Rhodri Marsden: Can a domain name clean up the web?

Pornography is the elephant in the room, as the old Joni Mitchell song doesn't go.

Actually, to say that it's the elephant in the room doesn't do justice to its overwhelming dominance of the internet; it's more like the mammoth in the porch, although it may be a while before that particular phrase gains common currency. But online pornography is certainly a subject that's rarely talked about, bearing in mind that it's the pre-eminent internet money-spinner, and that everyone spends a disproportionate amount of time either trying to avoid it or access it, depending on their moral standpoint and taste. And that's probably why many people were looking around nervously and muttering on hearing the news that a new top-level domain, .xxx, will soon be sitting alongside .com, .net and .org.

"Fury as every internet pornography site to get .xxx domain name" screeched the Daily Mail, in a characteristically confused reading of the story. And the internet community began to wonder: will this make pornography more of an online menace? Will it effectively police a burgeoning and exploitative industry? Will my friend's proclivity towards images of bearded men in thongs bending over Black & Decker Workmates be encouraged, threatened, driven underground? Will people discover that when I refer to my friend's proclivities, I'm actually referring to my own? All these questions – along with many unprintable ones – began to float to the surface.

And the answer to them all is: "Well, no." The effect upon the pornographic status quo (and there's an image to erase hurriedly from your mind) is set to be nil. The move doesn't oblige pornographers to move their content to an easily-filterable .xxx section of the internet – although that will now be the inevitable aim of conservative groups in the USA, and will be a niggling concern for the porn business should the Christian right come to power in the USA. So, it won't make pornography any easier to keep off the family computer, because most of it will stay in the same online location. It will have no effect on anyone's ability to find pornography, because most locating happens via search engines, and the domain name of a website isn't as important a factor. Conservative groups are upset about the idea of .xxx somehow legitimising pornography, but in objecting to it they've found themselves aligned with the adult entertainment industry they despise, who don't want to be ghettoised. In short, hardly anyone wants it.

Except, of course, the company who have been lobbying ICANN, the overseeing body of internet domain names, to allow them to administer and make money from .xxx. It's called ICM, it'll charge $60 a year for a domain, and despite donating $10 of that to a non-profit body to promote "responsible business practises", it'll still coin it – and not just from porn sites trying to protect their brand, but also from companies and individuals who will feel obliged to snap up bbc.xxx or britneyspears.xxx to avoid potential embarrassment. While ICM's case for .xxx was strong on paper, and was approved by ICANN after much wrangling because of an obligation that it has to be "neutral", it's essentially a way of making money from porn without making porn. Which is all very clever, but for those who take a dim view of the industry, it's just as morally dubious as writing the cheques, holding the camera, or bending over the Black & Decker.


Facebook introduced a face recognition system this week – but don't worry, it's quite benign; it just means that when you upload photos to your account, the system recognises which bits of the photo are faces, draws neat little boxes around them and prompts you to tag them with your friends names, should you so wish to do so. But you can see what's lurking on the horizon; Google's Picasa software is already intelligent enough to recognise all my photos of my ex-girlfriend and group them together in a handy folder, and you get the feeling that the only reason a similar thing hasn't been deployed on Facebook is that it'll freak people the hell out, as teenagers are prone to exclaim.

But according to research done by Adam Harvey, a graduate student at NYU, wearing unusual make-up or a sticker "breaks apart the gestalt of the face" and prevents such systems from working. So, in future, it will be possible to outwit Google or Facebook – hooray! – but you'll have to make yourself look like Aladdin Sane-era David Bowie to do so.

Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Arts and Entertainment
a clockwork orange, stanley kubrick
The Tesco Hudl2: An exceptional Android tablet that's powerful, well-built and outstanding value

Life and Style
food + drinkAuthor DBC Pierre presents his guide to the morning after
Sarah Silverman (middle) with sister Reform Rabbi Susan Silverman (right) and sister actress Laura Silverman (left) at Jerusalem's Western Wall for feminist Hanuka candle-lighting ceremony
peopleControversial comedian stages pro-equality Hanukkah lighting during a protest at Jerusalem's Wailing Wall
Arts and Entertainment
The Bach Choir has been crowned the inaugural winner of Sky Arts’ show The Great Culture Quiz
arts + ents140-year-old choir declared winner of Sky Arts' 'The Great Culture Quiz'
Life and Style
food + drink
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Gadgets & Tech

    Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

    £50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

    Ashdown Group: Part time Network Support Analyst / Windows Systems Administrat

    £30 per hour: Ashdown Group: An industry leading and well established business...

    Ashdown Group: Trainee / Graduate Helpdesk Analyst

    £20000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly reputable business is looking to rec...

    Ashdown Group: Application Support Engineer with SQL skills

    £28000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly reputable business is looking to rec...

    Day In a Page

    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
    Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

    Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

    As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
    The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

    The Interview movie review

    You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
    Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

    How podcasts became mainstream

    People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

    Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

    Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
    Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

    A memorable year for science – if not for mice

    The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
    Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

    Christmas cocktails to make you merry

    Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
    5 best activity trackers

    Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

    Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
    Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

    Paul Scholes column

    It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

    Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
    Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

    Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

    2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

    Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

    The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
    Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

    Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

    The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
    Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

    The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

    Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas