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Porn sites could soon get their ".xxx"

By Aaron Smith, CNNMoney.com staff writer

NEW YORK (CNNMoney.com) -- Porn sites could soon be swapping their .com for the sexier .xxx.

On Friday, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers board of directors approved the new top-level domain -- that's the technical name for the .com, .xxx or .net part of a URL -- and sent it on to the next committee.

"It's been a long time coming, but I'm excited about the fact that .xxx will soon become a reality. This is great news," said Stuart Lawley, chairman of ICM Registry, the nonprofit organization that has been leading the charge to establish the new TLD.

But final approval is still months away. "The board approved the movement forward on .xxx, but .xxx itself has not been approved," said ICANN spokesman Brad White.

Now the ICANN Governmental Advisory Committee, an organization of 100 governments, must take up the issue and offer public policy advice on .xxx. Its recommendations, alongside that of the ICANN board, will be considered as part of the approval process, said ICANN Chairman Peter Dengate Thrush.

He expects .xxx could become a reality by 2011.

ICANN has jurisdiction over top-level domains because it is the private nonprofit that manages the Internet naming system. Through unique numerical addresses for each site -- the IP address -- individual websites are able to find and connect.

The long strings of numbers, however, are difficult to remember, so human-friendly domains were created. For example, it is easier to type in CNNMoney.com than it is to recall

ICANN hasn't wanted to allow every possible top-level domain. In 2007, the body rejected ICM's original application to create .xxx. But an independent review board, consisting of a panel of experts, ruled that the rejection was wrong.

"We've accepted the decision of this panel, which means that the accountability mechanism has worked," Thrush said. "It's a fantastic example of the accountability mechanism actually working."

ICM Registry said the .xxx domain is beneficial to the public because it sends an obvious signal that the domain contains pornography, which is desired by some and avoided by others.

Also on Friday, ICANN approved top-level domains that use strictly Chinese characters. To top of page

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