An open letter to the ICANN Board

The organization responsible for approving new extensions, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), first approved ICM Registry’s plans for a new .xxx extension in June 2005 (the application having been made more than a year earlier in March 2004).

At that time, the two sides entered contractual discussions about how the registry would be run technically and commercially (it is much harder to run a piece of the Internet’s basic infrastructure than you would think).

The contract went through several steps and was due to be approved. But as it drew close to completion, the idea of an Internet extension for the adult industry started getting widespread attention and soon a concerted campaign against the extension was launched. Despite a number of surveys showing broad support for what .xxx hoped to achieve, the application came under criticism from certain special interest groups.

The ICANN Board, for a number of stated reasons, then rejected the application in March 2007. ICM Registry felt it has been unfairly treated and so used the various mechanisms put in place to ensure that ICANN remained an objective guardian of the domain name system to question the decision.

In February 2010, an independent panel of three eminent jurists decided in ICM Registry’s favour, saying that ICANN’s decision has been against its own rules as well as local and international law.

The Independent Review Panel declared that ICANN should have entered into contract with ICM and, at the time of writing, it currently rests with the Board to decide how to proceed.

ICM Registry expects to be able to move forward with the contract negotiated during 2005-2007, and so have .xxx domains on the Internet before the end of 2010. ICANN is currently reviewing all comments from the Internet community, so I will post my comment on the official ICANN site – as I strongly feel that the .xxx domain is a great way to protect minors from inappropriate content. I would like to appeal to you, to do the same. I have explained how you can leave a formal comment at the end of this blog post – it will take you less than 1 minute using the automated process provided by ICM.

About the ICM Registry

ICM Registry is a financially stable and completely independent entity with no affiliation, current or historic, with the adult entertainment industry. As a registry operator, ICM Registry will provide management, supporting infrastructure and back-end functionality.

The .xxx extension will be one of a very small number of sponsored Internet extensions and members of the sponsoring community will be able to register domains with the new ending.

However, while most Internet extensions are used for just about everything you can imagine, .xxx will be focused on providing an online home for those members of the adult industry who wish to self-identify and responsibly self-regulate.

The International Foundation for Online Responsibility (IFFOR) is the sponsoring organization. IFFOR is a non-profit entity that will serve as the policy-making body for the .xxx extension.

IFFOR is and will remain independent from ICM Registry and will have its own board of directors representing all stakeholders, including child safety representatives, members of the free speech community and adult entertainment industry leaders.

IFFOR’s mission includes contributing programs and tools to make a difference in the continuing battle against child pornography and establishing a forum for the online adult-entertainment community to communicate and proactively respond to the needs and concerns of the broader Internet community.

About ICANN

To reach another person on the Internet you have to type an address into your computer – a name or a number. That address has to be unique so computers know where to find each other. ICANN coordinates these unique identifiers across the world. Without that coordination we wouldn’t have one global Internet.

ICANN was formed in 1998. It is a not-for-profit public-benefit corporation with participants from all over the world dedicated to keeping the Internet secure, stable and interoperable. It promotes competition and develops policy on the Internet’s unique identifiers.

ICANN doesn’t control content on the Internet (I disagree!). It cannot stop spam and it doesn’t deal with access to the Internet. But through its coordination role of the Internet’s naming system, it does have an important impact on the expansion and evolution of the Internet.

My open letter to ICANN

Dear Board of Directors

I am writing to urge the ICANN Board to abide by the declaration of the Independent Review Panel and to enter into a registry agreement with ICM without further delay.

Regardless of the nature of the sTLD, ICANN must respect the procedures it has established to ensure accountability to the wider Internet community. Failing to fully abide by the decision of the IRP will demonstrate that ICANN has no meaningful commitment to accountability, and will seriously damage ICANN’s legitimacy and authority.

Therefore, ICANN has only one option if it wishes to preserve the integrity of its procedures and its long-term credibility as the manager of the DNS: immediately execute a registry agreement with ICM and allow ICM to proceed with the launch of the sTLD.

