ICANN grants .xxx but delays opening domain gates

The group in charge of Internet addresses on Friday opened the door for websites ending with ".xxx" but delayed deciding whether to open the floodgates for other suffixes.

The non-profit Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) board voted to approve a petition to add .xxx to the list of "generic top level domains," those endings that include .com, .net, and .org.

However, resolutions considered by the board as its annual public meeting ended in San Francisco did not include whether to approve guidelines that would clear the way for essentially any Internet address endings.

"We think we are pretty close to a workable policy," ICANN board chairman Peter Dengate Thrush told AFP prior to the meeting. "It's all part of a mission to create competition, diversity and choice."

ICANN has spent years crafting a guide for approving applications for any suggested top level domains. Currently, the agency individually endorses domain name petitions.

The process encountered controversy after feedback from a government caucus included asking for veto power to preclude the creation of top level domains such as .gay that might be blocked in some countries.

The concern expressed was that countries blocking entire domains could lead to a balkanization of the Internet.

Thrush dismissed that worry, reasoning that the adult content at issue is on the Internet regardless of whether a website address ends in .gay or one of the existing terms.

"The issue is the content, which is exactly the same," Thrush said. "It doesn't change if a website becomes .gay."

The ICANN board did approve a petition to operate an .xxx domain. The request had been rejected about five years ago and was reconsidered after an appeal.

Board member Rita Rodin Johnston prefaced her "yes" vote by quoting a US expression "caught between a rock and a hard place."

"I have never felt this so poignantly as with this .xxx decision," Johnston said.

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