ICANN’s 40th public meeting has just concluded, and at long last .xxx has been approved. I’ll come back to that.
Bill Clinton (whose Administration effectively established ICANN) addressed the meeting and made the point that when he was first elected President in 1992 there were around 50 websites world-wide, and when he left office in 2000, there were 36 million websites.
I was talking to the LNI Young Nationals yesterday and talking about having to fax things in the days before the Internet, and apart from making me feel very old, I reflected that people who grew up in the Internet era have no idea how different the world was before we all got e-mail etc.
Anyway back to .xxx, this top level domain was proposed around five or six years ago, and was accepted by ICANN for contract negotiations. Once an application has been accepted, the contract negotiations are normally routine. However several Governments were very oppossed to .xxx and at the Wellington ICANN meeting in 2007 managed to derail the process and a majority on the ICANN Board turned down the final contract for .xxx
The .xxx applicant sought an indpendent review of the Board’s decision, and won their case with the International Centre for Dispute Resolution who found ICANN had not treated them fairly. This is not binding on the ICANN Board, but by a majority vote the ICANN Board (now chaired by NZer Peter Dengate-Thrush) approved in principle reconsideration of the .xxx application.
A number of Governments remain oppossed to the .xxx domain, generally with the backing of conservative religious groups. Generally their position is that it legitimises adult content on the Internet. Personally I think it is a stupid argument as a domain name is just an identifier. An adult website which is called sjporn.xxx is the same content as if it is called sjporn.com. And you know the Internet already has a fair amount of porn without .xxx.
Ironically the allies of the conservative religious groups in oppossing this domain, has been some elements of the porn industry. They are worried that if .xxx is created, then the US Congress might pass a law saying all adult websites must register in .xxx.
This is a possibility, but not a large one to my mind. Congress did once interfere in domain name matters and passed a law creating the kids.us domain. It was designed to be a safe place for kids and can only have kids friendly content, and can only link to other sites in kids.us. Last time I checked there were around seven names registered in it.
One other reason some of the porn industry is against .xxx, is because to register in .xxx, you will need to be a “safe” porn site. You will lose your domain name if you have illegal content such as child porn or bestiality on your site. Also if you have malware on your site or if you do not have secure credit card processing. Also a portion of each domain name will go to cybersafety funding.
So .xxx could over time be come to be seen as a quality rating for adult sites, and most adult sites may feel pressured to move there for commercial reasons. Or it may flop and only get a few thousand registrations. But the ICANN Board have done the right thing in again approving the application for contract negotiations, so that they get a chance to succeed or fail.