- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 2, 2005

The Internet’s primary oversight body has approved a plan to create a virtual red-light district, setting the stage for pornographic Web sites to use addresses ending in “xxx.”

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) said Wednesday that it would begin negotiations with ICM Registry Inc., run by British businessman Stuart Lawley, to iron out technical issues and prices for the new Web addresses.

The International Foundation for Online Responsibility, a nonprofit entity, will sponsor and serve as the policy-making authority for the .xxx domain to create a self-regulated adult entertainment area of cyberspace.

The foundation said its mission is to “promote the development of responsible business practices and conduct within the online adult-entertainment community,” including efforts to curb child pornography and keep children from being targeted by sexually oriented Web sites.

Adult-oriented sites, a $12 billion industry, probably could begin buying “xxx” addresses as early as fall or winter depending on ICM’s plans, ICANN spokesman Kieran Baker said. The pornography suffix was among 10 under consideration by the regulatory group, which also recently approved addresses ending in “jobs” and “travel.”

Use of the .xxx extension would be voluntary, but ICM said on its site that the designation “will create a clearly identifiable area of the Internet that will both help protect children and families, as well as enable responsible adult-entertainment Web site operators to self-organize and self-regulate on a voluntary basis.”

ICM said the designation is needed for “one of the largest and fastest-growing sectors of the Internet.”

More than 10 percent of all online traffic and 25 percent of all global Internet searching is adult-content oriented, with “well over one million” adult sites.

ICM plans to sell the names for $60 a year, roughly 10 times the prices other companies charge for dot-com names.

“It will further help to protect kids,” said John Morris, staff counsel at the Washington-based Center for Democracy and Technology. Mr. Morris predicted that some adult sites will choose to buy “xxx” Web addresses but that others would continue to use .com.

ICANN, a nonprofit organization set up in 1998 at the initiative of the U.S. government to respond to requests to do business on the Internet, said it was still in talks for other extensions, including .asia and .mail.

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