The fate of the proposed .xxx Internet domain for sex sites, which has drawn fire from U.S. conservative groups, remains in limbo, according to the head of the group that oversees the Web domain system.
Paul Twomey, president of the Internet Corporation of Assigned Names and Numbers said on Thursday the group is still awaiting the recommendations of an advisory committee reviewing the proposal, and has no plans to make a decision at ICANN's meeting this week in Vancouver.
ICANN announced in June it would move ahead with plans to evaluate establishing a sex-site domain, but the proposal hit a snag in August when the U.S. Commerce Department asked for more time to hear objections.
The review committee, made up of representatives from the United States and other governments, has not told ICANN's board specifically what objections are holding up the process but that it needs more time to review the material, Twomey said.
He could not say when the Governmental Advisory Committee would be ready.
The .xxx domain -- which would be like the .com or .net at the end of an Internet address -- has been pitched by ICM Registry Inc., a private company that has said it could run it as sort of an online red-light district that would enable people to easily find pornography on the Web, or filter it out.
Critics such as the Family Research Council, a conservative U.S.-based religious group, complain that creating the .xxx domain would only legitimize the porn industry, and not make it easier to avoid sexual content on the Web.
The case has also been seen as a test of ICANN's independence from the U.S. government, which has fought off efforts to turn control of the Internet traffic system over to an international body.
ICANN, a California-based non-profit group, cannot make changes to the domain-name system -- which matches Web site names to numerical addresses that computers can read -- without the approval of the U.S. Commerce Department.
Syracuse University professor Milton Mueller said the United States has compromised its neutrality over the assignment of domains by intervening in the .xxx case. He said Washington has been lobbying other governments to oppose the plan.
"If ICANN caves in to this pressure, it reveals to the world that it really is just a plaything of the U.S. administration, and the U.S. reveals to the world that it is able and willing to abuse its power over ICANN," Mueller said.