ICANN Approves .XXX Domain for Adult Web Content

 
 
By Fahmida Y. Rashid  |  Posted 2011-03-21 Email Print this article Print
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

ICANN has reversed its previous votes to create a virtual red-light district with the new .XXX domain suffix for adult content. ICM Registry will own and manage the domain.

The agency governing Internet addresses has approved .xxx as a new top-level domain, despite objections from civil rights groups, the adult entertainment industry and even parent groups.

The Internet Corp. for Assigned Names and Numbers approved the creation of the .xxx suffix on March 18 in a 9-3 vote. Four board members abstained from the vote, with two claiming potential conflicts of interest. ICANN CEO Rod Beckstrom also abstained.

Industry members opposed the new domain suffix because it may open them up to government censorship. The new TLD would also unfairly force existing companies to register their brands on the new suffix to protect their brand name, according to several critics of the new TLD.

"Of course, we are disappointed, but we are not surprised by the ICANN Board's decision," wrote Diane Duke, executive director of the Free Speech Coalition, a trade association representing more than 1,000 businesses in the industry.

As there's nothing that states existing sites have to switch to the new dot-xxx domain, and new sites can choose to use the regular dot-com instead of the new domain, this may not have as much impact on online adult content as a whole. While filters can effectively block out content on the dot-xxxx, that won't have much impact on the amount of adult content available online, according to Donna Rice Hughes, president of Enough Is Enough, a group dedicated to protecting children from adult Web content.

Other detractors, including the American Civil Liberties Union and the Obama administration, are concerned the new domain would make it easier for foreign governments to have a wholesale block of certain types of content.

"This decision goes against the global public interest, and it will open the door to more Internet blocking by governments and undermine the stability and security of the Internet," said Lawrence Strickling, assistant Commerce secretary.

The clear winner for the ICANN vote is ICM Registry, a Florida-based company, which will be overseeing the domain. ICM Registry claimed it would only sell domains to those sites that are "officially in the adult-entertainment industry."

Using the new domain will make browsing these sites much safer, according to Stuart Lawley, ICM's CEO. All the sites in the new domain will be scanned daily for viruses and other malware to ensure the sites are clean, Lawley said. ICM will also offer site owners a payment-processing system that customers will be able to trust, he said.

"Everybody wins," Lawley said. "The consumer of adult sites wins. The providers will benefit because more people will become paying customers. Those who don't want to go there will win as well because the sites will be easier to filter."

At $70 a pop, the registration fees for the .XXX domain are higher than what's normally charged for .com addresses. Industry members argued this makes it very expensive for Website operators and businesses being forced to register their names under the new suffix to protect their brand and also defensively register related terms. ICM has already pre-sold more than a quarter million domains in anticipation of the vote.

ICM is set to make at least $200 million a year and see between 3 million and 5 million domain registrations as companies defensively register their domains, Lawley told Bloomberg.

A portion of the registration fees will be funneled to an ICM-affiliated non-profit protecting children online, according to Lawley.

ICANN has refused to allow a specific TLD for adult content since 2000, according to Wired.

 


 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

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