Joi Ito's Web

Joi Ito's conversation with the living web.

Yesterday the ICANN board discussed and approved ICANN staff to enter into negotiations with ICM Registry, Inc. for the .XXX Top Level Domain (TLD). I'm sure there will be a longer more complete presentation from ICANN later about this, but as an individual board member I thought I'd post a quick note before people got carried away with speculation based on a lack of information.

I realize that the formal documents on the ICANN page are difficult to read, but I suggest people take a look at the actual application before jumping to conclusions about what the .XXX TLD is. It is actually a well thought out structure that provides a balanced approach to an issue with many stake holders.

The .XXX TLD is a sponsored TLD or sTLD with a sponsoring organization. Policy will be managed by a non-profit organization called the International Foundation for Online Responsibility (IFFOR). (Here is the org chart.) IFFOR will have a board of directors comprised of members from several supporting organizations. These organizations include 1) privacy, security & child advocacy, 2) free expression, 3) online adult-entertainment and board members selected through a nomination committee system similar to ICANN. No one constituency can capture the board and all have a say. There will be an Ombudsman. The organization has demonstrated strong support from all of the constituencies and also the credit card industry. A portion of all of the revenue from domain names will go to a fund that a Grant Advisory Committee will use to support child advocacy. Credit card companies are working with the legitimate adult sites to create incentives for them to switch to .XXX.

ICANN has been mandated with trying to increase the TLD space and the .XXX proposal, in my opinion, has met the criteria set out in the RFP. Our approval of .XXX is a decision based on whether .XXX met the criteria and does not endorse or condone any particular type of content or moral belief. This is not the role of ICANN. I realize that some will view this as ICANN endorsing pornography on the Internet, but this is not the case.

There are people who are concerned about censorship and control. These are issues that have been raised, but I think the .XXX proposal is more about creating incentives for legitimate adult entertainment sites to come together and fight "bad actors" and is not focused on forcing people to use the .XXX domain.

Some people have argued that there has not been enough public debate, but we have been taking public comments for quite a while. We DO read them and have encouraged people to discuss their issues with us through the process. I believe we followed a rigorous process. We started with an RFP and over the last 15 months, we have had independent evaluators, numerous meetings, public discussion and public comments.

I think Bret Fausett summarized the situation well on his blog.

The decision on .XXX may be one of the most difficult ICANN has ever made, and you can expect ICANN to be criticized whatever it decides. I imagine that many of the countries participating in the GAC aren't ready to be part of a decision that will endorse a space for pr0n on the Internet. The fact that .XXX could be a political hook on which the governments of the world could hang Internet zoning laws could make the decision more palatable, but it's still a political minefield for ICANN. Again, I hope the proposal is accepted, but it's going to take a great deal of courage to do that.
I think any decision would have had strong critics. I believe we have made the best decision possible considering all of the issues involved. Having said that staff are now negotiating the contract. If anyone has any thoughts that we should consider in negotiating the contract I would be happy to hear them. Staff are working hard to produce a contract that ensures that the TLD functions as advertised.


Nice thoughts Joi. I was initially against such a domain as I don't think it will curb the obvious abuse of the domain, however I think it allows internet pornographers to move from being a 'seedy' or 'sub' part of the internet to become a more stronger and self-controlled entity, which has the power to rise above the critics and provide a professional level of service.

It's about establishing that x service is a pornographical service - and that's the space it exists in.

As an individual board member you assure us that ICANN is not endorsing pornography on the internet.

In my rss reader, this shows up right next to your last post: "Goatse? Excellent!"

Ah, sweet irony :-)

Hmm i still don't see how this will stop user's coming accross pornographic websites. I mean many will still use .com's purely due to the cost of the .xxx domain..
But i guess it's a step in the right direction

Mr. Anonymous: Yes. I realized the irony, but thank you for pointing it out. ;-)

Dave, I think the point is to allow the legitimate adult sites to work on policy together with child advocacy and other interested groups and create a space on the Internet for these people. I think that they hope to get a benefit from being legitimate and compliant to these practices. I don't think anyone expects that adding this TLD will eradicate all pornography from .com, solve the spam problem or make poverty go away.

Excellent idea and am a big supporter of this, but couple of things one of them that came up is the cost, a poor working man if he is putting up a pornographic website will not have a hard time affording this and hence will be stuck in this looked down upon pornographic websites with .com domain names, well I guess thats the only prob I have with the implementation; one thing that I did like though was the attempt at avoiding censorship by one organization.

