BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The company that oversees Web addresses is expected to give the go-ahead on Friday for the creation of a .xxx suffix for websites with pornographic content, company officials indicated on Thursday.
The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), which oversees the Internet on behalf of the U.S. government, has in the past resisted creating a .xxx generic domain name system akin to those for .com and .net.
It has in recent years repeatedly rejected a request by U.S. company ICM Registry Inc. to sign off on the .xxx domain.
But members of ICANN's board have argued that in order to maintain neutrality in dealing with domain name assignations, it should create .xxx and allow websites with sexually explicit content to start using the suffix on a voluntary basis.
"If expedited due diligence results are successful, then staff will proceed into contract negotiations with ICM (over .xxx)," ICANN's general counsel John Jeffrey told delegates at a week-long ICANN meeting in Brussels on Thursday.
Online pornography is a vast industry. Figures collated by Internet Pornography Statistics suggest more than $3,000 is spent on Internet pornography every second, with "sex" the number one search term in the world, accounting for 25 percent of all Internet searches.
With an estimated 370 million pornographic websites on the Internet, .xxx could become one of the largest domain name repositories, as big if not bigger than .com.
But some members of the adult entertainment industry oppose .xxx, saying it will invite censorship and harm their business. Members of the American religious right also oppose its creation on moral grounds.
ICANN is expected to make a formal announcement on its decision on Friday.
Reporting by Andrea Swalec; Editing by David Holmes