On Tuesday, the new .xxx domain went live on the Web, drawing in more than 100,000 adult sites. The man behind this new .xxx empire is a British millionaire living in South Florida who had to navigate an outraged Christian Right and outlast the Bush Administration to found his online Red Light District in an office park a short ways north of Miami.
Stuart Lawley says he hopes the new addresses will help porn fiends and worried parents alike: "When I realized all these new domains were coming online, I thought, 'What would be more popular than .xxx?'" Stuart Lawley tells Riptide. "But with a two-year-old son, I also thought a more visible label on adult sites might have a real benefit."
To get rights to sell the .xxx suffix -- technically called a "top-level domain name" -- Lawley has had to trudge a long and contentious legal road.
Lawley says he first made a fortune in the U.K., where he served as chairman of a site called Oneview.net that sold for $200 million at the height of the dot com bubble in March 2000.
"I effectively retired then to the Bahamas at 37 years old," he says. "It was good for a few years, but there's only so much boating, golfing and fishing I could do."
Lawley and his family moved to Jupiter around 2003, and shortly thereafter he founded ICM Registry to start applying for the right to host .xxx websites.
ICANN, the California-based Internet group that regulates the Web, initially accepted the proposal, Lawley says -- then quickly buckled under heavy pressure from the Bush Administration.
"Christian conservatives railed against it, Bush was in power, and so ICANN flip-flopped," Lawley says.
He mounted legal challenges to the ruling and -- after two more rejections and setbacks -- finally won the right to host .xxx domains last year. The sites went live on Tuesday and Lawley says more than 100,000 sites have registered.
The benefits of the new name are numerous, he says: First, porn users will be able to trust that every .xxx site is regularly scanned to kill malware and viruses and can more easily find what they're looking for on the web.
Parents, meanwhile, can more easily filter out erotic sites by blocking the whole domain name.
That's not an argument everyone is buying. Religious conservatives say .xxx will only make Internet porn more widespread and harder to regulate.
"The establishment of a .xxx domain would increase, not decrease, the spread of pornography on the Internet, causing even more harm to children, families and communities," Patrick Trueman, CEO of Morality in Media, tells CNN.
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Last month, meanwhile, porn giant Manwin Licensing International -- operator of YouPorn -- filed suit in California arguing that Lawley is violating anti-trust laws with the new domain name.
Both arguments are bunk, says Lawley, who's company has more than twenty employees at the moment in Jupiter.
"The religious right essentially believes porn should all be illegal and shouldn't exist," Lawley says. "It does exist, and the major part is legal and protected under the First Amendment. Strangely enough, most conservatives are also about individual choice and anti-government intervention, and .xxx is all about facilitating that kind of freedom."