A good solution for self declared porn. What about art (e.g) that some might declare to be porn ?


Hans has a good point.
What constitutes pr0n is different to different cultures.
Also, what constitutes acceptable pr0n is different to different cultures.
i.e. what is acceptable in the Netherlands is not acceptable in Japan.
I feel this is a move in the right direction, but am concerned that it will enforce an americentric view of pr0n.
With cultures that allow more explicity being excluded, and ones that allow less being, ahem, preached to as to what should be considered acceptable.
Perhaps a country level domain, i.e.,, would more appropriately reflect different cultural values.


How long have you been with ICANN? The issue is not pornography at all. It is with ICANN's behavior and effectiveness. I've about given up on ICANN in the past couple of years as it has shown no signs of change so I have nothing recent I can point to but you can probably find a post or two of mine out there on the internet about how it is run. But why believe me? Just listen to Karl Auerbach:

"I find ICANN's approval of .xxx to be, to put it bluntly, obscene.

ICANN has created a system in which top level domain allocations are
few and far between - ICANN has created an artificial (and
unwarranted) scarcity.

In light of this contrived scarcity, ICANN should be giving
preference to TLD uses that are socially positive. Instead ICANN has
created a system in which priority is given to those who wish to
profit from pornograpy.

Had ICANN created a system in which there was no artifical scarcity
then it would, in my view, be appropriate to allow the pimps to
establish a red-light district on the net, but *only* after those
those who have socially constructive ideas had had their chance to
obtain top level domains.

Way back in year 2000 ICANN accepted $2,400,000 from nearly 50
applicants, many of whom had socially constructive and innovative
ideas for new TLDs. ICANN chose a mere 7, most of which were among
the least useful and innovative of the 50. ICANN refused at least
one application simply because one of the board members had trouble
pronouncing the letters of the TLD! ICANN has since told the
remaining 40 applicants that their applications are still pending,
neither approved nor disapproved. In practical effect, given the
many years that have elapsed, ICANN has expropriated those
application fees and relegated the technically-still-pending
applications to the rubbish heap. Even Enron was not nearly so bold
as ICANN in they way they took money.

That year 2000 action by ICANN, coupled with ICANN's overt preference
for "sponsored" top level domains, particularly those from which
ICANN can extract large fees, has made it clear that those who want
establish innovative or socially beneficial, but financially thin,
top level domains need not waste their time and money making a futile

Thus we have ICANN receiving applications only from those who have a
well oiled pathway towards approval - one only has to look at the
progress of the travel industry's .travel TLD to see how well
lubricated a path ICANN can create for an application virtually no
social value that comes from the right kind of applicant.

The net effect is that .xxx was the beneficiary of ICANN's policy of
artifical scarcity coupled to ICANN's policy of preferences for the
those applications from which ICANN can coerce revenue.

ICANN has gone so far off the rails that they can't even see the
tracks with a telescope.


Jack: I have great respect for Karl and I think that the notion of being more open and relieving the scarcity problem is something we are actively considering and working on. It is just that there are conflicting mandates of trying to maintain stability and responsibility who allowing competition and increasing TLDs. ICANN does not propose TLD applications, the community does. I do agree that we do have a paradox where in order to try to vet the applications, a process is put in place which is expensive and difficult to navigate. This makes it harder for bad applications to get in, but also makes it more difficult for less funded socially positive applications to make it through the process. This is something we need to think about as we work on the RFP process for gTLDs. This is a valid concern.

I haven't been on the ICANN board that long, but I have never seen anything to make me believe that ICANN approves TLDs based on whether they provide more revenue to ICANN or not. It may appear this way because financial viability is one of the criteria. If a TLD operator is not financially viable, it much more likely there will be trouble for the registrants or that the TLD operator will do something unreasonable. Clearly, financial viability also means that it is likely ICANN will receive revenue.

But to put .xxx in context... We are just going through all of the sTLDs that were submitted this round. We had independent evaluators involved in providing a first round of feedback and the board is going through each of the applications. .xxx was not the first one approved and is not the last.

Unforunately, I wasn't involved in ICANN in 2000 so I don't know the history that Karl is talking about very well, but I personally am hoping that we can come up with a system that allows more socially beneficial and innovative applications.

Also, "sponsored" is a bit misleading in the sTLD name. In the case of sTLDs sponsored means that there must be a supporting community that the TLD is serving. It doesn't refer to financial sponsorship.

