ICANN Opens New Domain Name

By ANICK JESDANUN, AP Internet Writer

The Internet's key oversight agency approved a domain name for the Catalan language Thursday while deferring final action on creating a red-light district on the Internet through a ".xxx" suffix.

Creating the ".cat" suffix for individuals, organizations and companies that promote the Catalan language and culture was relatively uncontroversial. Though the language is spoken largely in certain regions of Spain, backers say a domain name could unify Catalan speakers who live in France, Italy, Andorra and elsewhere. The name could begin appearing in use next year.

As for ".xxx," the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers deferred final approval for the second time in as many months.

The board decided to seek changes to a proposed contract with ICM Registry Inc., the Jupiter, Fla., that would run the domain name for voluntary use by the adult entertainment industry. No details were immediately available on the changes sought.

The ".xxx" domain has met with opposition from conservative groups and some pornography Web sites, and ICANN postponed a final decision last month after the U.S. government stepped in just days before a scheduled meeting to underscore objections it had received. ICANN had given a preliminary OK in June.

ICM argues the domain would help the $12 billion online p*rn industry clean up its act. Those using the domain would have to abide by yet-to-be-written rules designed to bar such trickery as spamming and malicious scripts. ICM would charge $60 per name.

Anti-p*rn advocates, however, countered that sites would be free to keep their current ".com" address, in effect making p*rn more easily accessible by creating yet another channel to house it.

And they say such a domain name would legitimize adults sites, which two of every five Internet users visited in April, according to tracking by comScore Media Metrix.

Many p*rn sites also objected, fearing that such a domain would pave the way for governments -- the United States or repressive regimes abroad -- or even private industry to filter speech that is protected here under the First Amendment.

ICANN was selected by the U.S. government in 1998 to oversee Internet addressing policies, although the Commerce Department retains veto power over decisions. More than 260 domain name suffixes exist, mostly country codes such as ".fr" for France. Recent additions include ".eu" for the European Union and ".mobi" for mobile services.

Although ICANN was to consider the ".asia" domain during Thursday's teleconference board meeting, it took no action on establishing a unified domain for the Asia-Pacific community.

Copyright 2005 The Associated Press.

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