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Sex.xxx sells for $3m as PussyCash cites SEO value

Kevin Murphy, May 29, 2014, Domain Sales

ICM Registry has sold a package of 40 premium .xxx domain names with a total value of $5 million to Barron Innovations, operator of the PussyCash porn affiliate network.

The headline sale in the batch is sex.xxx, which carried a standalone $3 million price tag.

That’s the first .xxx name to sell for a seven-figure sum. The previous record for a single name was $500,000 for gay.xxx.

It’s also the highest-priced non-.com domain name ever sold, according to publicly available sale prices.

It beats shopping.de, which went for the euro equivalent of $2.85 million in 2008, making sex.xxx the 10th most-expensive domain we know about.

Sex.com is of course the highest priced domain ever sold, going for $13 million in 2010.

According to ICM, Barron bought cam.xxx, phone.xxx and black.xxx for undisclosed six-figure prices. The deal also included web.xxx, market.xxx, mate.xxx and education.xxx, the company said.

Barron is evidently affiliated with webcam-oriented porn sites ImLive.com and Webcamwiz.com, as well as the related lead-generation program PussyCash.com.

PussyCash was subject to this glowing review (NSFW) in the adult industry press recently and is apparently a bit of a big deal in that world.

ICM tells me Barron had been studying the search engine optimization performance of .xxx for some time before signing the deal. Shay Efron, spokesperson for the buyer, said in a press release:

We have studied the undeniably superior performance of .XXX domains in terms of SEO and conversion rates and decided to make a huge splash by acquiring the very best keyword generic names available. We evaluated SEX.xxx, the flagship domain, and decided it has the potential to became the leading brand in the entire adult industry, so it was an obvious part of a very large deal.

The company intends to develop the names, according to a press release.

This is pretty good news for ICM (because of the cash) but it’s also promising for new gTLDs as a whole.

I’m not privy to Barron’s research, but if it’s confident enough in the SEO benefits of .xxx to spend $3 million on one name, that might be a signal that other niche gTLDs could see the same benefits in future.

It might not happen overnight — ICM launched .xxx two and a half years ago — but premium names could appreciate in value, assuming new registries manage to get some actual users building sites.

.xxx sales spike 1,000% during discount

Kevin Murphy, September 5, 2013, Domain Registries

ICM Registry saw an over 1,000% spike in .xxx domain name registrations in May, during which it offered new registrations at a steep discount over its regular price.

The numbers were still relatively small. The registry saw 13,136 adds during the period, compared to 1,131 in April and 1,836 in May 2012, according to ICANN reports published today.

Average add-years rose sequentially from 1.34 to 1.88 (compared to a gTLD industry average of 1.23), according to TLD Health Check, with total add-years up over 1,500% to 24,663.

TLD Health Check

For the whole of May, ICM offered .xxx domains — which usually carry a registry fee of $62 — for the same price as .com domains. The promotion applied to any length of registration, from one to 10 years.

There were 747 10-year registrations in May. A small number, but exactly 100 more than ICM saw during its first month of general availability in December 2011. There were similar numbers of three and five-year sales, and over 1,100 two-year registrations.

The company ended the month with 120,409 domains under management.

ICM price cut sees 10 times more .xxx sales

ICM Registry saw 13,348 newly added .xxx domain name registrations in May, a period during which it and its registrars were offering the names at .com prices.

That’s more than 10 times the volume it shifted in January, the last month for which official numbers are available.

ICM dropped the registry fee for .xxx from $62 to $7.85 for the whole month, ostensibly (though not actually, I suspect) as part of its antitrust settlement with PornTube owner Manwin Licensing.

Registrants could register names for periods of up to 10 years at the promotional pricing, and registrants appear to have taken advantage.

The number of add-years for May was 25,733, according to ICM, an average of 1.9 years per name. That’s compared to its January rate of 1.37, when the .com average, for comparison, was 1.24.

About a quarter of the newly added names had been previously registered at full price and later allowed to drop.

The .xxx namespace now holds over 122,000 domains, still off its December 2012 peak of 142,000, according to the company.

