ICG (and CCWG-Accountability) replied to NTIA’s May letter suggesting the IANA transition process could extend till June 2016 in best case scenario
ICG (and CCWG-Accountability) replied to NTIA’s May letter suggesting the IANA transition process could extend till June 2016 in best case scenario
At the ICANN meeting in Buenos Aires, US government confirmed the process of transition will extend beyond September this year, and experts think that several more intensive months will be needed
The Domain Name System (DNS) handles Internet domain names (such as www.google.com) and converts them to Internet Protocol (IP) numbers (and the other way around). This makes it easier for Internet users to access locations in the Internet such as websites, by simply looking for the domain name of the website, instead of the IP number associated to it.
From an infrastrastructure point of view, the DNS consists of root servers, top-level domain (TLD) servers, and a large number of DNS servers located around the world.
The DNS includes generic top-level domain (gTLD) and country code top-level domains (ccTLD). There are now over 1200 gTLDs, ranging from traditional ones such as .com, .net, and .org, to new gTLDs (introduced starting 2014) such as .pub,, .ngo, or .游戏 (game). While most gTLDs have an open registration policy, allowing the registration of domain names by any interested individual or entity, there are several gTLDs that are restricted to specific groups. For example, only authorised banking institutions can register domain names under .bank. ccTLDs are two-letter TLDs designating countries or territories (such as .uk for the United Kingdom, .cn for China, and .br for Brazil).
Each gTLD and ccTLD is managed by a registry, whose main responsibility is to maintain and administer a database with all registered domain names. For example, .com is managed by VeriSign, while .uk is managed by Nominet. The actual registration of domain names, by end users (called registrants) is performed though registrars. In the case of gTLDs, the registry and registrar functions are clearly separated. For some ccTLDs, the registry can also act as registrar.
The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) ensures the overall coordination of the DNS by developing and implementing policies governing the operation and evolution of the system. For gTLDs, ICANN concludes agreements with registries and accredits registrars. ccTLDs have a special status, in that ICANN does not set rules for how they are administered and managed. There are, however, several ccTLD registries that have concluded some types of agreements with ICANN (such as accountability frameworks, memoranda of understanding, and exchange of letters).
The operational coordination of the DNS is performed through ICANN’s affiliate Public Technical Identifiers (PTI).
The creation of new generic top level domains (gTLDs)
In 2012, after six years of consultations and development of a new policy, ICANN launched the New gTLD Program, opening up the DNS beyond the 22 gTLDs existing at that point. Under the programme, any organisation in the world could apply for a new gTLD, including in non-Latin language scripts, as long as it complied with a series of criteria established in the so-called New gTLD Applicant Guidebook. The introduction of new gTLDs was received with enthusiasm by some stakeholders, who saw this programme as an opportunity to enhance competition and consumer choice in the domain name market. Others expressed concern, especially in relation to the potential need for trademark holders to undertake defensive registrations of domain names in multiple gTLDs, for the purpose of avoiding cybersquatting.
Other concerns were raised by governments represented in ICANN’s Governmental Advisory Committee (GAC), who called for measures aimed to ensure the protection of end-users and preserve competition on the gTLD market. As an example, in the case of gTLDs representing regulated sectors (such as .bank and .pharm), governments have proposed measures aimed to ensure that only entities having the appropriate authorisations to operate in such sectors could register domain names in such gTLDs.
Although the debate on the introduction of new gTLDs continues, the programme is up and running. There are also discussions within the ICANN community over the opportunity of launching subsequent rounds of applications for new gTLDs.
For more details on the current status of the New gTLD Program, consult the dedicated process page.
The management of country code top level domains (ccTLDs)
The management of ccTLDs involves three important issues. The first concerns the often politically controversial decision regarding the registration of codes for countries and entities with unclear or contested international status. From the beginning, IANA used the principle of allocating domain names in accordance with the ISO 3166 standard for country codes.
The second issue concerns who should manage ccTLDs. Currently, there are several ccTLD registry models in place, with the registry functions being performed by public entities, private companies, or multistakeholder structures. In some countries, the management of ccTLDs is subject to government regulations. Some governments who initially had no involvement in ccTLD management have been trying to gain control over their country domains, seen as national resources. For example, South Africa used its sovereign rights as an argument in win control of its ccTLD. Transition (re-delegation) of a ccTLD to a new registry is approved by ICANN only if there is no opposition from any of the interested stakeholders within the concerned country.
The third issue relates to the fact that, unlike the case of gTLDs, ICANN imposes no rules as to who and how should manage a ccTLD. ICANN goes only as far as delegating or re-delegating ccTLDs on the basis of some high-level guidelines aimed at ensuring that the ccTLD registry is technically competent to manage it, and has support from the local community. In 2005, ICANN’s GAC adopted a set of Principles and Guidelines for the delegation and administration of country code top level domains, intended to serve as a guide to the relationship between governments, ccTLDs, and ICANN. Although some ccTLD registries (e.g. Brazil, Chile, Netherlands) have concluded some type of agreements with ICANN, and many registries are represented in ICANN’s Country Code Names Supporting Organization (ccNSO), there are several ccTLDs that have shown reluctance to become part of the ICANN system.
The creation of internationalised domain names (IDNs)
The Internet was originally a predominantly English-language medium. Through rapid growth, it has become a global communication facility with an increasing number of non-English-speaking users. For a long time, the lack of multilingual features in the Internet infrastructure was one of the main limits of its future development.
In May 2010, after a long testing period and political uncertainties, ICANN started approving TLDs in a wide variety of scripts, including Chinese, Arabic, and Cyrillic. IDNs have been introduced in several countries and territories as equivalent to their Latin country code top level domains (ccTLDs). For example, in China, 中国 has been introduced in addition to .cn, while in Russia, рф has been introduced in addition to .ru. IDNs are also part of ICANN’s new gTLD programme, allowing for the registration of new top level domains (gTLDs) in scripts other than the Latin one; for example, .сайт (website) and .онлайн (online) are among the new TLDs available to the public.
The introduction of IDNs is considered to be one of the main successes of the Internet governance regime. However, limitations remain, as universal acceptance is still a challenge when it comes to issues such as functional IDN e-mail addresses and recognition of IDNs by search engines.
Transition of the US government role
Since its creation, in 1998, and until 1 October 2016, ICANN managed the DNS on the basis of a contract with the US government, through the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA). In line with this contract, the US government acted as steward of the DNS, as every major change made within the system (such as the approval of a new gTLD) required its formal validation. In March 2014, NTIA announced its intention to transition this stewardship role to the global multistakeholder community. As requested by NTIA, ICANN launched a process for the development of a transition proposal. At the same time, work began on the elaboration of a set of recommendations for enhancing ICANN’s accountability towards the Internet community (seen as a necessary step in the context of the transition). The work carried out by the ICANN community resulted in a transition and an accountability proposals, which were accepted by the US government in June 2016, as being compliant with its requirements.
On 1 October 2016, the IANA functions contract between the US government and ICANN expired, and the stewardship of the IANA functions was transitioned to the global multistakeholder community. In practical terms, the transition meant two major changes within ICANN: (1) the establishment of PTI as the IANA functions operator, and, therefore, a more clear separation between ICANN’s technical and policy-making functions; (2) the creation of an ‘empowered community’ – made up of most of ICANN’s advisory committees and supporting organisations – able to enforce a set of community powers such as removing members of the ICANN Board and rejecting ICANN budgets or changes to the ICANN bylaws. See IANA transition and ICANN accountability for more details.
The map, created by Nominet, the registry for .uk, shows the number of domain name registrations within country code top level domains (ccTLDs).
The infographic contains basic information about Internationalised Domain Names (IDNs), explaining what they are, how they appeared, and how they look in numbers.
The latest edition of glossary, compiled by DiploFoundation, contains explanations of over 130 acronyms, initialisms, and abbreviations used in IG parlance. In addition to the complete term, most entries include a concise explanation and a link for further information.
The book, now in its sixth edition, provides a comprehensive overview of the main issues and actors in the field of Internet governance and digital policy through a practical framework for analysis, discussion, and resolution of significant issues. It has been translated into many languages.
This study explores Internet domain names registration dynamics and tests whether domain registrations are constrained by the depletion of unregistered high quality domain name.
The paper outlines three possible forms of Internet fragmentation: technical fragmentation (infrastructure), governmental fragmentation (government policies constraining access to and use of the Internet) and commercial fragmentation (business actions that prevent access to and use of the Internet). Some of the identified 'top 10' cases of fragmentation are: failure to move to IPv6, blocking new gTLDs, filtering content, digital protectionism, prohibition on transborder data movement, and cybersovereignty.
The report provides a snapshot of the state of deployment of DNSSEC as of the end of 2016. It addressed two main aspects for deployment of DNSSEC: DNSSEC signing (how many zones are signed using DNSSEC and have a chain of trust back to the DNS root), and DNSSEC validation (what recursive resolvers support DNSSEC, and how many clients are using DNSSEC-validating DNS resolvers).
The report provides an overview of the US Department of Commerce’s policies in the field of digital economy over the course of the Obama administration. It covers area such as: management of the Domain Name System, privacy and security online, innovation and emerging technologies, and access and skills.
The report presents findings on the current state of the Internet and the domain name industry in the Middle East and Adjoining Countries region, including: best practices that have affected the growth in domain names; domain name industry and registration data; Internet usage patterns and user preferences; etc.
The report outlines a series of recommendations for changing the DNSSEC root zone Key Signing Key (KSK). The process of changing the KSK means generating a new cryptographic public and private key pair and distributing the new public component to parties including Internet service and other DNS resolver operators, DNS resolver software developers, integrators, and distributors. The KSK is used to cryptographically sign the Zone Signing Key, which is used to sign the root zone of the Domain Name System.
The report provides an analysis of why Internationalised Domain Names (IDNs) are a driver of multilingualism, considers aspects related to universal acceptance of IDNs, and presents IDN-related facts and figures.
The brief provides an overview of the domain name industry in the third quarter of 2015, and offers statistics of the number of domain name registrations, the growth in new gTLDs, and the largest ccTLDs, among others.
One section in the report provides information on the Uniform Domain Name Dispute Resolution Policy (UDRP) cases filled with WIPO in 2014 and in the first 9 months on 2015.
The study looks into aspects of “Universal Acceptance” of new gtLD domain names, with particular focus on the visibility of names in the new gTLD zones in the web environment.
The report provides information on the relationship between the US Government's National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) and the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA), as defined by the 'IANA FUnctions Contract'.
This report presents quantitative data on the deployment of IDNs to date and looks at the deployment experiences of IDN ccTLDs in selected regions, exploring opportunities and challenges for IDN deployment going forward.
The report looks into the possible impact of the launch of new generic top level domains (gTLDs) on the Internet root server system.
The index provides quarterly information and statistical data on the creation of malicious domain name system (DNS) infrastructure worldwide (the launch of new domain names or the hijack of legitimate domains for cybercrime purposes).
Mr Göran Marby, CEO and President, Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), delivered the final keynote speech of the tenth edition of EuroDIG. Marby reflected back on the time he lived and worked in Tallinn, and said that Estonia has made noteworthy progress since then. According to him, it was the power of the Internet that made the fast positive change over the last twenty years possible.
EuroDIG 2017 brought up the timely discussion on how we use the Internet, reminding us that it is not a natural resource, but one that the whole community has to take care of. In 2016, ICANN and the Internet Society celebrated the twenty-fifth birthday of the Internet and the progress end-users experience today. Marby focused on several points correlated with the discussion during the event.
First, he emphasised that partnerships and the multistakeholder model are at the centre of ICANN’s work and provide for the interobjectivity of the Internet. The Internet needs of one end-user differ from those of another, and only interobjectivity can provide co-operation.
Second, in order to protect this interoperability, Marby stressed the importance of technology and the underlying functionality that enables the operation of the Internet. ‘We are not the Internet, but we are what controls it’, Marby said. In regards to technical operability, he mentioned the importance of the Domain Name System Security Extensions (DNSSEC), and reminded the audience about 11 October 2017 as a milestone for ICANN, when the new Key Signing Key (KSK) rollover will take place.
