The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) has given the .XXX top-level domain (TLD) its final seal of approval.
The TLD is meant to give pornographic websites a clearly marked home on the Internet.
The decision was made at ICANN's Silicon Valley meeting, held at the Westin St. Francis in San Francisco, concluded 18 March.
The approval grants ICM Registry's .XXX web suffix with the same rights as .com, .net, .co.uk and other TLDs. The only difference being that as a sponsored TLD, .XXX domain names will only be available to the adult entertainment industry. The contract will require anyone registering a .XXX domain to complete an application process endorsed and overseen by the International Foundation for Online Responsibility (IFFOR).
The introduction of .XXX could provide users who browse adult entertainment sites reassurance that they are more protected from the risk of viruses, identity theft, credit card fraud and inadvertent exposure to child abuse images. It will also provide individuals and parents who wish to avoid adult entertainment sites the opportunity to filter out unwanted .XXX material.
Stuart Lawley, CEO of ICM Registry, the company behind .XXX, said: "ICANN's decision to give .XXX final approval is a landmark moment for the internet. For the first time there will be a clearly defined web address for adult entertainment, out of the reach of minors and as free as possible from fraud or malicious computer viruses.
"We believe consumers will be more prepared to make purchases on .XXX sites, safe in the knowledge their payments will be secure. Tens of thousands of adult entertainment website owners recognize the business benefits of .XXX and have already applied to pre-reserve over 200,000 .XXX domains."
The .XXX TLD had been proposed many times in the past, but it faced strong opposition from politicians and conservative groups.
The ICANN Board voted to proceed with ICM?s .XXX sTLD despite the advocacy of the Free Speech Coalition (FSC) and a range of adult industry leaders. This decision represents the first time the ICANN Board has disregarded advice from its Government Advisory Committee (GAC).
"Of course we are disappointed but we are not surprised by the ICANN Board?s decision. As voiced in concerns by speakers at this very conference, the ICANN Board has dangerously undervalued the input from governments worldwide," said Free Speech Coalition (FSC) Executive Director Diane Duke. FSC is the trade association for the adult entertainment industry. "Worse, they have disregarded overwhelming outpouring of opposition from the adult entertainment industry - the supposed sponsorship community - dismissing the interests of free speech on the Internet."
"Until now we have been forced to work within the constraints of the ICANN process. FSC is now free to explore all options and we intend to do just that with input from, and in the interest of, our members," FSC Board Chair Jeffrey Douglas said. "We will help the industry fully understand the risks and ramifications of participating in .XXX ."