I've taken to describing this concept as, pun intended:
"Domain Pornography"

I've read through the application text. It's clearly a way to extract rents from bona-fide pornographers in return for a weak certification against prosecution.

Not a bad business plan, since they managed to get ICANN on-board.

I'm not clear: what stage of the proceedings are you at? Is the text of you linked to now set in stone? I'm pretty supportive of the idea of .xxx, but there seem to be some significant flaws in the proposal as it stands.

"No one constituency can capture the board and all have a say"

The adult industry and the free expression people are going to be in agreement on most issues. So they'll always be able to outvote the privacy/child advocacy groups. I think you need to give more thought to setting up the balance of power. And I think more thought needs to go into how you select the representatives of all these groups, to make sure they are really representative. Since all the financial incentives (i.e. being funded by adult businesses) push towards making the board a puppet of the porn industry, we need to make sure the selection processes are robust enough to resist being manipulated.

I'm also concerned about the definition of the community which .xxx is meant to serve:

The online adult-entertainment community is primarily defined as those individuals, businesses, and entities that provide sexually-oriented information, services, or products intended for consenting adults or for the community itself.

I don't think .xxx should be aimed exclusively at helping the providers of products and information, but also (primarily?) at helping the 'end-user' community: that is, the individuals who want porn, information about sexual issues, etc, etc, etc. And this 'community' should be one that extends beyond 'interenet stakeholders' into society generally.

This is important: the proposal says that funds will be used to:

sponsor incentives for the benefit of the
Community and other Internet stakeholders as determined by the Grant Advisory

So if you define the 'community' in the wrong way, .xxx will - financially, and in terms of policy - end up not serving any interests except those of the porn industry, without helping any people at all.


.XXX is already operated by New.Net and the SAME DNS company that ICANN selected via Afilias.

1. Why does ICANN help to obscur who is really behind .XXX ?

2. What will happen to EXISTING .XXX owners ?

3. Are you personally prepared to be sued by those EXISTING .XXX owners in a class-action lawsuit ?


Interesting discussion here. To say that porn has no place on the internet, which isn't what anyone here is necessarily saying, but has been said is silly, of course. Though I'm still pissed off that they let bizzness on the internet back in 1994 or whenever it was. I was pissed then, and remain so. Though I do love all the advantages that have come with it. Same goes with porn. I worked to block porn on campus in the late 80s. Not as an activist, but my job was to sort out the porn Usenet groups from the merely erotic or talking about sex, sex in art... we made porn harder to find and the rest easier to find... realizing that we couldn't legally block porn on campus, but we could focus attention on what we thought was important. We also blocked hard science and engineering usenet groups from being accessible in our lab, because we were a writing lab...

The larger point is that porn represents a valid fringe location of our global community. Beyond the fringe, for those of us in many countries are issues such as child pornography and abuse forms of sexuality. To allow people to self-opt IN to .xxx domains, if there is a concomitant monitoring of the legality of the content on those sites will be a very good thing. If someone knows that they will not be breaking any laws by visiting a .xxx domain, it will be much easier to monitor what goes on in other domain systems that are not 'validated'. I mean this from a social, rather than technological perspective. It will help the porn industry, and those who want to be involved with its legal activities, which is a valuable thing.

And if it helps to expose illegal and exploitive porn, then it is valuable to us all.

BTW, I teach early childhood education, so I have a particular interest in protecting children. Thus the bias.

Although ICANN still has a lot of work to do to create regular and objective TLD addition procedures, I applaud ICANN for making the right .xxx decision. Turning down .xxx on the pretense that pornography on the Internet doesn't exist or that ICANN should discourage it would have been a very bad precedent. As DNS root zone administrator, ICANN should be concerned solely with making sure that the assignments are unique. It should not be concerned with content regulation, encouraging or preventing government regulation of content, etc. That is not ICANN's job. It is encouraging to see ICANN take this bull by the horns.

Thanks for your support on this Milton.

I wonder if we ask ourselves the right questions.

As it has been raised through these comments: balkanization, censorship, promotion, cultural conflicts about the notion of porn will be raised.

My initial thought was "Another top level domain that is stupid" and I have read the expressed opinions. The thing which is finally worrying me the most is that it will be another way to make money (the ones who will sell the domain names) behind many supposed good arguments and sometimes completely opposite.

I'm worried.
Is porn a problem?
Is a technical feature a real solution?
Do we need a solution?

