ICANN Official Urges More Debate on .XXX

ICANN Official Urges More Debate on .XXX
Matt O'Conner
MARINA DEL REY, Calif. — ICANN has made public a letter from the chairman of its Governmental Advisory Committee to its board of directors stating his concerns about international opposition to the organization’s pending approval of the .XXX sponsored top-level domain.

Mohamed Sharil Tarmizi said the governments of several countries had expressed strong positions and a “sense of discomfort” regarding the new sTLD during a recent ICANN meeting in Luxembourg.

“I believe the board should allow time for additional governmental and public policy concerns to be expressed before reaching a final decision on this TLD,” Tarmizi concludes in his letter.

The .XXX domain has been the subject of ongoing debate since ICANN announced on June 1 that it had entered into technical and commercial negotiations with Florida-based ICM Registry to act as official registry for the sTLD, making adoption of the new domain likely.

Many adult webmasters have complained that use of the .XXX suffix could lead to widespread trademark disputes with cybersquatters, open the possibility for mandatory migration to the sTLD and ultimately segregate the adult Internet.

Their fears are often inflamed by loaded headlines and one-sided editorials, usually written by critics of adult entertainment who don't fully understand the inner workings of ICANN and its processes.

For example, in an article published Aug. 7 in the National Ledger, Republican strategist Nathan Tabor commented, “I believe we should use the tactics of liberals — who always love to tax and regulate everything — and make all porn sites drop their current .com domains and go to the .XXX URL exclusively.”

ICM has responded numerous times to concerns regarding mandatory migration and cybersquatting on both XBiz and other industry sites, but if the recent panel discussion between ICM executives and industry representatives at Internext is any indication, many webmasters remain unconvinced.

Some are still holding out hope that the Commerce Department will intervene to block the .XXX sTLD from going into effect, and their hopes were bolstered by an open letter from Commerce reiterating the agency’s ongoing control of the Internet’s root servers.

But a Commerce official told XBiz in June that his department neither passes judgment on the merits of any TLD nor has the authority to stop ICANN from approving a TLD, according to the government’s agreement with the organization. Rather, he said, the department is responsible only for technical aspects of implementation, including adding .XXX to root servers.

Still, it seems that .XXX will remain a hot issue for debate, especially if Tarmizi’s letter results in the topic being added to the agendas for both ICANN’s September teleconference and the United Nations’ November summit meeting on the information age, which will take place in Tunisia.