Third, Marby addressed the negativity surrounding the current discussion on the Internet, and reminded us of its positive sides. ‘The Internet is not done’, Marby noted, and expressed ICANN's goal of connecting an additional 1.5 billion users worldwide with the current 4 billion connected users. In his view, the key for the future of the Internet is recognising the users' local needs. The future Internet will be both local and global, Marby concluded. Lastly, he reminded us once again that the Internet is not a natural resource, and has to be updated, mended, and fixed all the time by the whole community.
Opening the session, co-moderators Mr Dirk Krischenowski, dotBERLIN GmbH & Co. KG, and Ms Maarja Kirtsi, Estonian Internet Foundation/.ee, explained that the discussion will focus on issues related to innovation and competition on the domain name market, especially in the context of new generic top-level domains (gTLDs), launched by the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) in 2014.
To kick-start the debates, Krischenowski gave an overview of a study conducted by ICANN on competition, consumer trust, and consumer choice in the domain name market. Some of the main findings of the study: new gTLDs contributed to the growth of the market; the sales channel integrated the new gTLDs quickly and lead to much greater consumer choice; many new registrar operators entered the market, especially in former under-developed markets; the number of registry operators increased by a factor of 60; typical TLDs are niche, targeted, and geographic TLDs. Overall, the New gTLD Program has lead to a dramatic increase in consumer choice, a modest increase in competition, and minimal impact on consumer trust.
Ms Elena Plexida, European Commission (EC), talked about the evaluation and revision process that the EC has launched with regard to the regulations for the .eu TLD. She explained that the .eu TLD was formally established by Regulation 733/2002, while EC Regulation 874/2004 set the rules for the registry and the .eu. The .eu TLD was delegated by ICANN in 2005. As the market has continuously changed, these regulations have become outdated, have generated administrative challenges and need a revision. Issues to be analysed during the evaluation process include: whether the .eu objectives have been achieved (to boost e-commerce and empower end-users to create a European digital identity), the legal separation between registry and registrars, whether the registry should be more active in other Internet governance areas (and how).
Mr Jörg Schweiger, DENIC e.G./.de outlined one issue of concern for the domain name industry: How to make sure that domains do not subsurface, in the sense that they exist from a technical point of view, but users are not really aware of them? The industry has been constantly looking for the ‘killer application’ to address this issue. He pointed out that one way to make domain names more attractive could be to build on the discussions about self-determination, sovereignty, and identity. The main objective of .de now is to retain as many domain names as possible, and that the direction the registry is growing in is not necessarily related to innovation per se, but rather to having a secure domain name space.
Ms Lianna Galstyan, Internet Society Armenia, said that the .am registry never had an objective to have a high number of domain name registrations, but rather, to give the community the possibility to register domain names under .am. The same rationale was also behind the launch of the Armenian Internationalised Domain Name (IDN).
Mr Ardi Jürgens, Zone Media OÜ, pointed out that domain names do not exist in a bubble; they are part of a system which includes resources and applications. A healthy growth in the demand for domain names could result in applications and people using domain names for creating value, either for them or society. In the search for a ‘killer application’, the industry should look at young people and try to find a way to create value for them within the domain name space. Compared to social media platforms, domain names have the main advantage of being under the control of the registrant, and this is something that the industry should try to communicate better.
Mr Andrea Beccalli, ICANN, discussed examples of innovation in the DNS, such as the new gTLDs, the introduction of IDN TLDs, and the DNS Security Extensions (DNSSEC). Even the community work on developing the rules and processes for the New gTLD Program can be seen as a form of innovation. Schweiger, however, argued that the new round of gTLDs does not necessarily means innovation, as it was simply presenting what was on the market already – TLDs. Moreover, most business models surrounding new gTLDs are similar to what had been on the market before their introduction, with only a few exceptions.
Security in the domain name space was mentioned during the discussions as an area that deserves more attention. There are troubling correlations between new gTLDs and ‘innovation in crime’, and there are service providers who have blocked all new gTLDs from their servers due to security concerns. Innovation on the security front should be a priority for new gTLDs. Privacy is also an issue that requires increased attention, as users are more and more demanding in this regard.
The risk of cybersquatting was also raised as an issue of concern for new gTLDs, with regard to the protection of trademarks. It was said that the current protection mechanisms (such as the sunrise period allowing trademark holders to register relevant domain names, and mechanisms for rights enforcement post domain name registration) are helpful, but not sufficient. Such issues are currently analysed within the ICANN framework.
At the end of the session, a point was raised – that it is not actually clear what is innovative in the domain name space, as TLDs have been in place for many years and they are basically the same ‘technology’ or ‘tool’ that they have been since the creation of the DNS.
The Next Generation gTLD Registration Directory Service (RDS) to Replace WHOIS Policy Development Process Working Group was established with the aim to provide the Generic Names Supporting Organization (GNSO) Council with policy recommendations regarding two main questions:
’What are the fundamental requirements for gTLD registration data? Is a new policy framework and next-generation RDS needed to address these requirements?’
The agenda of the session was qualified as ‘unique’, as it aimed to present 19 questions that were developed for Cannataci. It was underlined that questions were developed with the aim to understand more the importance of data protection and privacy requirements in the context of the domain name system.
Cannataci addressed the following questions raised by the chair, in more depth: ‘What do you mean when you say ICANN to specify the purpose of domain name? What criteria should be used to determine the legitimate purposes? What is the difference between primary and secondary purposes?’
It was stated by Cannataci that ICANN needs to consider sustainability. He invited ICANN to look into setting up a transversal group which deals with privacy and other human rights, such as freedom of expression. The group would be open to others to join the discussion, and would help ‘bounce off’ important questions. He emphasised that ‘the purpose of collecting data remains the key’. It is important that the collection of ‘specific personal data’ is one in line with a specific purpose, which can never be a general one: “Jurisprudence does not say ‘Just in case I need it’.”
