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Racy domain at center of controversy

In a somewhat surprising development, approval of a new .xxx top-level domain has stalled as the Bush administration and special interest groups voiced their concern over the potential fallout of instituting a domain devoted to adult Web content. The new domain was initially approved by ICANN in June, and the organization had said it was working to finalize details, with an expected launch by the end of this year.


But what seemed like a good idea to some has met with vehement protest by some unlikely parties. Both ICANN and ICM Registry, the Florida company that plans to operate .xxx, agreed to put the brakes on the new domain--at least for one month--after the Bush administration said it has received over 6,000 letters and e-mails voicing concern over the implications of such a domain. Criticism has also come from the Family Research Council and the American Civil Liberties Union, whose primary concern is that non-pornographic, but sex-related Web sites may be forced to move to the .xxx domain.

The uproar puts ICANN in an unprecedented and precarious position. As The Inquirer broke it down: "If it backs down, ICANN could be perceived as bowing to political interference--but if not, it could alienate government officials when it needs them most to fight off UN attempts to take them over."

Reactions in the blogosphere run the gamut, from people who feel a .xxx domain will expose children to more pornography, to those who are concerned that an outside organization could be given the power to force Web sites to the domain unjustly. ICANN is treading on thin ice with the volatile topic, and the outcome of this debate will likely shape how the Internet's governing body runs in the future.

Blog community response:

"Don't fall for the sucker pitch that it's about protecting the children or creating a special place for only adult sites, blah, blah, blah. The problem is almost no adult webmasters are going to redirect their existing, established .com, .net, etc traffic to a .xxx domain just because there is a special place for it, so even with this special area you're going to have the huge adult sites still operating where they always have been and thus the same filtering/censoring issues that still exist today."

"But here's the thing: it really doesn't matter whether a .XXX domain is created or not. To an end user, top level domains are completely irrelevant to the organization and location of information on the Internet. And there is a very simple, one-word explanation for why: Google."

"The dot-xxx domain seems to be suffering from a case of electoral dysfunction (see ".asinine")...All of this leaves ICANN in a difficult position and one for which the agency has no one to blame but itself."
--Good Morning Silicon Valley

"The position of the administration seems to be that porn will decrease or go away if this domain name is prohibited. All of the points made by the administration attack porn in general, and do not address the issue of the consequences of allowing for this new domain name."
--The Electric Commentary