By Kieren McCarthy in Vancouver for The Register
This article has been reproduced from The Register, with permission.
ICANN chairman Vint Cerf stunned an open meeting of the governmental advistory committee (GAC) in Vancouver late on Tuesday when he announced that the whole issue had been pulled from the Board meeting agenda where it had been the first topic of discussion.
The reason given (this time) was that the GAC needed time to review a 350-page ICANN report on the domain's feasibility before it could provide its approval (or disapproval).
That's a red herring though. The report was completed on 31 August, and is mostly complimentary about the proposed domain. Not only that but all the issues surrounding the domain are already well known to everyone involved, and up until Cerf's sudden announcement, had been effectively given the green light.
ICANN has come under pressure to release the report and so provide adequate excuse for delaying .xxx's approval yet again. The people behind .xxx, ICM Registry, opposed its release, complaining that no other new domains had had their ICANN report released before they had been granted final approval and that they were being unfairly treated.
However, if rumours are to be believed, ICANN took a top-level decision to release the report and so provide a delay excuse, after EU commissioner Viviane Reding called the head of ICANN Paul Twomey direct and threatened to withdraw all the EU's representatives unless the issue was pulled. Twomey this morning denied he had had any communication with Reding over the issue.
If would certainly be an unusual decision on Reding's part, especially since the EU has been mostly supportive of .xxx. It is only Brazil and the US administration that remain opposed to the domain.
More likely is that the US government intervened but is desperate to avoid being seen to do so because of the ongoing Internet governance conflict, where the US government retains unilateral control of the Internet but claims never to use apply it.
The Bush administration has been very effectively lobbied by the Christian right, and the US is desperate to make it look as though other governments are equally concerned about .xxx. The conspiracy theory is that by delaying .xxx, the EU puts a spotlight on the US' attempts to sway the course of the Internet.
Whether that's true or not, it still leaves one furious owner of ICM Registry, Stuart Lawley, who has sunk millions into the project and been consistently stymied at the last minute by unusual delays.
© The Register 2005