ICANN votes against '.xxx' top-level domain again

For the second time, ICANN's board has rejected creating a ".xxx" domain name over concerns the organization may be put in a regulatory position over content

The overseer of the Internet's addressing system rejected for the second time the creation of a ".xxx" top-level domain, supported by some as a way to isolate adult content on the Internet.

Nine board members for the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) voted against the proposal at ICANN's 28th International Public Meeting in Lisbon, Portugal. Five voted in favour, while one member abstained from voting, according to an ICANN spokesperson.

Those rejecting a ".xxx" top-level domain said its creation could set ICANN up as a potential regulator of content on the Internet, which is not in its mandate. ICANN is responsible for the administration of the domain name system (DNS), the index that enables the translation of website uniform resource locators (URLs) into numerical IP addresses that can be called up into a browser.

"In the end, the board concluded that the contractual document, the contractual vehicle, wasn't adequate to the task and for a number of other reasons decided to reject the proposal," said ICANN chairman, Vint Cerf.

In May 2006, ICANN also rejected creating the domain. Critics of the new domain said it could make adult content easier to find, but others argued that would also make it easier to filter out with software. The domain also raised concerned over free speech and how content on a website may be classified.

The consideration of the ".xxx" top-level domain "has occupied a very substantial amount of board time" in the past two years and generated much debate, Cerf acknowledged. But he made a point of dispelling the notion that the board members voting against creating an ".xxx" top-level domain did so as a result of outside pressure from governments or external organisations. "Their decisions were made in accordance with their own consideration," Cerf said.

Friday's vote ends the current proposal from ICM Registry Inc. to create and manage this top-level domain, Cerf said. "This particular round is over. We wouldn't consider another revision of the proposed contract," he said.

The saga began in March 2004, when ICM submitted an application for this domain, a few months after ICANN solicited proposals to create new sponsored top-level domains. Back then, ICANN outlined that the applications needed to "address the needs and interests of a clearly defined community -- the Sponsored TLD Community," which would benefit from the creation of a top-level domain. In voting against ".xxx" last week, some members said that ICM's proposal failed to meet this ponsored communityequirement.

"At no time that I can recall were the board discussions about this top-level domain revolving around the content. It revolved around the process and the evaluation of the proposals and the subsequent contract as to whether these were satisfactory," Cerf said.

ICANN officials also discussed the release of an independent study into the organisation's transparency level. The study, done by One World Trust in London, concluded that, overall, ICANN is a very transparent organisation but that it can improve certain areas, including explaining better how ICANN uses input from stakeholders when making decisions.

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