Addressing the question of primary and secondary purpose for data collection, he stated that it is not up to the regulators to define secondary purpose, and that this needs to be carefully stipulated by the data controller when he/she defines the goal of looking for data. ‘When you talk about the secondary purpose, please be specific and don’t expect or let regulator do it., Cannataci said.
Another question was raised in relation to the Article 6.1. b) of the EU Data Protection Directive which provides that personal data may only be collected for specified, explicitly and legitimate purpose and not further processed in a way incompatible with those purposes, specified in Article 7 of the Directive.
‘Under what circumstances might the publication of domain name registration data elements that are personal be allowable?’ Cannataci addressed the question stating that ‘we need to start from knowing whyat all we want to publish anything. If you what to publish personal data, then there must be a reason for it. What is the public interest for publishing the information? Is it transparency, for example?”
He continued by stating that once data is easily associated with an identified or identifiable individual, then it becomes personal data. , such as in the case of domain name, it becomes a personal information. If data related to a domain nameis linked to someone who is identifiable, then it becomes a personal data.He concluded by saying that the question ‘What is the purpose of publishing (personal) data?’ should be the main question.
As the time allocated for the session ended, it was said that the 19 questions would be further fine-tuned, and, once answers are collected, the could be published on the group’s webpage, if the members find that useful.
The joint meeting between the ICANN Board of Directors and the Governmental Advisory Committee (GAC) revolved around several topics of particular interest for governments, including the use of two-letter country codes at second level (i.e. as domain names) in generic top-level domains (gTLDs).
In November 2016, the ICANN Board adopted a resolution authorising ICANN to allow new gTLD registry operators to allow the registration of domain names representing two-letter country codes, as long as the operators implement a set of required measures to avoid confusion with corresponding country codes. Such measures were described in a document released in December 2016 by ICANN’s Global Domains Division. Previous to this decision, GAC issued advice cautioning the Board that the release of two-letter country codes could create confusion among end-users in that they may interpret the domain names as being affiliated with a government or a country code TLD manager.
Many GAC members expressed concerns over the Board resolution, both in terms of process and substance, including:
The Board explained that it had examined the release of two-letter country codes in respect to ICANN’s mission, commitments, and shared values. In its view, the resolution is fully consistent with GAC advice. With regard to the possibility of confusion, there have been measures devised to mitigate such risks, and the Board finds them appropriate.
Moreover, it was said that countries do not own their country codes. These codes are designated at the top level on the basis of the ISO list for country codes. But at the second level there have already been registrations of domain names representing two-letter country codes in both legacy gTLDs and many ccTLDs. Some countries have underlined that it is not within the Board’s right or mandate to decide whether GAC members have rights over two character codes.
At the end of the discussions, the Board mentioned that it is willing to engage into discussions with GAC members that are uncomfortable with the decision, and discuss both the process and the substance, and why the Board thinks that it has acted in accordance with GAC advice. This does not mean that the decision will be renegotiated.
Other points touched on during the meeting were related to:
The Non-Commercial Stakeholder Group (NCSG) started the session by demanding a response from the ICANN Board on how ICANN’s complaint process can be modified. The NSCG feel that the current process should be made more accountable, allow enough time for registrants to respond to allegations, and create a safer environment for registrants who might be victims of harassment and abuse.
Mr Jamie Hedlund, SVP, Contractual Compliance & Consumer Safeguards at ICANN replied that within contractual compliance, the complaints of abuse are handled very seriously. He added that these complaints are addressed as soon as they are presented to them. He further mentioned that the staff work closely with anyone who feels like there has been abuse against them, be it the registrants, registrars, or registries, and encouraged anyone who feels like they are the victims of abuse to bring those issues forward.
The Board replied that ICANN can only act within its mission and is not actually the place for solving issues on content and copyright. They added that the confusion over what ICANN’s role is adds friction, and encouraged communication between the concerned parties to solve the issues outside of ICANN to reach a solution.
The NSCG raised the issue of increasing transparency within ICANN to enhance community participation and understanding. The Board replied that transparency is a major priority and added that the Board's working group on trust, set up in Helsinki, is aimed at increasing the trust of the community. They added that they are exploring methods of engaging with the community, such as by explaining what that Board does to the community, and by reaching out to the community within their own ecosystem in order to address and explain the decision-making process.
The NCSG also raised the issue of Public Interest Commitments (PIC) in the new gTLD registry agreement, which they see as contradicting the consensus processes. Furthermore, they added that this overrides the many hours of volunteer effort, time, research drafting, editing and reviewing spent creating the agreement, and how this should be prevented from happening again, since it harms the multistakeholder model. The Board assured them that these valid concerns will be addressed based on the specifics of the issue.
On the issue of capacity building, the Board added that they are looking at ways to leverage both the Fellowship and the NextGen@ICANN programmes to support community building. They indicated that although this does not solve the immediate problems, efforts are in place to address the long term concerns regarding community development.
The session focussed on addressing the concerns of the Commercial Stakeholder Group of the Generic Names Supporting Organizations (GNSO). The Internet Service Providers and Connectivity Providers (ISPCP) highlighted the lack of response to their letter on Digital Object Architecture (DOA). The ISPCP then raised the issue of the overlapping of key sessions that place the community under work and time pressure. They added that there are many conflicts in the meetings leading to the community suffering from overwork. The ISPCP suggested conducting some of the sessions with a historical background at alternate settings, including increasing remote participation and cutting down on meetings with sparse participation.
The ISPCP pointed to the number of reviews that are scheduled and questioned the value of scheduling one review after another. They consider this to be very resource intensive with little result. They feel that this is not inclusive and leads to a very narrow line of comments from people who are affected. The ICANN Board then extensively discussed the issue of DOA and the reply to the ISPCP. They promised that a reply to the letter will be sent soon. They also acknowledged that the community is being overworked and said that actions will be taken to address the issue.
