ICM Registry Forges Ahead

Gretchen Gallen
TORONTO, Canada – Last week's decision not to endorse the proposal for a ".xxx" top-level domain (TLD) by the Board of Directors for the Free Speech Coalition (FSC) was a disappointment, Jason Hendeles told XBiz, but it was certainly not a setback.

According to ICM Registry founder Hendeles, the man who first proposed the new TLD to the Internet for Assigned Names and Numbers ( ICANN) three years ago, Hendeles, his investors, and a large constituency of adult webmasters continue to move forward with plans to re-introduce the TLD in the next few weeks.

ICM first introduced the ".xxx" domain suffix in 2000, although at the time they did not have a complete sponsorship application in place. Under ICANN's terms, there are two different types of TLDs: the generic kind like .com or .net, and sponsored TLDs that represent a constituency of registrants.

And while the FSC's endorsement of ".xxx" would have been a feather in ICM's cap, since they are the official trade organization for the adult entertainment industry, Hendeles has proposals in the works with many other organizations more apt to endorse the proposed TLD than the FSC.

Hendeles' three-year push for the adoption of ".xxx" has gained widespread industry support from leading companies in the adult world who aspire to a rightful distinction from other areas of online industry.

For a business sector that Hendeles sees as being under enormous pressure right now from pending legislation, Acacia's litigation, technological challenges, and chargeback fees from major credit card companies, Hendeles sees the adoption of ".xxx" as an opportunity for adult webmasters to build an online "Las Vegas" of the future where there would be substantial revenue and content opportunities for consenting adults.

Hendeles, who was not present at the FSC board meeting, told XBiz that members of the FSC board arbitrarily decided to address the issue of endorsing the ".xxx" suffix as a last minute agenda, pending a three-day weekend.

"It would have been nice if the entire board was there," said Hendeles. "They probably just figured 'okay let's just finish this once and for all' and they decided not to sign the letter of support."

Bill Lyon, executive director for FSC, told XBiz that it has always been the coalition's position that any attempts to put the proposed TLD into a non-mainstream environment is fraught with risks and not in the best interest of the adult industry.

"There is too much danger of ghetto-ization," Lyon told XBiz. "There would be more opportunities for the government to exert control over a TLD that was solely content-oriented toward adult entertainment than it would be for a TLD like .com."

According to Lyon, FSC opposed the adoption of ".xxx" when it was first introduced in 2000. "And we oppose it now," he told XBiz.

Hendeles told XBiz that the FSC's decision last week was just one more step in a vastly bureaucratic process in making the new TLD official.

"I really don't think that the FSC understands the dynamics of the Internet. Their concerns were more substantial than the actual truth," he said. "There are a lot of politics involved in the domain name process. ICANN is very slow to release new domain names, while at the same time, the adult industry has come to realize that it has to be proactive and responsible in making this happen."

Hendeles pursuit of the FSC's endorsement was partially based on creating a business alliance with a non-profit organization, which in many cases would appear more authentic to ICANN than a profit-based registry.

"In many ways the FSC would have been ideal because they already have the non-profit infrastructure in place," said Hendeles. " But it's not essential that we get their signature. It would have enabled us to enlarge our constituency insofar as reaching the masses, the more mainstream group of retailers and companies that are known by the FSC. We have some ideas on ways we can make ".xxx" a haven for free speech and we will continue to go in that direction. We have always wanted to promote free speech regardless of the FSC, although it seemed like a good fit."

According to the FSC, accepting profits from the ".xxx" suffix would be improper. "We also realized that according to ICANN, the registry, ICM, would have more control over the non-profit part of the organization, and this would not be suitable for FSC. It is simply not something we can participate in," Lyon told XBiz.

In the meantime, Hendeles and his supporters are waiting for ICANN to release proposal and submission details for TLD applicants.

"We are not going to be approaching any more organizations for endorsement," Hendeles told XBiz. "We already have a diverse and substantial group that represent the majority of the adult world and we are going to focus our efforts on creating a beneficial environment for the adult webmaster community."

If approved by ICANN, VeriSign, Register.com, and all other competing registrars would act as resellers for the ".xxx" TLD and profits would be split with ICM per domain name purchase.