Plans for the proposed Internet domain .xxx, have been dropped, just days before they were to receive approval.
Plans for the proposed Internet domain .xxx, purely for pornography, have been dropped like a hot cake, just days before they were to receive approval.
Vint Cerf, chairman, ICANN, stunned an open meeting of the governmental advisory committee (GAC) in Vancouver, by announcing that the issue had been pulled-off the agenda of the upcoming ICANN Board meeting due to time-constraints. Cerf did not give any indication, as to when the issue was likely to be re-opened.
Stuart Lawley, president, ICM Registry (.xxx's sponsor), was the least amused, what with the ICM Registry having spent hundreds of millions of dollars in pushing the bid thus far. In fact, Lawley was to give a presentation on .xxx, minutes after Cerf's statement.
With this, speculation is rife about the reasons for the U-turn.
Rumour has it that Viviane Reding, EU commissioner, called Paul Twomey, head of ICANN, and threatened to withdraw all EU representatives unless the issue was pulled-off from the agenda. However Twomey denied that he had received any such communication from her. Interestingly, the EU has been mostly supportive of .xxx, with only Brazil and the US administration opposing the controversial domain.
The other possibility largely remains, that the Bush administration has finally given-in to the Christian right's hard-fought campaign. And while it is the US administration which holds the reigns in these matters, it is at the same time trying to make things look as though other governments are equally concerned about .xxx.
Whatever the impetus, the issue of .xxx has managed to set the cat among the pigeons... and it is certainly not the first time that .xxx plans have been quashed.
Approval for .xxx has been denied on many occasions previously. First, when Pope John Paul II died; then, after the intervention of the GAC of ICANN; and finally following pressure from the American Government, which had been hounded by the American Family Association - an organization with close links to the Bush administration.
The reason cited for rubbishing the porn-site project this time around, is that the GAC needed time to review ICANN's 350-page report on .xxx's feasibility before it could approve the same.
The concept behind the .xxx domain, is to provide an area of the internet specifically and exclusively for pornography, that will be self-regulated. Only pornographers will be allowed to apply for an .xxx domain; they will pay a premium and will be expected to sign-up to best practice rules and guidelines. Further, an independent panel of experts will review these guidelines and find workable compromises.
Consumers will benefit as they will know what to expect by visiting .xxx, and will not be ripped-off by unscrupulous owners of other porn sites. The sex industry stands to gain from a greater number of customers who will feel more comfortable handing over credit card details to a regulated domain.
Of course critics are of the view that .xxx will not have any impact on the amount of pornography on the internet; besides approving such a domain would imply approval of the content therein.
However Lawley counters by saying that pornography will exist on the Internet with or without the .xxx domain, and that by providing a specific domain there will be some element of regulation.
Whether Lawley's argument is true or not, it still leaves him - one furious owner of ICM Registry, who has sunk millions into a project that has been consistently obstructed by last-minute, out-of-the-blue delays.