An online red-light district won a long battle Friday to set up a new .xxx Internet address after the global Internet oversight agency said it made mistakes in rejecting it three years ago.
The board of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, or ICANN, says it will now start the process of registering ".xxx" by making checks on ICM Registry LLC, the company that wants to run it.
ICM's founder Stuart Lawley says he thinks the new address could easily attract at least 500,000 sites, making it after ".mobi" the second biggest sponsored top-level domain name — or TLD, the name for Web address suffixes such as .com or .org.
Lawley expects to make $30 million a year in revenue by selling each .xxx site for $60 — and pledges to donate $10 from each sale to child protection initiatives via a nonprofit he has set up, the International Foundation for Online Responsibility, or IFFOR.
He already has 110,000 reservations, he says, and could get .xxx up and running within six to nine months after ICANN checks that ICM has the financial means and technical know-how to run it.
"I think we could do a million or more. There are several million adult TLDs already out there," he told the AP before the ICANN board meeting.
Lawley also says he will make it easy for Web blocking software to filter out ".xxx" sites by requiring them to carry a machine-readable metatag marking them clearly as porn.
"It will promote more labeled content," he said. "People who want to find it know where it is and people who don't see it or want to keep it away from their kids can use mechanisms to do so."
Skeptics note that porn sites would likely keep existing ".com" storefronts to allow their businesses to be found more easily.
ICANN has rejected the ".xxx" domain three times since ICM first proposed it in 2000 — but an outside panel earlier this year criticized the board's latest rejection in 2007, saying it did not deal fairly with the application. That prompted ICANN to reopen the bid.
The board of the nonprofit company that controls Internet addresses acknowledged Friday that its refusal to accept ".xxx" was "not consistent with the application of neutral, objective and fair documented policy." It agreed to swiftly re-examine the ".xxx" application.
It is the first time that ICANN has been effectively forced to review a decision. ICANN says it is only obliged to follow the law of California, where it is based, but the panel examining its behavior treated the company as if it were subject to international law since its power over Internet addresses has put it in charge of a public good.
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