The Business Constituency (BC) pointed to the lack of transparency in the staffing process and their proposed inputs on the new gTLD registries. The BC pointed out that with no substantive community inputs, the ICANN staff is playing the lead role in various process. They feel that this contradicts the ICANN Board's commitment to transparency, accountability and being neutral. The BC demanded assurance from the Board that the comments and perspective of the community will be respected. The BC also asked the Board and the staff to consult with the community before they get into negotiations. The Board replied that they have taken into account the comments on transparency and accountability, and that they are looking at ways to enhance the transparency mechanism and also request from the community to understand the fundamental purpose of the contractual documents.
The BC then raised the issue of the Open Data Initiative (ODI) and having access to the data. The Board replied saying that collecting data through the ODI costs time, money and resources and advised the BC to prioritise the data that they need and to be specific with their data requests. They added that they have enhanced the community's power by allowing the community to comment on and veto budget proposals. The BC expressed their appreciation for the outreach and awareness programme and the role played by ICANN.
To address the question on participation and diversity in the working groups, the Board said that they will support increasing the geographical diversity as a priority. The BC advised the Board to increase staff support for the community to address the issue of community burn-out. The BC further pointed out that there are instances where the community loses its morale and there is a need to keep the community energised in order to increase participation.
Update from GAC Working group on the protection of geographic names
The group focuses on how to improve the protection offered to geographic names in any future expansions of gTLDs. Currently, it discusses the elaboration of a set of best practices for new gTLDs in relation to geographic names. The main proposal is the development of a repository of terms, that would reveal stakes and interests of people, communities, or rights holders in particular names, at the beginning of the gTLD application process. This would allow potential applicants to find out about possible conflicts with regard to the strings they consider applying for. The proposal is to have the repository compiled by ICANN, while governments will input names. It could also benefit from lists of geographic names that are compiled by various international organisations.
The idea, still under discussion, has received both support and opposition. Some of the concerns include:
The main argument in favour of such a repository is that it would help avoid future conflicts and litigations with regards to geographic names.
Community-based applications (CBAs) for new gTLDs
An overview was given of the Council of Europe (CoE) commissioned report on CBAs. The report analyses ICANN’s policies and procedures concerning CBAs, from a human rights perspective. The rationale for this report stems from the fact that CoE considers top-level domains as tools that enable people to communicate and access information; they are also important for the enjoyment of freedom of expression, assembly, and association, all of which should be enjoyed without discrimination. The report outlines a series of findings and recommendations, and the objective is to submit these recommendations for consideration in the context of the relevant policy development processes on new gTLD related issues.
For ALAC, it was disappointing to see that the process for CBAs has been set up as such a high bar that only few applicants could meet the requirements to qualify. For future rounds, it will be important to ensure that communities are actively supported to obtain gTLDs. It is possible that ALAC will support at least some of the recommendations in the CoE commissioned report.
GAC draft survey on underserved regions
Within the context of the GAC Underserved regions working group, a survey has been prepared with the aim to understand challenges and capacity needs of governments from under-served regions when it comes to participation in ICANN. The survey is also intended to help GAC respond directly and appropriately to such need, to increase the participation of under-served countries in GAC and broader ICANN processes. The survey is now targeted at GAC members, but the committee hopes that it will be expanded to the wider community, with support from ALAC and others.
ALAC and GAC have a shared goal when it comes to reaching out to underserved communities and trying to encourage and/or empower them to participate in ICANN processes. And synergies and forms of collaborations could be identified in this area.
At Large review
The At-Large community has undergone an organisational review process which resulted in a draft report outlining several recommendations. ALAC finds some of these recommendations easy to accept, while others are see not only be unacceptable, but dangerous to implement. Some recommendations are related to engagement, outreach, and the need to bring new people into At-large activities. ALAC noted that one challenge in outreach activities has always been related to being able to present ICANN in an understandable way, and that the community will try to identify new approaches.
During the discussions, concerns were raised over what some perceive as unsuccessful review processes within ICANN, mainly due to difficulty in finding external independent reviewers who can understand ICANN’s complexity. One significant challenge when it comes to review processes is to achieve the right balance between an independent evaluator and an evaluator that understand what he/she is reviewing.
Cross Community Working Group on ICANN Accountability (CCWG-Accountability) Work Stream (WS2) - topics of joint interest
One topic of joint interest for both ALAC and GAC in WS 2 of CCWG is related to the issue of diversity within ICANN.
One concern expressed by ALAC was that there are still instances in which ICANN staff or even the Board considers that they do not have any obligations to parties other than the ones contributing money to ICANN. This is something the two committees could try to further explore, as they are both concerned about the public interest.
One comment made during the discussion was related to the 2012 round of new gTLD applications and the fact that the application and evaluation processes have demonstrated that the existing accountability mechanisms are not always working properly and can even be used for a purpose which is opposite to the one they were created for. As both ALAC and GAC are serving the public interest, the two committees could jointly look into such issues.
The session was dedicated to the discussion of how to protect the acronyms of International Governmental Organisations (IGOs). The discussion encompassed the following topics: a) which names or acronyms should be reserved; b) how to notify IGOs of the registration of a related name; c) the dispute resolution mechanism that could be used to resolve potentially competing legal processes; d) the appeal mechanism if the parties disagree with the results of that dispute resolution.
Mr Bruce Tonkin, ICANN Board, kickstarted the discussion by revising the narrow scope of ICANN’s mandate: to ensure the security and stability of the domain name system. He also listed some of the principles that guide the organisation, such as: the need to carry out its activities in conformity with the relevant principles of international law, international conventions and applicable local laws, while recognising that governments and public authorities are responsible for public policy and taking into account public policy advice. This should be done in a way that respects the multistakeholder decision-making process, ensuring that as many parties as possible are involved in assessing the global public interest.
With regard to applicable laws, the Generic Name Supporting Organization (GNSO) policy development process (PDP) is taking into account the Paris Convention for the protection of industrial property, which has some specific provisions that relate to the names and abbreviations of intergovernmental organisations, preventing third parties from getting a trademark against these names. The Article 6ter is only applicable to trademarks and its purpose is to prohibit the registration and use of trademarks that are identical to or present certain similarity with the name or official signs of an IGO.
The current status of discussions is the following, when it comes to the reservation of names and acronyms:
It is important to note, however, that both of these provisions do not protect names in gTLDs registered or top level names created prior to 2012. This means that there is no current protection for com, net, org, biz, info, name, moby, for example. One of the reasons that justify a policy development process is to make sure that the approach is applied to all gTLDs.
