The Adult Thing To Do: An Interview With Stuart Lawley of ICM Registry

Posted May 27th, 2011


. XXX, the new sponsored TLD for adult entertainment purposes has for several years been the most compelling underdog story of the domain industry. And love it or hate it, chances are good that you have been following its progress. It’s mythology has became epic as the struggle for its approval played out in the public eye complete with extensive ICANN delays, government interventions and “Adult Community” protests. The .XXX saga is one Cyclops and reanimated skeleton away from reaching Sinbad Voyage of the Seven Seas heights.

While the story has a happy ending and .XXX serves as a morality tale of what can be achieved through perseverance, it also functions as an example for new gTLD applicants who can look to and learn from the history of .XXX.

Aside from what is laid out in the Applicant Guidebook, New gTLD applicants don’t know what to expect. There is a lot of discussion of what might happen but it is difficult to estimate with certainty what will. Although .XXX is not a New gTLD in the contemporary sense (it was in the 2000 round of TLD applications) it is the closest working example of where the process can take an applicant from inception to delegation.

We sat down with Stuart Lawley of ICM registry to discuss the process of getting a new TLD into the root.

NameSmash: What inspired you to pursue .XXX?

Lawley: Having built up and took Public on the UK Stock Exchange one of the Uk’s largest B2B ISP’s in the late 90′s I had a good working knowledge of the internet and domain names. When, in 2003 I studied the 2000 inaugural TLD application round and read the applications, it struck me that the ICM registry application had real merit, so I invested in and took control of the company in preparation for a future bid for an sTLD. The adult entertainment industry has always had and will continue to have a significant presence online and with .XXX as an sTLD both its Sponsored Community and the general internet user can benefit by the introduction of a purposeful TLD with a well known and publicized set of standards attached to the designation.

 

NameSmash: The struggle for .XXX has been a long and public battle that has included a protest by members of the ‘adult community”.  What have you learned by going through this and how has it affected your views on the process?

Lawley: I have learned that dealing with ICANN needs to be treat like a marathon rather than a sprint and good planning and excellent advisors add to an excellent, well developed bullet proof plan are well worth the investment.

 

NameSmash: What advice would you give to new gTLD applicants who are about to go through a similar process?

Lawley: Plan to spend at least 3 times as much time and money than you originally thought. In our case, it was over by a factor of more than a dozen in each!

 

NameSmash: It has been announced that the European Commissioner and US Department of Commerce will meet regarding New TLDs and .XXX. What are your thoughts on interference outside ICANN this late in the game?

Lawley: The TLD is approved, contract is signed with ICANN and the DoC graciously followed procedure and added .XXX to the root on the 15 April. The process is now complete and closed. The GAC is taking a more active part within ICANN and .XXX highlights many parts of the previous process that some governments may wish changed for the upcoming round of gTLD’s.

 

NameSmash: Members of the “adult community” have spoken out against .XXX. What is your stance on their concern?

Lawley: A small but vocal part of the Adult Industry has spoken out against .XXX. On the other hand many more have supported and approached us to register names in the hundreds of thousands. Most of the opposition was misplaced in our opinion and many companies, once having learned of the benefits that .XXX will offer them, have become supporters.

 

NameSmash: Will .XXX only be available to the adult community and if so, what other parameters will be placed on registration of an .XXX domain name?

Lawley: The Baseline Policies are detailed here: http://www.icmregistry.com/docs/appendix-b-baseline-policies-26jul10-en.pdf

 

NameSmash: There has been preliminary speculation on registrar pricing for .XXX. What factors go into the pricing decisions for domains in a given TLD?

Lawley: Many registries in both the 2000 and 2004 rounds failed to garner as many registrations as they had predicted in their business plans. Our financial model was based on a conservative estimate of 125,000 registrations over a five-year period. We comfortably expect to exceed that.

 

NameSmash: You are in a unique position to set the tone for how a new gTLD rollout is handled. In what ways to you expect the rollout of .XXX and the New gTLDs that follow to be different than previous rounds?

Lawley: ICANN has learned a lot from the 2000 and 2004 rounds in terms of type and scope of registries and a variety of business models. I think apart from Geo, Brand and a very few generic new TLD’s, most other applications will be focused on delivering a TLD that has demonstrable benefits for both the registrants and the Public by this clear differentiation indicated by the TLD and the benefits it bring both groups. I could see the strong benefits for all stakeholders in gTLD’s such as .bank, movie even .music whereby the consumer has a greater degree of certainty by visiting one of the sites in these new TLDs that are governed by certain policies and eligibility requirements.

 

For those of you planning to get in on the first wave of New gTLD applications, here is a timeline of .XXX TLD provided by Stuart Lawley.  His experience may serve as another  kind of guide once the Applicant Guide Book is ultimately approved:

June 1999 – ICM registry formed

Summer 2000 - Original bid for .XXX in first test bed round of TLD applications

Summer 2003 – Stuart Lawley takes over ICM

March 2004 - sTLD application filed

June 2005 - ICANN board decides that all criteria have been met

March 2007 - ICANN reject signing contract and application

June 2008 - ICM registry files first ever Independent Review challenge against ICANN

September 2009 - 1 week trial held in Washington DC

February 2010- ICM wins independent Review decision

March 2011 – ICANN Board agree to sign contract

April 2011- XXX enters the root.

 

 

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