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.xxx bigger than .asia

Kevin Murphy, September 16, 2010, Domain Registries

It has not and may never be delegated, but the .xxx top-level domain now has more pre-registrations than .asia, the last big gTLD launch, has live domains.

The ICM Registry web site currently counts 180,352 pre-regs. ICM tells me this number counts the unique strings that have been applied for, excluding duplicate applications.

By contrast, DotAsia’s two-year-old namespace had shrunk to 177,872 by the start of September, according to HosterStats.

ICM reported 110,000 pre-registrations at the time it re-entered contract talks with ICANN in late June; media coverage increased that to 162,000 within a couple of weeks.

The company has previously said that only 6,435 pre-regs were self-identified as defensive in nature, although this is disputed by its opponents at the Free Speech Coalition.

Pornographers rally to decry .xxx

Kevin Murphy, September 14, 2010, Domain Registries

The Free Speech Coalition has issued an official call to action to rally its members against the .xxx top-level domain application.

It’s been on the front page of the porn trade group’s web site since yesterday, but has been slow to take off judging by the number of responses filed with ICANN in the last 24 hours.

The FSC wants it members to write to ICANN to ask for the TLD to be rejected. It hits seven major points, but essentially just backs up what FSC chair Diane Duke told ICANN last week, which I reported on here.

There’s also a Zoomerang survey that industry members can take. It asks users to merely answer two questions in the affirmative:

I am a member of the online adult entertainment community and I oppose ICM’s application for a .XXX sTL

I have have defensively pre-registered .XXX domain names and I oppose .XXX

The idea is to show that many .xxx pre-registrations are made by people who would prefer that the TLD never sees the light of day.

.XXX registry goes on the counter-attack

Kevin Murphy, September 10, 2010, Domain Registries

ICM Registry has issued a strongly worded response to its critics at the Free Speech Coalition, questioning the porn trade group’s relevance.

As I blogged yesterday, the FSC has asked ICANN to release documents disclosing the level of support the .xxx domain, so it can more effectively argue against its approval.

ICM has responded with a letter to ICANN that paints the FSC as overly US-centric and says its arguments deal with issues that have long been resolved.

We understand that the FSC currently has approximately 1,000 members. We further understand that both its leadership and its members are almost exclusively U.S.-based.

The bottom line is that the FSC’s comments simply restate the arguments they have made in the past. Their claims were inaccurate, unsupportable, untimely, and irrelevant when first made, and remain so today.

The would-be registry claims that, contrary to the FSC’s claims, only a tiny portion of its 179,000 pre-registrations are defensive in nature, 6,435 in total.

Porn group tries to delay .xxx bid

Kevin Murphy, September 9, 2010, Domain Registries

The Free Speech Coalition has asked ICANN to prove that the .xxx top-level domain application has the level of support that ICM Registry claims it has.

The FSC, which represents thousands of porn webmasters, has filed a request under ICANN’s Documentary Information Disclosure Policy for a list of the people who have already pre-registered .xxx domains, among other items.

The organization wants to prove that .xxx has no support among the adult community, and that most of ICM’s 179,000 pre-registrations are made by domainers or are defensive, made by pornographers who really don’t want .xxx.

FSC president Diane Duke wrote to ICANN general counsel John Jeffrey (pdf):

The adult entertainment community – the community which would be most impacted by the introduction of a .xxx sTLD – requires more information about the application in order to provide the appropriate level of feedback to the ICANN Board for it to make an informed decision.

The FSC also wants ICANN to add another 30 days to the current public comment period after the disclosure is made, to give it a chance to respond properly to the new data.

This would, of course, add further delay to the .xxx application.

The FSC also wants to know more about IFFOR, the International Foundation For Online Responsibility, the policy body that would oversee .xxx.

Specifically, the DIDP request covers the names of IFFOR’s board of directors, policy council members, business plans and financial projections.

ICM is opposed to the request and will be officially responding shortly. Its president, Stuart Lawley, told me the information the FSC has requested is known to ICANN, but that it’s confidential.

He also said that the issue of community support is already closed; ICANN made that decision five years ago, a decision that was reinforced earlier this year by an Independent Review Panel.

ICANN posts .xxx contract for comment

Kevin Murphy, August 24, 2010, Domain Registries

ICANN has just published the proposed contract for ICM Registry’s porn-only .xxx top-level domain, and over a dozen supporting documents.

Now the fun begins!

Another 30-day public comment period is now underway, which will likely see more concerted efforts by the Free Speech Coalition and its accidental allies on the religious right to have .xxx killed off.

It will also be interesting to see whether the ICANN Governmental Advisory Committee decides to chip in with its $0.02.

The GAC has always been wary of the .xxx application and remains the tallest hurdle to jump before the TLD has a chance of being approved.

There’s a lot of information in these documents, including much more detail on IFFOR, the International Foundation For Online Responsibility, which will set the TLD’s policies.

I’m going to bury my nose in these docs, and will provide an update later if I find anything interesting, which seems likely.

Porno union will try to shaft .xxx

Kevin Murphy, August 11, 2010, Domain Registries

The fight between ICM Registry and the Free Speech Coalition over the proposed .xxx top-level domain is not over yet.

