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ICANN Board Approves .xxx Domain

Adult content may soon have its own section of the Internet: the board of the International Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) has approved a proposal from ICM Registry to create a .xxx top-level domain explicitly for online adult content and pornography. The approval is the latest move in a years-long process to create an online red-light district in the Internet’s global domain system…and comes after an independent review found that ICANN’s previous decision not to approve a .xxx domain was wrong.

ICANN is the governing authority for the top-level domains (TLDs) like .com and .net, country-code specific domain (like .uk and .jp), and certifies domain registrars to offer domains for sale within those TLDs, as well as manage the day-to-day operation of those TLDs. Unlike country code TLDs, the .xxx domain was proposed under ICANN’s procedures for sponsored TLDs; other sponsored TLDs include domains like .name, .coop, .mobi, and .aero. The approval comes after ICANN tabled a decision on the .xxx domain last March.

“It’s been a long time coming, but I’m excited about the fact that .xxx will soon become a reality,” said ICM Registry chairman Stuart Lawley. “This is great news.”

The .xxx domain isn’t operational yet, though: ICM Registry now has to work with iCANN on operational, financial, and contractual qualifications to operate the domain.

Proponents of an adults-only top-level domain argue that providing a single destination for adult-oriented and pornography material not only provides a known way for adult entertainment operators to bring their services online, but also provides an easy way for consumers and organizations (like schools and libraries, or—in cases like China—entire nations) to regulate and restrict access to adult materials: filtering for a single top-level domain is much easier than maintaining a database of hundreds of thousands of Internet sites that may (or may not) contain objectionable material.

However, others argue that adult-oriented sites already litter nearly all existing top level domains, especially the popular .com and .net. The creation of a .xxx domain will not require existing adult-oriented sites relocate to the new TLD: they can continue to operate in their existing domains. So, the net benefit to ordinary users and others who want to filter out adult content will, for the foreseeable future, be negligible. Cynics argue that now, the new TLD just amounts to little more than a revenue-generating opportunity for ICM Registry.

Proposals to create a .xxx domain date all the way back to 2000; and were rejected in 2000, 2006, and 2007.

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