An additional complexity is that acronyms are not unique. For example, AU is the acronym for the African Union and that is also the country code for Australia. Many companies use AU as a designation to indicate their Australian operations.
The next topic of discussion was a mechanism that would let IGOs know when an undue registration happens. In this regard, suggestions were received from both the GNSO and the Governmental Advisory Committee (GAC). Both agree with the idea of a notification period, based on the experience of trademark protection, but the issue is how this notification should be done, to whom and for how long. The model of a 90-day 'Sunrise period’, proposed by the GNSO, was not accepted by the GAC because the opportunity for abusing a name may come at any time. For the GAC, a permanent notification mechanism should be preferable.
An adaptation of the 90-day period gained traction during the session and it was also suggested that ICANN could be a service provider for giving notification that an IGO name has gone into the DNS. This 90-day approach would allow use of the model of existing mechanisms and avoid re-opening a PDP. When it comes to potential dispute resolution mechanisms applying to IGO-related names, it was felt by some participants that it would be more pragmatic to give IGOs easier access to the existing improved system, unless there is a legal opinion that IGOs would need a separate system because of their immunity.
When it comes to appeals, the prevailing opinion seemed to be that ICANN’s curative rights processes are supplements to existing laws and that ICANN has no authority to compel registrants to submit to arbitration with no legal appeal. What would happen with regards to IGO’s immunity from national judicial process is an issue that deserves further discussion.
The Governmental Advisory Committee (GAC) held several discussions throughout the week on issues related to new generic top-level domains (gTLDs). Governments explored several topics considered to be of high priority (e.g. community applications, geographic names, applicant support). They also engaged in exchanges with the New gTLD Subsequent Procedures Policy Development Process (PDP) Working Group (WG) (established within the framework of ICANN’s Generic Names Supporting Organization (GNSO) with the aim to determine whether any changes should be made to the new gTLD policy recommendations).
The GAC’s contribution to the New gTLD Subsequent PDP WG
The WG explained that it was collecting input on and exploring substantive issues, within the framework of four work tracks: overall process, support, and outreach; legal, regulatory, and contractual requirements; string contention objections and disputes; and Internationalised Domain Names and technical and operational issues. Several questions related to this issues have been prepared by the group, and the community will soon be invited to provide comments. Early input from the GAC will be welcome, and not necessarily in the shape of formal GAC advice (as elaborating such advice could be a rather lengthy process).
A question was raised as to whether previous GAC advice on new gTLD issues has been taken into account by the WG. In response, it was said that the WG has been considering GAC’s advice, but that, as it explores issues that have not been previously tackled by governments, additional input would be welcome. Several examples were given of issues on which GAC could provide feedback, such as applicant support, categories of new gTLDs, and community applications. These and other issues were discussed in more detail, as outlined below.
Outreach and applicant support
Governments expressed concerns regarding the fact that there were very few applications from developing countries during the 2012 round. Although entities from such countries could have applied for support, this opportunity was not extensively taken advantage of. The WG is paying careful consideration to this issue, looking at questions such as: How to make sure that more applicants are aware of and apply for support? What other issues should be improved when it comes to applicant support?
Another area of concern for governments is related to the use of geographic names as gTLDs. As there are several efforts within the ICANN community dedicated to exploring this issue (including, but not limited to the GAC and the PDP WG), a joint working session is planned for the upcoming Johannesburg ICANN meeting, in June 2017.
Categories of gTLDs
As part of its advice related to the 2012 round of new gTLD applications, the GAC requested that the categories of gTLDs be more clearly separated. The possibility of introducing new categories of gTLDs (in addition to, for example, the brand and community applications, more or less recognised as part of the 2012 round) is now being discussed by the WG, which is trying to determine the impact such a change would have on the application, evaluation, and contracting process. The group is also discussing whether, in case there are clearly defined categories of gTLDs, there should be any prioritisation for some of them. For example, as brand and geographic names are seen by some as among the most sustainable types of new gTLDs, should applications for such gTLDs be prioritised during the evaluation process?
A presentation was delivered on a report commissioned by the Council of Europe (CoE) on the issue of community-based applications (CBAs). The report focuses on ICANN’s policies and procedures concerning CBAs, and CBA-related opportunities and challenges from a human rights perspective. One of the main findings of the report was that it is insufficiently clear on which public interest values are served by CBAs and which categories of individuals or groups should be regarded as communities. Several recommendations are included in the report, on issues such as: the definition of the term ‘community’; community objections (for gTLDs representing names of relevance for certain communities); community priority evaluation; accountability mechanisms; and other concepts for subsequent gTLD rounds (e.g. considering community applications first; inviting applications in staggered batches to better manage workflow; developing an entirely different community track which would include restrictions to ensure applicants are accountable to their communities and provide real benefit to them).
GAC members emphasised the need to further reflect on what kind of changes should be implemented for new application rounds, in order to make sure that the public interest will be achieved in the end. It was also mentioned that community and geographic TLDs could be the ones to be most relevant in the future.
The CoE explained that it did not expect the GAC to endorse the recommendations outlined in the report, but rather to suggest that these recommendations are considered in the context of the New gTLD Subsequent Procedures PDP.
Other issues raised during the discussions were related to:
The GAC will continue to explore these and other issues, and to engage with the New gTLD Subsequent Procedures PDP.
Throughout the week, the Governmental Advisory Committee (GAC) held several discussions on issues related to the on-going work on enhancing the accountability of ICANN.
At the start of the discussions, the GAC Secretariat gave an overview of the current activities undertaken in the context of the Work Stream (WS2) of the Cross Community Working Group on ICANN Accountability (CCWG-Accountability). Priority areas for WS2 include: jurisdiction, human rights and international law, improving the accountability of ICANN supporting organisations (SOs) and advisory committees (ACs), transparency, and diversity. Although the group will not be able to keep the initial timeline for completing its work (June 2017), it will work on a proposal for a new timeline, to be presented to its chartering organisations.