The porn trade group has a plan to block ICM’s passage through the ICANN process, and has already stepped up efforts to rally the adult entertainment industry to its cause.

Last weekend at the AVN Show in Florida, FSC chair Diane Duke reportedly said:

ICM is saying this is a done deal… but it is not a done deal. We [the FSC] have a strategy to block the application. I have spoken with people from ICANN, and they agreed that this is not a done deal.

Asked whether lawsuits would be required, Duke reportedly answered: “There are other avenues to block this.”

These comments and others suggest that the FSC intends to use ICANN processes to, at the very least, delay .xxx’s delegation.

A public comment period will be launched soon on the proposed ICM-ICANN registry contract. This will likely be oversubscribed by FSC supporters.

If the contract ends up being bounced to ICANN’s Governmental Advisory Committee for consideration, there’s another opportunity for FSC lobbying.

Then, crucially, if ICANN votes to approve .xxx, the FSC could attempt to temporarily block the actual delegation to the DNS root by filing a Reconsideration Request.

Under my reading of the Reconsideration procedure, the actual delegation of the TLD could be delayed by anything between 30 and 120 days. Possibly longer.

The FSC would need to show at the very least that it would be harmed by .xxx’s introduction. If successful, the best case scenario for the FSC would see the resolution approving .xxx bounced back to the ICANN board for a second vote.

Beyond that, there’s always an Independent Review Panel. For that, the FSC would need to show that the .xxx approval breached ICANN’s bylaws or articles of incorporation, which seems to me to be a more challenging proposition. Also very expensive.

Another interesting quote from the AVN article – reportedly Allan Gelbard, lawyer to John “Buttman” Stagliano, said that the adult industry may be unduly worrying because:

anti-trust and trademark legal challenges would be brought immediately following the final approval by the ICANN board

Make of that what you will.

There’s also a new anti-.xxx blog, written by Theresa “Dark Lady” Reed, containing a new “satirical” video spoofing ICM.

To be honest, the funniest thing about it for me was the decision to cast a handsome, shiny-toothed American anchorman type as British ICM president Stuart Lawley.

.XXX to run the ICANN gauntlet yet again

Kevin Murphy, August 6, 2010, Domain Registries

Bring on the Christians!

The contract between ICANN and ICM Registry to run the .xxx adults-only top-level domain is to be submitted for an ICANN public comment period, again.

ICANN’s board resolved yesterday to publish the proposed registry agreement for comment for at least 30 days.

But it has not yet decided whether to refer the deal to its Governmental Advisory Committee, which remains ICM’s major potential pitfall on its route to the root.

As long as the public comment period kicks off quite soon, the ICANN board could be in a position to make that call at its weekend retreat, September 24.

The .xxx application has generated more public comment over the years than all other ICANN public comment periods combined.

Its last such period, earlier this year, saw thousands of comments, most of them filed in response to outreach by right-wing American Christian groups.

Objections are also regularly received from members of the Free Speech Coalition, a porn trade group.

I expect this forum will be no different. It will be interesting to see what tactics are rolled out this time, given previous failures.

Here’s the meat of the latest resolution:

RESOLVED (2010.08.05.21), upon receipt of ICM’s application documentation, ICANN Staff is authorized to post ICM’s supporting documents and proposed registry agreement for the .XXX sTLD for public comment for a period of no less than 30 days.

RESOLVED (2010.08.05.22), upon completion of public comment period, ICANN Staff shall provide the Board with a summary of the public comments and shall make a recommendation to the Board as to whether the proposed registry agreement for the .XXX sTLD is consistent with GAC advice.

RESOLVED (2010.08.05.23), once the Board has received the above public comment summary and recommendation from the ICANN Staff regarding the proposed registry agreement for the .XXX sTLD, the Board shall at its next possible meeting, consider this recommendation, and determine, consistent with the ICANN Bylaws, whether a GAC consultation shall be required.

ICANN Brussels – .xxx approved but not approved

The controversy over the .xxx top-level domain has for the last few years, at least from one point of view, centered on opposing views of whether it was already “approved”.

ICM Registry has long claimed that ICANN “approved” it in 2005, and believes the Independent Review Panel agreed with that position. ICANN said the opposite.

Regardless of what happened in Brussels yesterday, when the board grudgingly voted to reopen talks on .xxx (to a surprisingly muted audience response), the question of whether .xxx is “approved” is definitely not over yet.

ICM tweeted shortly after the ICANN’s board’s decision:

@ICMRegistry: We are delighted to announce that the #ICANN Board has approved the .xxx top-level domain.

But a couple of hours later, ICANN chair Peter Dengate Thrush told us at a press conference that it categorically was not “approved”.

In terms of getting its point across to the media, ICM’s message trumped ICANN’s, judging by the headlines currently scrolling past me on Google News.

I guess this boils down to a question of definitions.

From the ICANN perspective, a TLD is presumably not “approved” until a contract has been signed and the board has resolved to add it to the root.