Porn.com owner buys porn.xxx

Kevin Murphy, May 22, 2013, Domain Sales

PimpRoll, a pornography publisher and owner of porn.com, has bought the domain name porn.xxx from registry manager ICM Registry, it has just been announced.

The domain is already live. The site appears to be distinct from porn.com, but PimpRoll said it plans to build another “tube” site there.

The price of the domain was not disclosed, but PimpRoll is known to have paid $9.5 million for its .com address.

I’d guess we’re talking about low six figures for the .xxx, which was reserved by ICM as a “premium” name.

ICM said in a press release that the buyer will also automatically qualify for porn.sex, porn.porn and porn.adult under ICM’s Grandfathering Program, should it be awarded those gTLDs by ICANN.

ICM sees 20-fold increase in registrations after sharp price drop

ICM Registry says its rate of domain registrations increased 20-fold during the first day .xxx has been on sale at .com prices.

The company took 1,000 registrations at the new $7.85-a-year registry fee since it revealed the price drop yesterday.

While that’s not an earth-shattering number, .xxx’s average daily take is 40 to 50 names, according to ICM CEO Stuart Lawley. The company had roughly 110,000 names under management before the offer started.

Some registrars have only started pushing the names today, he said. Retail prices are roughly the same as those for .com, with Go Daddy, for example, currently selling .xxx for $14.95 a year.

The reduced fee only applies for the month of May, but registrants can lock in prices for up to 10 years.

According to Lawley, domains registered in the last 24 hours were almost exclusively either for one year or 10 years, with an average of 2.3 years.

Almost half (48%) of the new names had been previously registered but allowed to expire over the last few months, he said.

Examples include valentine.xxx, students.xxx, hdmovies.xxx and plenty of others with somewhat more NSFW keywords. ICM actually maintains its own list of dropped porn-related keyword domains here.

One customer yesterday registered .xxx for the new retail price that would have cost him $88,000 on the secondary market for the equivalent .com, Lawley said.

ICM’s claims against Manwin thrown out of court

Kevin Murphy, February 28, 2013, Domain Registries

ICM Registry has suffered a blow in its ongoing lawsuit with porn merchant Manwin Licensing, with a judge this week dismissing all of the registry’s counterclaims against the YouPorn owner.

ICM was sued by Manwin on antitrust grounds in late 2011, but returned fire last October with is own set of allegations, which also included claims that Manwin’s boycott of .xxx was anti-competitive.

But the judge in the case, Philip Gutierrez, on Tuesday granted Manwin’s motion to dismiss all of ICM’s claims.

Gutierrez ruled that ICM had failed to argue it had standing to complain under competition law, stating: “Harm to ICM only is not sufficient to constitute antitrust injury. It must allege harm to the competitive process.”

He also granted Manwin’s motion to strike ICM’s claims under California’s anti-SLAPP (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participation) laws, which are designed to protect free speech.

The judge decided that Manwin’s boycott of .xxx was protected under the anti-SLAPP statute.

ICM is now entitled to re-draft and re-submit its counterclaims; if it does not do so it will have to pay Manwin’s legal fees in connection with the anti-SLAPP action, Gutierrez ruled.

“The judge has granted us 30 days to amend our counterclaims. We are exploring all options open to us,” ICM CEO Stuart Lawley said.

Manwin’s owner, Fabian Thylmann, was arrested in Brussels last December and extradited to Germany to face charges of tax evasion.

IFFOR targets new gTLDs with policy service

Kevin Murphy, February 1, 2013, Domain Policy

The International Foundation For Online Responsibility, which sets policy for .xxx, wants to broaden its scope and is to launch a “Policy Engine” service for new gTLD registries.

Kieren McCarthy, who has been working for IFFOR as its public participation manager for the last year, has been tapped to lead the organization too, taking over from Joan Irvine as executive director in April.

IFFOR is the sponsoring organization for .xxx, independent but created by registry manager ICM Registry as a way to demonstrate to ICANN that it planned to operate the porn gTLD responsibly.

It’s kept a bit of a low profile since .xxx launched, only emerging to distribute some small grants to worthy causes, but McCarthy says that it’s built up substantial policy-making and compliance expertise.

