After a decade of protests and rejections, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) – the agency responsible for the assignment of domain names and IP addresses –has approved of a new domain for adult and pornographic websites. The top-level domain name .xxx will be active from 2011 with over 100,000 sites already registered.
ICM, the registry who campaigned for the domain, believe the move clearly separates pornography from the rest of the web, thus making it easier for users to avoid. In an interview with BBC News, Stuart Lawley, chairman of ICM, welcomed the decision and said it was “great news for those that wish to consume, or avoid, adult content”. Seemingly, it is ICM who gains the most from the new domain, charging US$60 per name for those who register with them.
The controversial move has fuelled a backlash from various groups and formed an unlikely allegiance between religious groups and members of the adult entertainment industry, both of whom reject the new web space.
According to some, .xxx will open the doors to even more pornography on the Internet. Religious groups fear the web will be flooded with pornographic content and some adult industry insiders agree. Dianne Duke, of the Free Speech Coalition who represent 1000 businesses in the adult entertainment industry, told the New York Times that this influx of content will result not only in censorship, but will “ghettoize our industry, making us a target of regulation”. An outcry of accusations from family groups claiming the domain will create a “new platform for internet porn” have been rebuffed by ICANN who strongly state their business is in the naming of domains, not the content within those domains.
What does the new domain really mean for the nature of web content consumption? Absolutely nothing, says ZDNet’s Christopher Dawson. It is, according to Dawson, “just a name” and will not result in regulation, policing or filtering. Registering on the xxx domain is voluntary with Duke suggesting most of the Free Speech Coalition’s clients will still operate from their dot com addresses.