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The bid to create .xxx – a top-level domain just for web porn – will be tied up in red tape for at least a few more months after national governments pressured ICANN to block its approval.

At this week's ICANN 39 meeting in Cartagena, Colombia, ICANN's board of directors signalled its intent to approve ICM Registry's .xxx domain, but said it would first have to confront government objections.

This is the latest – and possibly the last – in a series of challenges and appeals that have plagued the bid since it was first proposed in 2003.

The proposed domain is so controversial that ICANN over the years has had to create new processes, policies, and appeals procedures just to handle the various flavours of outcry.

That has happened again this week, due to an unprecedented decision by ICANN to formally disagree with the opposition to .xxx coming from its Governmental Advisory Committee.

The GAC is a collection of civil servants who represent dozens of world governments. Its advice is given considerable weight under ICANN's consensus-driven decision-making rules.

By saying it "intends to enter into a registry agreement with ICM Registry" for .xxx, ICANN has – for the first time in its 12-year history – formally put the GAC on notice that it intends to reject its advice.

This means that the ICANN board and the GAC will have to meet face-to-face to thrash out their differences at a meeting scheduled for February 2011.

ICM executives, who had hoped to have their proposal approved once and for all this week, were nevertheless upbeat about its prospects for approval a few months from now.

It may not be a shoo-in, however. Several governments within the GAC are "emphatically opposed" to .xxx on public-policy grounds, a position first stated in 2007 and reiterated today.

ICM is a Florida-based company headed by British businessman Stuart Lawley, who has pumped millions of his own money into applying for .xxx – mainly on lawyers – over the last seven years.

The application has been preliminarily approved by ICANN once before, a decision that the organization later reversed. On appeal, ICANN was forced to return to its initial position.

The bid has faced substantial opposition from outraged religious groups, which believe .xxx will lead to more porn.

Many US-based pornographers, who believe that having a "red light district" for internet porn will lead to higher prices and invite government censorship, continue to oppose the proposed domain. ®

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