The company that administers the .xxx domain just launched a porn-only search engine, Search.xxx, after a year of development. The search engine is ostensibly an effort to promote the new X-rated ecosystem of .xxx sites while countering attempts by mainstream search engines to de-emphasize porn in search results. But it's actually part of something greater: the effort to build a self-sustaining internet for porn. Call it the pornternet.

Search.xxx isn't the first porn-only search engine, nor is it the first to use a minimalist aesthetic. But it is the first search engine to exclusively search .xxx sites. "It's an alternative," said Stuart Lawley, CEO of Florida-based ICM Registry, the company that administers .xxx and Search.xxx. "We're not looking at world domination with this."

But ICM's approach to Search.xxx is consistent with the strategy it's pursued around .xxx since the domain debuted in December. ICM also has pending applications for .sex, .adult, and .porn, which will presumably be listed in Search.xxx if granted. The company essentially wants to create a separate internet for porn, a place where users can browse safely and discreetly, and all sites will operate according to ICM's rules. That strategy is new, and it's potentially disruptive — so much so that the porn industry sued ICM back in November.

"We're not looking at world domination with this."

The porn industry has historically been a leader in embracing new technology. For ICM, the next hurdle is micropayments, which it plans to introduce in June or July of 2013. "We think that will be an absolute game changer," Lawley told The Verge.

For the most part, the porn market is divided between free, ad-supported sites and premium, paid subscription sites. That's "yesterday's business model," the CEO said. A secure micropayments system would give customers and purveyors more options.

Lawley wants ICM to play a gatekeeper role for porn sites similar to Apple's role in the App Store or iTunes. The music industry succumbed to selling individual songs rather than forcing people to buy full albums, which reduced the incentive for piracy. Lawley figures the same thing could happen if micropayments were streamlined in the porn industry, where piracy is also rampant.

Within the pornternet, ICM sets the rules. No child pornography is allowed on .xxx sites, of course, and no squatting. The sites must also be tested for malware and viruses daily by McAfee SECURE Malware Scan. This means that any site that turns up in a Search.xxx search will also comport with these rules. If there's a violation, the site will be removed from the search engine and potentially from .xxx.

Beyond the basic ground rules, Search.xxx is an equal-opportunity search engine, Lawley said. Merely promise that you're over 18, select your language, and indicate your sexual orientation, and Search.xxx will deliver objectively-ranked results. Sites will be ranked according to keyword matching in the domain name, meta data, and site content. The search engine also employs a Google PageRank-esque algorithm that weights sites more heavily depending on how many other sites link to them.

Search.xxx is an equal-opportunity search engine

There will be no paid partnerships or favoritism for bigger ICM customers, Lawley said. "We want genuine results," he said. "Just like Google will penalize people for trying to outsmart the ranking system, we will do the same."

And since ICM makes its money selling domain names, there will be no need to sell search ads, he said. However, registering a keyword as a .xxx domain will get you a better ranking for that keyword — "gay.xxx" will rank highly in the Search.xxx results for "gay" — effectively a clever twist on pay-to-play.

A combination of in-house developers and contractors will be working to refine the search engine over time. Search.xxx also plans to roll out new features every six months or so, Lawley said. There is a plan to add a topic summary at the top of the results for porn stars and cam girls, similar to the topic summaries powered by Google's Knowledge Graph.

The network of .xxx domains includes roughly 160,000 adult sites, plus another 80,000 sites that were registered purely to defend against trademark dilution. There are also a few marketing stunts like PETA.xxx, which features "hardcore" videos of animal abuse. Considering estimates that porn makes up four percent of the internet, ICM is controlling a very tiny empire of just 21 million pages.

The company has the building blocks of what could become a self-contained, self-sufficient island of porn

Still, the company has the building blocks of what could become a self-contained, self-sufficient island of porn. It has a domain registry, a search engine, plenty of content, plenty of potential users, and something like a Porn Knowledge Graph on the way. It also has an alluring pitch that gives users the sense that they're surfing responsibly. Scammers are screened out, transactions will route through a trusted authority, and Net Nanny can easily block the whole enterprise.

Go to Search.xxx, and you'll see something familiar: a plain, minimalist page with a simple logo and an empty search bar. There's no "I'm feeling lucky" option, but the new porn-only search engine looks a lot more like Google than your typical ad-ridden, genitalia-flashing porn site. "It's the same dirty porn in terms of content, but in a cleaner and safer environment, and a more pleasant environment," Lawley said.