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Page last updated at 09:12 GMT, Thursday, 26 June 2008 10:12 UK
Internet porn 'name change plan'
By Jim Reed
Newsbeat technology reporter

Jerry Barnett, boss of the UK's biggest adult website
Porn site boss Jerry Barnett thinks the renaming idea is a strange one

The world wide web could soon get a 'red light district' under plans being discussed by the internet regulator.

Members of Icann, which oversees the net's naming system, will vote on a plan to relax the strict rules on so-called top level domain names.

They're websites which end with names like .com, .uk and .org.

If approved, it is likely to mean that X-rated adult sites could soon start to use the name .xxx alongside .com for the first time.

The plans are part of a broader overhaul of the internet's address system that could also see the introduction of names like .bank, .sport and .film.

It's a bit of a strange proposal. Some people in the industry think it's yet another attempt at censorship
Jerry Barnett, boss of the UK's biggest adult website
Internet safety campaigners support the idea of a .xxx domain name because it makes it easier to track and block pornographic content.

"In the short run I think there are potential problems of confusion," said John Carr, who advises the government on internet safety.

"But in the long term, I think all responsible pornography companies will move their domains into the .xxx area."

"We've never said pornography should not exist on the internet.

"But it shouldn't be easy for children and young people to get at it or for people who don't want to see it to come across it."

Critics argue against

Under the new plans, there will be no requirement for adult sites to give up their .com address and use .xxx instead.

Critics of the idea say that adult material will still be available on other sites creating a false sense of safety and simply leading to a new "landrush" of companies buying up .xxx names.

Porn shop
US anti-porn activists say a .xxx name would legitimise adult sites
Many people in the porn industry are also suspicious of the idea.

Jerry Barnett, the boss of the UK's biggest adult website, said: "It's a bit of a strange proposal. Some people in the industry think it's yet another attempt at censorship.

"That somehow porn will be pushed behind some kind of closed door on the internet.

"Why should one particular business be pushed out of the mainstream just because some people don't like it?

"There have been attempts in the past to drive porn underground and they've never succeeded.

He added: "In theory there are pretty good filtering schemes so parents can set up pins and block porn on their PCs.

"In practice, teenagers probably know more about porn on the internet than they do so it's pretty hard to block."

History of .xxx

Icann first voted to introduce a .xxx domain back in 2005 but the idea was never implemented.

The decision was reversed in 2006 and again rejected in 2007.

Anti-porn activists in the United States turned against the idea fearing that a .xxx name would legitimise adult sites.

A US adult industry trade group called the Free Speech Coalition argued a domain name for child-friendly sites would be more appropriate.

Opening up the net

Icann, or the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, has been working on a plan to open up net addresses to new names for the last three years.

Bosses at the organisation call it the most dramatic change to the way the internet works since its creation in the 1970s.

Shot of computer screen
A .xxx domain name was first voted for in 2005 but was rejected
The rapid growth of the internet over the last decade has left the naming system struggling to cope.

Icann reckons that less than 17% of the four billion possible net addresses in the world are still available and they are expected to run out completely by 2013.

Members will vote on a proposal to use any name extension up to 64 characters long.

As well as .xxx, members could name domains after a company or city name.

If approved, expect to see internet addresses like .nyc, for New York City, or .berlin by the start of next year.

Names based on broad product groups are also likely to be popular with .bank, .bet, .football and .movie all likely candidates.

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