One of the more bizarre situations I have found myself in while covering domain name system overseer ICANN, both outside and inside the organization, was at the Vancouver meeting in December 2005.
It was a particularly difficult meeting. For one, ICANN was under intense scrutiny because it was about to sign an extension to the dot-com contract and literally no one outside Verisign and the ICANN Board liked it. But secondly, it had come to light that the US government, under pressure from right-wing Christian groups, had pushed the Board very hard to *not* approve the dot-xxx contract.
The Board was planning to approve dot-xxx on the last day of the meeting, but had a sudden change of mind and put it off until the next Board meeting. There was all manner of behind-the-scenes shenanigans as the very worst of ICANN came out and it made important decisions in secret, and then spent huge amounts of time and effort trying to make it look like it hadn’t. No one bought it and there was a lot of anger.
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So I think there is a real chance that the Internet extension .xxx will appear on the Internet some time this year.
Of course, you really can never know since overseeing body ICANN is a complex beast, but following the first use of the organization’s Independent Review Process (IRP) and the resulting panel declaration [pdf], I don’t actually see that many obstacles in the path of .xxx: all the arguments have been had and pretty much rejected by a very distinguished set of judges. And of course the current chairman of ICANN was emphatically of the view that dot-xxx should have been approved at the time it was officially rejected back in 2007.
My personal feeling is that dot-xxx is a good idea. It gives a place for pornography to reside online – and allows for pornography-specific rules to be created; it allows for companies and even countries to block access to it if they decide it is against their laws or policies; and it makes it possible that pornography could be pulled out of other top-level domains, so you don’t have it scattered all over the Internet.
As someone who has a little bit of knowledge about the adult industry and the Internet through researching my Sex.com book (although I would not put myself forward as an expert), I would say this is but an inevitable next step for pornography on the Internet. The history of sexually explicit media shows the same pattern over and over again.
Anyway, that’s an aside. I have written a lengthy story for The Register on this issue that includes the views of ICANN’s current CEO, Rod Beckstrom; ICM Registry’s (company behind .xxx) chairman Stuart Lawley; ex-ICANN chairman Vint Cerf; and Internet governance expert Wolfgang Kleinwachter.
You can read the three-part story on El Reg and I have posted it below for those too lazy to click a link.
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