Today marks the opening of the .XXX generic top-level domain (gTLD) to the general public. ICM Registry, the company under contract with ICANN to administer the .XXX domain, has preceded the opening with a 4.5 million dollar (cringe-inducing) advertising campaign aimed at drumming up sales and awareness of the new extension.

The beginning of General Availability marks the final step in .XXX’s four-phase launch process. During Sunrise Periods A and B, registered trademark holders from inside and outside the adult entertainment industry had the opportunity to proactively register their marks as domains. The recently closed Landrush Period gave qualified members of the adult entertainment industry an opportunity to register domains. Starting today, anyone will be able to purchase a .XXX domain. Importantly, when registrants register their domains, they will have the option of having that domain not resolve to content. For businesses and individuals, this solves the delicate question of where to point a defensively registered .XXX domain.

For brands, today is an important day. Although nearly 80,000 companies from outside the porn industry took advantage of the Sunrise Period B and proactively registered their marks, they were only able to register an exact match of their trademark. Shortenings, iterations, nicknames and common misspellings and typos were not accepted. Today, brands, along with the general public, will finally be able to register these variations.

At this point it’s hard to predict if .XXX will gain popularity among the general Internet community. Currently, ICM Registry faces an anti-trust suit from online pornography companies Manwin Licensing International and Digital Playground over its pricing and handling of the .XXX domain. Among other demands, the suit seeks to renegotiate the contract between ICM Registry and ICANN. Despite .XXX’s uncertain future, brands who have not yet registered their mark or who are anxious to protect other variations of their trademark, would do well to take early advantage of General Availability.