Among the various priority areas for WS2, the complex work on jurisdiction issues looks into questions related to ICANN's jurisdiction, including how choice of jurisdiction and applicable laws for dispute settlement impact ICANN's accountability and the actual operation of policies. Some GAC members stressed that jurisdiction issues be tackled not only looking at what is already in place, but also keeping in mind situations that may arise in the future and would need to be addressed, in particular in relation to dispute settlement.
Discussions were held on possible GAC contributions to the various calls for input launched or about to be launched by the various CCWG sub-groups: a questionnaire on jurisdiction-related issues; a draft Framework of Interpretation to assist ICANN in applying relevant bylaws which require the organisation to respect internationally recognised human rights (draft to be soon finalised by the dedicated sub-group); a questionnaire for ACs/SOs, currently under development by the sub-group working on diversity; and draft recommendations for best practices in terms of ACs/SOs accountability (also under development within the dedicated group). While it would be important for individual GAC members to contribute to these calls, the group will also need to consider providing collective responses on issues such as diversity, human rights, and ACs/SOs accountability.
GAC also discussed issues related to the implementation of the new ICANN bylaws, which came into force after the transition of the IANA functions stewardship to the global Internet community. There are several issues to be addressed:
1. A new framework for how the Board is expected to respond to GAC advice
The bylaws define two levels of Board responses to GAC advice:
Governments held initial discussions on possible procedures to identify whether GAC advice is: based on a full consensus in the absence of formal objections (GAC consensus advice), or based on a broad agreement but with a small number of objections (GAC advice). Several approaches were presented, and they are to be further discussed by GAC intersessionally:
It was explained that, in the case of simple GAC advice, the committee has the possibility to define modalities for dealing with one or a very small number of objections, in order to prevent cases when one or a very small number of countries could block consensus. Several GAC members underlined the fact that GAC should simply continue to follow its operating principles and only adopt advice on the basis of consensus. There was, however, willingness to explore a possible mechanism to avoid a veto-blocking consensus within the committee.
2. GAC participation in the Empowered Community (EC)
The EC is a mechanism which allows the ICANN community (represented by its ACs and SOs) to hold ICANN accountable through a number of powers such as approving changes to fundamental bylaws and remove Board members. GAC is a decisional participant in the EC, and, in this context, it needs to address a number of issues:
As discussions on these issues were only initial, governments will continue to explore them in the upcoming period.
The EC is about to be tested. In February, the Board adopted a decision to create a new committee for handling requests for reconsideration (appeals against ICANN decisions). This decision requires a change in the ICANN fundamental bylaws, which requires approval from the EC. It is expected that a part of the third stage in the escalation process (the community forum where decisional participants discuss the issue) will be held during ICANN 59 (June, Johannesburg). GAC members have agreed, in principle, to participate in the initial phases of the escalation process until the June meeting.
The New gTLD Program established auctions as a mechanism of last resort to resolve string contention. Although most string contentions have been resolved through other means before reaching an auction conducted by ICANN's authorised auction service provider, significant funds have accrued as a result of several auctions.
These auction funds have been put aside by the ICANN Board, until there is a plan for the appropriate use of the funds. A drafting team composed of representatives of supporting organisations (SOs), advisory committees (ACs), and the Board was convened, and prepared the charter for the Cross-Community Working Group on new gTLD auction proceeds (CCWG), responsible to devise that plan.
The Chair, Mr Jonathan Robinson, started the meeting in Copenhagen with a recap of the CCWG charter provisions and the legal and fiduciary constraints that need to be observed by the WG. The charter has strong requirements with regards to avoiding potential conflicts of interests: statements of interest need to be filled by members, as well as declarations whether the members (or their organisations) plan to apply for funds. One of the main questions posed to the CCWG members was whether the group believes that ICANN or its constituencies should be able to apply for ICANN auction funds for the future.
There was also a recap of the goals and objectives of the group, as defined by the charter:
The focus of the group so far has been: a) to provide an assessment of CCWG members' skills and expertise, to identify the shortcomings on expertise that may require the supplement of external input; b) to identify topics that may require further briefings/information to ensure common understanding.
During the development of a work plan, the group reviewed the questions proposed by the charter to identify: Are any of them gating questions that need to be answered beforehand? Are any key questions missing? Is any external expertise required to address charter questions? The mapping out of a possible timeline.
Ms Samantha Eisner, Deputy General Counsel at ICANN, started her presentation by explaining that any funds that ICANN spends need to be within the remit of its mission. ICANN also proposed some guidelines and principles for consideration in the work of the group:
A letter from the ICANN Board also details some specific considerations for the group, mentioning certain mechanisms and principles that the Board would like to see considered:
The group conducted a survey as an initial assessment of the charter to determine whether some of the questions contained in the document should be considered fundamental, and whether external expertise may be needed to reply to some of the questions.
The next steps for the group are: a) review the letter from the Board in order to provide an equally substantive response; b) analyse the result of the survey and match it with the questions in the charter.
The session aimed to start a strategic dialogue on the importance of data and metrics in the context of ICANN, especially to enable: 1. evidence based policy making; 2. organisational and community development; 3. a cleaner and safer DNS; 4. the development of new and better businesses; 5. enhancing public trust.
ICANN has already begun to work on some initiatives in this area with the gTLD Marketplace Health Index and the Identifier Technology Health Indicators. But so far there is no strategic thinking around data and the issue is not 'owned' at the most senior levels.
The speakers agreed that requests for more and better data are being made from different parts of the organisation, in initiatives such as the gTLD Marketplace Health Index – which aims to measure market concentration in different sectors of the new gTLD market – and during the work of the Competition, Consumer Trust and Consumer Choice (CCT) Review Team. Thirty out of fifty recommendations made by the CCT Review Team are data-related.
Data is very important for evidence-based policy development at ICANN: it can help to identify problems, assess how serious they are, and prioritise them. It also allows for an assessment of the implementation – whether the policy was successful in solving the problem or not.
In spite of the importance of data, a large amount of it is not public. Some actors that operate within the ICANN framework own their databases and define how and by whom the information can be accessed.