Now, it wants to let new gTLD registries outsource these functions to it.

“Broadly, the Policy Engine service lets gTLD applicants outsource their policy issues to an independent body,” McCarthy said.

IFFOR reckons plenty of new gTLDs will want such services, especially given the increased interest from governments in how new gTLDs are operated.

As the organization is currently set up to deal only with .xxx — it’s funded $10 a year from every .xxx sold — only three of its nine-member Policy Council are not members of the adult entertainment industry or connected to ICM.

Additionally, ICM’s general counsel is on its three-member board of directors.

But McCarthy said that the Policy Council, which also has substantial expertise in privacy, child protection and free speech issues, usually uses sub-groups to come up with its policies.

“The majority of what we do is applicable across any top-level domain,” he said.

McCarthy is the former journalist and ICANN staffer, current CEO of .nxt. When he takes over from Irvine in April, she is expected to stay around as a consultant.

ICM seizes on Google’s porn algorithm change

Kevin Murphy, December 14, 2012, Domain Registries

Grasping the opportunity for a bit of easy publicity, ICM Registry has seized upon a recent Google algorithm change to promote its .xxx gTLD’s brand.

It was reported earlier this week that Google has made it harder to accidentally stumble across sexually explicit imagery in Google Images by making its Safe Search filtering mandatory in the US.

The company defended itself from cries of censorship by pointing out that porn could still be found, as long as you are a bit more “explicit” about what it is you’re looking for, telling CNet:

If you’re looking for adult content, you can find it without having to change the default setting — you just may need to be more explicit in your query if your search terms are potentially ambiguous.

Now ICM is plugging .xxx as a “workaround” to this problem, saying in a press release today:

one can simply type a description of whatever porn one wants into any search bar followed by the letters “XXX.” Results are instant and on target. For example, if one is looking for adult content that includes a mainstream generic word like “Toys,” simply enter the search term “Toys XXX” and problem solved.

ZDNet gave similar advice in an article this week, and ICM says that traffic to its own search engine, search.xxx, saw a 50% spike in the last 24 hours as a result.

Could this be a portent for changes in user search behavior in the age of niche new gTLDs?

YouPorn owner arrested in tax evasion probe

Kevin Murphy, December 10, 2012, Domain Registries

YouPorn owner and regular ICM Registry antagonist Fabian Thylmann has reportedly been arrested in Belgium in connection with a German tax evasion investigation.

He was taken into custody at Brussels airport today under a warrant from the Cologne District Court, according to German daily Die Welt.

Thylmann is the owner — some say nominally so — of Manwin Licensing, the online porn empire behind brands such as YouPorn, Brazzers and, under license, Playboy.

Manwin sued ICANN and ICM late last year over the .xxx gTLD, saying it violates US antitrust laws, charges which are denied.

The company is also engaged in an ICANN Independent Review Panel procedure over the same issues.

ICM says that the lawsuit, and a related boycott, are merely attempts to disrupt its business. Thylmann, the company claims, offered to invest in ICM but was rebuffed.

According to Die Welt, Manwin’s German headquarters was raided last Tuesday as part of an ongoing tax evasion probe, which was spurred in part by the newspaper’s own investigation into the company.

Russian iTunes Store infiltrated by .xxx banners after snafu [NSFW]

Kevin Murphy, December 5, 2012, Domain Registries

Russian iTunes users reportedly got a shock today when they discovered masses of sexually explicit content from the .xxx gTLD in their iTunes Store.

According to local reports, attempts to visit a part of the store dedicated to foreign movies displayed a bunch of banner ads for .xxx web sites instead of the expected content.

Digging a little deeper, it appears that the images were being drawn directly from xxx.xxx, a promotional directory site owned and managed by ICM Registry, the .xxx registry.

Speculation in the Apple blogs is that an iTunes Store developer inadvertently typed “xxx.xxx” somewhere as a placeholder URL, not realizing that .xxx is actually a live TLD.

There’s a lesson here for new gTLD registries somewhere, I’m sure.