I'm still not convinced. The more I see top level domain names, the more I have the desire to remove all of them. questions, many questions…


I understand that you are trying hard, but when even people like Esther Dyson are saying things like "wish I had left a better legacy" then I'm having a hard time understanding the progress that you say ICANN is making.

I am also troubled by the phrase "maintain stability". More often than not it is used to justify the existance of ICANN without any investigation of what stability is or what may be the best means to ensure it. Certainly doing nothing is a form of "stability".

I don't know. You say ICANN is working hard to eliminate false scarcity but I only see them rolling out a new sTLD every once in a while. From an outsider's point of view ICANN seems tremendously slow and the output seems to consist of meeting minutes from far-away travel locations. I'm sure you see it better than I do. I can only hope you will do your best so you don't end up like Karl or Esther - disappointed in the organization you worked so hard for.

From the proposal: "The proposed .xxx string clearly and unequivocally conveys to the Internet user that the site contains adult material of a sexual nature."

* The logo of Amsterdam
* A beer
* An action movie
* An Amp Line

The information about iffor is not very detailed too. I have started to look for information about it. Who's behind Iffor?

Karl. That is one of the basic questions that many people ask. Technically speaking, there really isn't any reason to add new TLDs. We could basically add and put everything under that. The problem (or the feature) is that ICANN was mandated with adding new TLDs and for some reason it is clear that people want to create new TLD name spaces and believe that this is part of the innovation that needs to occur and a type of competition that needs to be protected. I do also ask myself sometimes whether this hole TLD and domain name thing can't be solved in some other way.

Jack. The slowness in part is because ICANN is trying to come up with a better way of approving TLDs that allows TLDs to be allocated fairly and easily. The GNSO and other organization are working on a process for generic TLD RFPs. The problem is, the recommendation has not been completed. I think one can argue whether the sTLD idea was a good one or not. It is rather complicated and I believe many people were surprised by the types of applications received. (Not everyone was surprised.) I think "working hard" is hard to see. The problem is, because ICANN is a bottom-up and consensus oriented system, getting all of the feedback and input into the process to make it fair for everyone is not efficient and it is slow. You can see from the myriad of responses we've received for .XXX that consensus is an elusive thing and that there are good arguments on just about every side of the fence.

Some people call for unlimited TLD allocation. Some call for auctions. Some people thing a fixed number should be determined per year and designated first come first serve. Some believe that there is no point to new TLDs. All of these arguments have strengths and weaknesses and supporters and critics.

On stability... I think TLDs get a lot of attention, but in fact that they are not necessarily the primary work of ICANN. Thinking about International Domain Names (IDN), working with the RIRs on IP address allocation, supporting the IANA function, dealing with the reallocation of failed TLD operators, coming up with policy related to privacy (WHOIS), security (Secure DNS) and intellectual property (UDRP)... There are many things that need to be coordinated to make the trains run on time and new TLDs are just a part of it.

to the - you may decide that you have top level domain .veni, or may be even .whateveryouwish, but that somehow doesn't change the global picture of the Internet.

Believe me - I have tried this more than 10 years ago with .bgr, when I was frustrated by the .bg :)

To: Veni Markovski

Can you please post ALL of the IP address blocks you
use, so that they can be properly entered into the
filter lists in America to protect U.S. Citizens from you?

Filtering this list of /8s should free up a lot of space
to be re-used on the New.Net.

062/8 Apr 97 RIPE NCC (
080/8 Apr 01 RIPE NCC (
081/8 Apr 01 RIPE NCC (
082/8 Nov 02 RIPE NCC (
083/8 Nov 03 RIPE NCC (
084/8 Nov 03 RIPE NCC (
085/8 Apr 04 RIPE NCC (
086/8 Apr 04 RIPE NCC (
087/8 Apr 04 RIPE NCC (
088/8 Apr 04 RIPE NCC (

193/8 May 93 RIPE NCC (
194/8 May 93 RIPE NCC (
195/8 May 93 RIPE NCC (

212/8 Oct 97 RIPE NCC (
213/8 Mar 99 RIPE NCC (

It will be interesting to see how "global" Veni Markovski's Inernet is with those blocks routed only inside America.

By the way, why do people like Veni Markovski go on about
global, yet seek the U.S. stage as a forum ? Aren't there
enough people in Europe to listen to him ? Why does he
think he should have a say in U.S. markets ? Doesn't
Europe have the talent to deploy their own root servers
and TLDs ? The same can be said for Paul Twomey. Would
ICANN be anything if based in Australia ? Why is he
allowed to use the U.S. stage for free ?

