GIFs of people engaging with one another, no gimmicky ads, popups or distractions like that. Even the search results are just a simple list, no video previews. Only sites registered with a .xxx domain name will show up in the search results. Since ICM hosts these domains, and therefore makes money from them, the site didn't need to put ads on Search.xxx itelf. You see just a white screen and a search bar. If someone was to peer over your shoulder real quick, they'd have no idea what you were searching for. It's about as clean as a porn search engine can get. 

The creators of Search.xxx have been working on the search engine for more than a year. According to ICM, the goal was to create a different kind of Internet, one where people who search for explicit content can do so discreetly without malware or spamming worries. As The Verge pointed out, ICM is also seeking rights to top-level domain names like .sex, .adult and .porn, which if approved would presumably also show up in Search.xxx's results. 

A Short History Of .xxx Domains

The idea to label sites that display explicit content with the domain name ".xxx" was proposed as a way to differentiate sites that want to provide that kind of content from ones that don't. It was also presented as a way to ease blocking those kinds of sites  for parents,workplaces and search engines. Proposed as top-level domain (TLD) by ICM Registry in 2000, .xxx endured more than a decade of back and forth discussion between ICM and ICANN, as well as objections from organizations ranging from the adult entertainment industry to parent advocacy groups. Today, 21 million pages are being hosted by ICM. 

The company says it follows the same strict guidelines as other search engines: No paid partnerships or preferential treatment. Stuart Lawley, CEO of ICM Registry told The Verge "We want genuine results," adding, "Just like Google will penalize people for trying to outsmart the ranking system, we will do the same."

The search engine follows the same International Foundation for Online Responsibility (IFFOR) guidelines that all .xxx domain sites do. These guidelines protect freedom of expression, while also preventing the distribution of underage or illegal images and using sites to phish, spam or inflict any kind of malicious behavior. 

From an industry standpoint, Search.xx seems like a smart approach. Offering a clean, simply designed site that avoids malware to access adult content plays against type and may help deflect criticism and boost traffic to ICM's hosted sites.