The big domain family of .com, .net, .edu and .org just added a new group.
A decade long battle over the introduction of a new domain specifically for pornography ended last week with the introduction of the new .xxx domain.
The international agency charged with preserving the operational stability of the Internet, ICANN, approved the top level domain application in March.
“The point of .xxx is you identify pornography domains so people can easily find or block them,” said Milton Mueller, Syracuse University School of Information Studies professor.
As his colleague in the school, Anthony Rotolo, explained, .com names are quickly being consumed and the new domain will allow consumers a way to differentiate content and for merchants to use the names they want instead of finding them already in use in a crowded .com field.
The .com domain has over 80 million names already and contains a wide range of content. Pornography sites will not be required to use the .xxx domain. Although some will undoubtedly stay a .com, the new .xxx will make them easier to identify.
“Making it compulsory would make it worse than what we have now,” Mueller said. “It’s not like we’re getting rid of pornography so why not make it easier to categorize and identify.”
The Bush administration opposed the introduction of the new .xxx domain when it was first introduced as did vocal morality groups such as the Family Research Council who felt it gave pornography legitimacy.
The .xxx domain was eventually upheld by an independent arbitration process.
“The Bush administration considered them part of their political base but it’s not supposed to be controlled by governments,” Mueller said. “Governments would have to look at websites and decide if you were or were not pornography and that would be censorship”
From Sweden to India, countries around the world have different ideas of what constitutes pornography. Some governments, such as India, say they intend to block it, but the new domain also has support from family values groups and members of the pornography industry.
“We understand that the U.S. position inside and outside the Government Advisory Committee is that they actually have no position either for or against .xxx,” ICANN chairman Peter Thrush said in a press release.
ICM Registry, the company that will administer the new domain said on its website www.icmregistry.com that the introduction of .xxx creates a credible self-regulated forum for all stakeholders to discuss and actively respond to concerns about online adult entertainment
All .xxx registrants will adhere to regulations designed to safeguard children and defend customer privacy through what Mueller described as “responsible protocol” methods.
In announcing its decision, the ICANN said consumers now have reassurance that they are better protected from the risk of viruses, identity theft, credit card fraud and inadvertent exposure to child abuse images. ICM registry chairman and president, Stuart Lawley said names will be up for sale in June and the .xxx domain should have at least a half a million sites very quickly.
Lawley said the new domain is a win for everyone including those who want to view adult material, those who produce it and those who want to stay away from it.
The long term impact of the new .xxx domain remains to be seen but Mueller said it’s probably a good thing in the long run that the domain wasn’t killed.
“It can’t do any major harm,” he said.