By the way, why does this Joi Ito keep jet setting in
and out of the U.S. to name-drop ? The U.S. really does
have talented people with much more important things
to say than you, thank you very much.

How is that "global Internet" looking from Japan ?

058/8 Apr 04 APNIC (
059/8 Apr 04 APNIC (
060/8 Apr 03 APNIC (
061/8 Apr 97 APNIC (
124/8 Jan 05 APNIC (
125/8 Jan 05 APNIC (
126/8 Jan 05 APNIC (
202/8 May 93 APNIC (
203/8 May 93 APNIC (

210/8 Jun 96 APNIC (
211/8 Jun 96 APNIC (
218/8 Dec 00 APNIC (
219/8 Sep 01 APNIC (
220/8 Dec 01 APNIC (
221/8 Jul 02 APNIC (
222/8 Feb 03 APNIC (

Americans will turn your lights out faster than they
did in World War II. Just watch.

I too, applaud ICANN for not going into the morality and content debate and focus on your job ;-)

The real problem is that, in practice, this .xxx will be absolutely self-imposed. The ultimate responsability will lie with the site owners, and they will know that, for example, choosing to play by the rules will immediately cut part of their "corporate" markets (business firewalls will filter xxx pretty much by default, I'd say... and I'm sure you know how many "suits" access pr0n from inside company networks). How successful this effort can be?

I think the idea is encomiable, but, short of flat-out banning pr0n from the mainstream TLDs, it won't work.

P.S. if I ever had any thoughts about doing business with, now I'm certain I won't....

Check out that new .M TLD (backed by .MOBI).

Everyone knows that .MOBI is the code-word, not the
real TLD.

.M is the real TLD.

.M is part of the New.NET from Microsoft

Just post your IP blocks so they can become part of
the New.NET. Microsoft will make a fortune protecting
children and workers from ICANN and the .XXX and .PRO

Giacomo : I have no idea if this is in their plans, but also consider the case of positive inclusion. I can imagine search engines, hotel networks, and other "responsible" outlets that would probably allow access to .xxx to their adult clients. Doesn't it make it more "safe" for people whould like to allow access to such content on an opt-in/opt-out basis for certain customers? Just a thought.

Hi Joi,

The application for .xxx doesn't convince me that this new TLD is required, nor that it won't result in problems for adult-content providers using domains.

However, I'm happy to support the new TLD, provided the relevant ICANN people have read and understood RFC 3675 - .sex Considered Dangerous...

If i understand the issue right, and if i look at it in black an white, i see the issue of a .xxx domain thus: this will be the first step to make a border for porn. In time you may see national laws, in Europe, the US, and China to make it an offense, if porn is on the net other than the .xxx domain, in order to provide people with a high level security not to come across porn content on the www. This may seem far fetched, but its not unthinkable. There may be even enough moral arguments to enforce such a policy. Point is: the .xxx domain could be used for such a policy, even if its not intended to... Theoretically that is. Would it be a bad thing? I don't know, for its implications and actual policy making is unforeseeable. But the fact seems to be; it could be used politically...

What annoys me is claims like Karl's that porn is not "socially positive". Perhaps to someone who lives in a dark-ages third-world country, it's a "sin" or whatever their primitive religions call it, but in civilization, adults have the right to look at whatever they want.

Possession of child pornography is only outlawed because purchasing it encourages child abuse; this is why possession of porn *simulating* children with art or photoshop is legal. In reality, there's never been very much child porn, because it's simply uninteresting to normal adults, but in the last decade it's become the standard tool for puritans to attack people who like any kind of porn.

The real crime is when some people have no respect for the rights of others, and villainously attempt to impose their puritanical, 13th-century views on others. THAT is what I consider obscene.

A .xxx domain should, at least in theory, allow those who want porn to find it more easily, and those who do not want porn to avoid it more easily, and make life somewhat more difficult for puritans who like telling others what to do. All of those are truly socially positive.

I think that the .xxx domain name is underrated. Adult sites will jump on the opportunity for more webspace. Thats the reason I registered YOUDOTXXX.COM. It is for sale to anyone that offers webhosting, domain registration, etc. The "dotxxx" can mean ".xxx, .com, .net, etc.". Serious Offers Only. Contact me at

Thanks for the informative post,

I am trying to gather as many informed opinions as I can on the DOTxXx issue at DOTxXxBLOG

I'd be very grateful to have yours.

Thanks very much,

Jack Mardack

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