XXX marks sex spot in cyberspace

Porn operators will soon stand alone in cyber space with unique xxx domain names to identify their sexually explicit websites.

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (Icann) says the new 'dot xxx' proposal should go live by the end of the year, to make it easier for people surfing online to separate the raunchy from the reputable.

The home for porn portals will be entirely voluntary but Icann in negotiation with ICM Registry, says there is backing from adult website owners who claim .xxx would make their service easier for intended users to find.

Similarly, .xxx has been chosen because it was seen as the most universal symbol that all internet users - irrelevant of location, language and age would be able to recognise more readily than other domain names like '.sex.'

ICM Registry, which was created specifically to lobby for the xxx suffix, will handle the technology behind a new database of sex sites.

They welcomed .xxx, saying it gives porn providers "their own clearly identifiable area" that will enhance one of the largest and fastest growing sectors of the internet, while protecting children and families from adult-orientated material.

"The .xxx sponsored top-level domain… will empower families and help protect children and others from unwanted or inappropriate content," ICM said in a statement.

"The existence of the sponsored TLD would facilitate meaningful, voluntary self-organisation and self-regulation by responsible adult-entertainment website operators."

Responsible members of the adult entertainment industry have supported the decision, admitting they need to respond to child and family interest groups lobbying for a safer internet.

But they also said they wanted .xxx because it would benefit their audience, by addressing concerns about privacy, security and online consumer protection.

"This approach demonstrates that voluntary initiatives that harness the power of technology and the self-organising principles of the internet are preferable to efforts that would impose top-down command-and-control regulation," said Robert Corn-Revere, outside counsel to ICM Registry for free expression issues.

"Individuals should be able to use these tools to make their own decisions about what to read or watch, and not have those choices imposed by governments. In this regard, creation of a voluntary .xxx domain is a step in the right direction."

The .xxx proposal comes at a time when adult-orientated e-commerce is worth more than $3bn (£1.65bn) globally and is growing at a double-digit rate, according to Reuters.

With more than 10 per cent of all online traffic and 25 per cent of all global search results regarded as adult content, internet safety groups were quick to express their satisfaction at the measures.

This is despite a rejection of the xxx plan on several previous occasions when it was scrapped over fears that all sex sites, like information portals, would be included, while it was also believed there was not enough online pornography to warrant a unique domain name.

However, the advance in online volume and content has now swayed internet lobbyists.

Parry Aftab, executive director of the Wired Safety Group, said: "Creating the .xxx top-level domain gives parents a valuable tool to protect their children from inappropriate content on the internet. It isn't a complete solution but it is a very important step in the right direction."

The latest online reading showed there are more than 100,000 adult webmasters worldwide and well over one million adult domains.

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