The board’s decision yesterday merely sets out the track towards that eventuality, with a few hurdles scattered along the way. In conversation with ICM people, I get the impression they believe the hurdles are low and easily surmountable.

Crucially for ICM, the issue of community support, the stick with which ICANN nearly killed .xxx back in 2007, is now off the table. There will be a quick review of ICM’s books and technical capabilities, but the views of the porn industry now seem pretty much irrelevant.

The only real way I can see .xxx being derailed again now is if the Governmental Advisory Committee issues future advice that unequivocally opposes the TLD.

As Kieren McCarthy noted in some detail over on CircleID, the GAC has never had a hell of a lot of substantial advice to impart about .xxx in its official communiques, so it’s difficult to see where a clash could arise based on its previous missives.

But with the GAC currently using bogus “morality and public order” arguments to jerk everybody around with regards the next new TLD round, it’s not entirely impossible that it could lob one final grenade in ICM’s direction.

This story ain’t over yet.

Porn domain firm urges ICANN to ignore the haters

ICM Registry has asked ICANN to set aside the views of thousands of naysayers and approve the porn-only .xxx top-level domain as soon as possible.

The company has sent three documents to ICANN today, two of which set out ICM’s position in the same firm tone that has characterized its previous missives.

Basically: no more delays, your only option here is to get back into contract talks now.

I would say ICM is drawing a line in the sand, but ICM has drawn so many lines in the sand recently it’s beginning to look like a game of beach tic-tac-toe (which, visualizing it, is kinda appropriate).

The third document is a post-game summary of ICANN’s recently closed comment period on the .xxx application, which attracted record comments. That’s written by former ICANN public participation wonk Kieren McCarthy and is more measured in tone.

ICM president Stuart Lawley believes that the thousands of copy-paste comments from US-based anti-porn Christian groups can be safely ignored. I get the impression ICANN will probably agree.

The volume of comments on an entirely irrelevant issue – that is, the content of websites on the Internet – was one of the original reasons this process went off the rails. ICANN should not repeat its earlier mistakes and pander to those interests.

Given that a substantial number of comments came from the porn industry itself, notably the Free Speech Coalition, Lawley wrote that “debate about community support is no longer appropriate”.

ICM’s on shakier ground here than with the Christians. A TLD for a sponsored community that is unequivocally hated (NSFW) by a vocal part of that community can’t look good.

But the FSC, along with the Adult Entertainment Broadcast Network, one of its members, “represent only a small fraction of the adult industry”, Lawley claimed.

Over 100,000 .xxx domains have been pre-registered over the last five years and several hundred of these people sent ICM’s copy-paste letter to ICANN. ICM says this indicates adult industry support, though I think that’s a less than watertight argument.

ICANN’s board will undoubtedly have a good old chinwag about their current predicament at their retreat this weekend, but they’re not due to make any decisions until the Brussels meeting a little over a month from now.

Porn trade group director says .xxx could be a gTLD

One of the directors of porn industry organization the Free Speech Coalition has suggested the .xxx top-level domain could be approved as an unrestricted gTLD.

Tom Hymes, who sits on the Free Speech Coalition’s board of directors, wrote to ICANN urging it first and foremost to kill ICM Registry’s .xxx application once and for all.

But Hymes went on to say: “If that scenario is unacceptable to the Board for one reason or another, I would then encourage it to explore a gTLD option for ICM.”

He noted that he was writing in a personal capacity, not as a representative of the FSC.

ICM’s application was filed under the 2005 round of “sponsored” TLDs, which meant it had to show backing from a sponsorship organization and some measure of ownership restriction.

For example, the Society for Human Resource Management is the sponsor for .jobs and the Universal Postal Union backed .post.

ICM, which has never been part of the adult entertainment industry, created a policy-making body called the International Foundation For Online Responsibility, IFFOR, to act as its sponsor.

In my view, IFFOR was basically a crude hack to get around the fact that in 2005 ICANN was not looking for any new gTLDs.

The FSC doesn’t like IFFOR, because a) it will make policy on what can be hosted under .xxx domains and b) the adult industry will not control its board or see any of its money.

Hymes, in his personal capacity, seems to be saying that an unrestricted .xxx gTLD would be okay. It’s the first ground I’ve seen anyone in the porn industry give in this debate. He says:

To its credit, the Board is striving to solve the dot xxx imbroglio by dangling a gTLD in front of ICM, a solution ICM thus far has refused to consider. But that sort of suspicious recalcitrance can no longer be tolerated. Instead of threatening to bring a costly lawsuit against ICANN in order to secure control of a policy making regime for which it does not have the required support, ICM should cut its losses, save everyone a lot of money and take the gTLD while it has the opportunity.

I happen to agree, mostly: .xxx would make a heck of a lot more sense, and would be a whole lot less controversial (Christians notwithstanding), as a gTLD.

Unfortunately, I can’t see it happening. Not easily, anyway.

There’s no ICANN process in place for approving gTLDs today, and if ICANN were to choose to kick ICM into the next new gTLD round, there’s a pretty good chance that ICM would find itself fighting a contested string battle with other applications.

From a process point of view, sponsored TLDs are a failed experiment.