Why colleges are buying .xxx web addresses

Before the racy web suffix went public, universities scrambled to protect their brands from profit-seeking porn producers

The University of Kansas Jayhawk mascot: KU bought up several Kansas-related .xxx domains over the last two months in an effort to prevent porn producers from profiting off the school.
(Image credit: Facebook/The University of Kansas)

The University of Kansas recently purchased the rights to the domain names KUgirls.xxx and KUnurses.xxx. No, the Jayhawks are not suddenly in the business of launching university-branded porn websites. As ".xxx" domain names go on sale to the public, Kansas is one of many universities taking pre-emptive measures, attempting to prevent porn producers from turning school trademarks into adult websites. How serious of an issue is this? Here, a brief guide:

What are these '.xxx' domains?

Earlier this year, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), which governs domain names, gave official approval for websites to start adopting ".xxx" suffixes. The idea, says Chloe Albanesius at PC Mag, was to make it easier for parents and consumers to flag adult web content, while also allowing porn sites to clearly brand themselves. But "it's a nightmare for any prominent entity concerned that their name will be associated with porn," says Erin Gloria Ryan at Jezebel. A "sunrise" period began in September, says Edward Moyer at CNET, which gave some organizations — both inside and outside the porn industry — the opportunity to register for domain names. Last week, registration was opened to the public.

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And colleges are buying these addresses?

Yep. Concerned over the reputation of their brand and students, universities across the country used the sunrise period to buy up ".xxx" domain names that could potentially be exploited to fake an association with their campuses. "Down the road there's no way we can predict what some unscrupulous entrepreneur might come up with," University of Kansas' trademark licensing director, Paul Vader Tuig, tells the Associated Press. The University of Michigan, Penn State, Purdue, Carnegie Mellon, and Indiana have adopted similar approaches.

How much does this cost?

Kansas paid nearly $3,000 to purchase dozens of ".xxx" domain names. On domain licensing sites like GoDaddy.com, ".xxx" domains are sold for an average of $100 per year. An Indiana University spokesman estimates that the school spent roughly $2,200 to purchase Hoosiers.xxx and 10 similar domain names.

Are all colleges doing this?

No. For some institutions, the prospect of buying up every domain name that could possibly be tied to their school is too daunting and impractical, says David Jesse at the Detroit Free Press. There are thousands of domain names for universities to try to protect, "making this an IT Whac-a-Mole problem that is not practically or financially viable," says Michigan State University spokesman Kent Cassella. Some universities will simply take legal action if and when an unsanctioned site pops up.

Is it just schools who are doing this?

Nope. Major brands and companies are, too. According to the AP, Nike.xxx, Pepsi.xxx, and Target.xxx have already been purchased. Google also took measures to keep its popular video-hosting brand from being commandeered to endorse porn. According to Fusible, the search giant now owns YouTube.xxx, in addition to Google.xxx, Blogspot.xxx, and Picasa.xxx.

Sources: AP, CNET, Detroit Free Press, Fusible, Jezebel, PC Mag

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