by Rich Mehta, Elephant Creative Solutions

There has been much speculation in the media lately on the subject of a new suffix to domain names - namely .xxx.

Tracing its origins back to 2000, the .xxx domain suffix is intended as a voluntary option for “adult” web content and has emerged after some tough contractual negotiations, a number of policy U-turns, government disapproval and attempts from various quarters to stop it coming into use.

After all of this, from today (Tesday 6th), anyone will be able to register an .xxx domain name on a first-come, first-served basis. So what does it all mean for a typical SME (small to mid-sized enterprise)?

The first thing to say is that large brands and public figures were given the option to pay a one-off fee and have domains based on them removed from the list of availability for a fee - but of course that doesn’t help those of us who can’t command a brand reach the size of Coca-Cola.
The prevailing fear seems to be that one day Company A Ltd.

will open up its browser to find a website of “ill repute” has been registered at companya.xxx, and that its brand name will become tarnished by inference or by association.
It’s my belief that this argument, whilst seemingly plausible, is unlikely to become a problem. The primary reasoning behind the introduction of the .xxx domain was a question of content filtering; if all adult websites took up a .xxx domain name, those looking to avoid adult content could do so easily and consistently.

Taking our example, it is likely that the vast majority of people looking for Company A are looking for the more established and upstanding companya.com rather than the newer and poorer trafficked companya.xxx (it’s long been known that Google bases at least some of a site’s credibility on the length of time it has been online).

Furthermore, Google applies a default level of filtering that removes adult websites (called SafeSearch) which is likely to remove .xxx websites from any results.
Another reason this is unlikely to affect SMEs is that it doesn't already do so. The introduction of .xxx is just another suffix; for example, when .mobi was approved and available for registration (intended to denote websites which have versions conducive to viewing on mobile phones) no-one complained of the possibility of someone registering their brand name and tarnishing their brand’s image.

Granted, it could be argued that .xxx is more likely to have brand-damaging content but the restrictions on .mobi say nothing about preventing adult content from registering it.

The final reason that I believe there is no real reason for SMEs to panic about .xxx is actually the reason most are worried about it - brand visibility. Unless your company is unlucky enough to share the same name as an adult website it’s very unlikely someone will register the .xxx variant of it. Even if someone were to register it out of spite toward your company, it’s unlikely that website would gain a lot of ground in the Search Engines on a well-built website with even the most trivial optimisation for search engines.

So, to sum up, I’m confident that there is nothing here for the typical www.freshbusinessthinking.com user to worry about. The good news is that if you do find yourself in the unlikely situation that someone registers an adult site on a variation of your domain name (whatever that might be), you are never likely to be far away from an SEO expert who can help.

You can find out more by visiting [url=www.elephantcreative.co.uk
]Elephant Creative[/rl]