Tim Berners-Lee invented the Web so people could share hyperlinked documents online. He didn’t invent it to have it policed by extremists who are unable to accept opposing views and opinions to their own. Furthermore, I don’t believe in anonymity in comments when it comes to such important topics (as supported by your Web site), as it enables the same people to leave more than one comment – it also enables people from the same organizations/circles to support each other without having to put their name to it.

The debate about the .xxx domain is completely skewed by religion and politics in my opinion – that is wrong. I have not seen one piece of evidence to support ICANN’s right to refused the .xxx application.

Every technology enables bad people to do bad things, just like it allows good people to do good things – the Web is a perfect platform that demonstrates this point. What we must do, is use technology that empowers people to find what they want, whilst protecting them from what they deem to be inappropriate. This however, must not come at the expense of hampering freedom of speech.

The W3C is the global standards consortium responsible for the creation of standards such as HTML and Accessibility development guidelines to help developers build websites that are accessible to disabled people – founded and managed today, by Tim Berners-Lee. It is also responsible for the creation of a standard called PICS. PICS is the old and outdated method used by Microsoft Internet Explorer’s filter – used to help protect minors from inappropriate content on the Web today.

To address comments on your site regarding the use of .xxx to increase the number of adult orientated websites… pornographic websites make up for the vast majority of sites that use PICS, to help protect minors from adult orientated content. So, whether people like it or not, IE is reading labels from porn sites TODAY. As I stated earlier, IE uses a method that is based on an old and outdated W3C standard called PICS – it’s not flexible and it doesn’t do what today’s technology can support – hence why most people don’t use the filter.

The Family Online Safety Institute, an international, non-profit organization of internet leaders working to develop a safer internet, continues to support the outdated method of labelling content – BUT, it no longer actively encourages developers to use it – its strategy is now focused on lobbing governments and big orginazations around the world. That means, very few, if any, new websites are being labelled so that IE can filter out inappropriate content.

There is good news, in December 2009, PICS was replaced by a new method called POWDER (AKA Content Labels) that is much easier to use and it’s much more advanced technology wise.

Every person who registers a .xxx domain will be forced to use the new standard to label their content as adult oriented – this will enable IE and other browsers to filter out .xxx domains for people who find them inappropriate. This demonstrates the ICM Registry’s commitment to protecting people from inappropriate content. This is the opposite to what most unqualified opinions believe – as they haven’t properly understood this fact.

As I said earlier, regardless of the nature of the sTLD, ICANN must respect the procedures it has established to ensure accountability to the wider Internet community.

Warm regards,

Dear reader, click here to leave a formal comment for ICANN in less than one minute

[update: 22nd April 2009 after reading this post, a friend of mine reminded me of the following point “the promotion of MetaCert Content Labels by .xxx will lead the way for all other .tld domain sites to follow suit and therefore lead to (at last) a solution to block all porn sites from access to kids via a content label that has widespread adoption.]


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    4Avatars v0.3.1 v0.3.1  Public comments: Paul Walsh, CEO of Segala said...

    […] You can read more on Paul Walsh’s blog. […]


  2. flag
    4Avatars v0.3.1 v0.3.1  Neuro said...

    Pual you do relise that alowing a .xxx will open the flood gates for any randon loony to say that a site should be on the .xxx domain and it will lead to a balkanised internet.

    leave the stage irishman act to father ted and try thinking for once!


  3. flag
    Paul Walsh  Paul Walsh said...

    Neuro – I have no idea what you are trying to say. Perhaps you could paraphrase or explain further?


  4. flag
    4Avatars v0.3.1 v0.3.1  Paul Walsh, the Irish Opportunist | » McAfee reveals the riskiest domains to surf and search said...

    […] is very reason I welcome the new .xxx TLD from ICM Registry following six long years of ICANN fence-sitting. Site owners that buy a .xxx domain sign up to a code of conduct that includes the automatic […]


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