Building data-driven businesses within the context of ICANN is important as well. Data can reveal important elements in the DNS market, such as market activity and potential slow-down, market growth, competition levels, deficit of innovation, and the perception of registrants. It can also provide market intelligence. For example: for a long time it was believed that registrants prefer shorter domain names, however, recent data suggests that individuals prefer longer and rather descriptive domains.
Data is also important for ICANN and its community to be able to tell their organisational story. There is little information, for example, on the number of jobs directly and indirectly created by the domain name industry, and the levels of community engagement. Initiatives put forth by other organisations, such as the Internet Measurement Project of the Internet Society, have successfully used data to tell a narrative. ICANN needs to use data to tell its story.
In order to bring data to the core of ICANN’s activities, some steps are necessary, such as: a) hiring a data specialist; b) adjusting community expectations when it comes to balancing privacy and openness; c) putting data governance frameworks in place.
With that in mind, ICANN recently launched an open data initiative. The project tasks ICANN staff with the mission of preparing ICANN to open data standards, to improve the way ICANN generates and collects data, and to devise a plan so that the collected data is made public over time.
Some challenges to achieving these goals within the context of ICANN are: a) data has been collected for a long time in different formats; b) there is no document planning framework, there are distributed curation and disperse formats; c) the initiative is not a priority in the budget; d) there is need to reconcile privacy and the possibility of personally identifying data with contractual obligations of the parties involved; e) re-publishing data acquired from third parties presents constraints.
The open data project will start with a pilot, with the following components: a) identify ICANN managed data; b) deploy the pilot project; c) determine a process for making data public; d) listen to the community for prioritisation hints.
The session was organised by ICANN’s Global Domains Division (GDD) and aimed to provide updates on the progress of several gTLD-related reviews, their key milestones and next steps.
The Competition, Consumer Trust and Consumer Choice Review (CCT) was the first process to be discussed. This review aims to assess whether and to which extent the New gTLD Program has enhanced competition in the DNS market, affected consumer trust and increased consumer choice. In the course of their work, CCT members had the goal to be methodologically data-driven and support their conclusions on factual data. They also tried to identify the metrics that could be used to evaluate the implementation of their recommendations.
Some highlights from the conclusions of the report were presented:
CCT’s Initial Report is open for public comment from anyone interested until 27 April. A webinar is going to be organised, probably on 29 March, to present the main findings of the report.
The New gTLD Subsequent Procedures Working Group was the second new gTLD related process to be discussed. In December 2015, the Generic Names Supporting Organisation (GNSO) approved the creation of the working group on new gTLD subsequent procedures, with the aim of reviewing and improving, if necessary, the 2007 GNSO’s policy recommendations on the introduction of new gTLDs.
The WG clustered its substantive discussions in two areas: a discussion on overarching issues and a discussion based on working tracks.
The four WG’s working tracks encompass the most substantive work of the WG and are dedicated to the following topics:
Questions regarding each of the tracks have been developed and will be put up for public comment. Respondents can choose to answer only a few questions from the questionnaire.
The initial report from the new gTLD subsequent procedures working group is expected to be published at the end of 2017. Related policy development processes will feed into the work of this working group.
The Cross-Community Working Group on Use of Country/Territory Names as TLDs was the third process to the analysed. This CCWG was chartered by the Country Code Names Supporting Organisation (ccNSO) and the GNSO to: a) review the current status of representations of country and territory names, as they exist under current ICANN policies, guidelines and procedures; b) provide advice regarding the feasibility of developing a consistent and uniform definitional framework that could be applicable across the respective supporting organisations (SOs) and advisory committees (ACs).
The discussion in the CCWG started with two letter-codes as top-level domains. There was an agreement among participants in reserving two letters at the top level of the DNS exclusively for the country code top-level domains (ccTLDs). The rationale behind this was that ICANN should not be placed in the position of having to decide what is a country: if a new country is created, for example, corresponding two-letter TLDs should be available. The use of country and territory names at a second or other level is excluded from the scope of the CCWG.
When it comes to the reservation of three-letter TLDs, there was no consensus among CCWG participants. As a result, the WG did not make further progress on discussing country and territory names. The WG produced an initial report of its findings and recommendations which is available for public comment until 21 April.
The Working Group dedicated to the Review of All Rights Protection Mechanisms (RPMs) in All gTLDs was created by the GNSO to conduct a review of RPMs in two phases: Phase One will focus on a review of all the RPMs that were developed for the New gTLD Program, and Phase Two will focus on a review of the Uniform Dispute Resolution Policy (UDRP).
The review of the Post-Delegation Dispute-Resolution Policy (PDDRP), a mechanism through which trademark owners bring an action against DNS operators, has been concluded. The working group recommended, for example, that in some cases trademark holders should be able to come together and file a joint complaint against a registry. The review of the Trademark Clearinghouse (TMHC) is close to being completed. It was recommended that having more than one Clearinghouse operator would increase competition.
The working group is expected to wrap-up the review of the Clearinghouse in next few days and start the review of the Sunrise registration rights and Trademark claiming notice.
The Continuous data driven study on root stability (CDAR study) was the last new gTLD-related process to be analysed. The group focused on two main questions: Did the delegation degrade the security and stability of the root DNS system? Can any degradation occur in the future?
The draft CDAR report was published before ICANN 57 (Hyderabad). The study did not notice any degradation of the security and stability of the root as a result of the introduction of new gTLDs.
The public forum is a platform where the community can pose the ICANN Board members questions, either in person or remotely. Two such fora were organised during ICANN58.
Topics which dominated the public fora include: ICANN's jurisdiction, the next round of applications for generic top-level domains (gTLDs), delays in the process of reviewing the 2012 round of new gTLDs, diversity, ICANN's engagement, transparency, data security and privacy, and the ICANN Board's priorities.
In regards to ICANN's jurisdiction, Mr Steve Crocker, Chair of the ICANN Board, confirmed that ICANN would remain based in the USA and that the sub-group working on ICANN's jurisdiction (in the framework of Work Stream 2 of the Cross Community Working Group on ICANN Accountability – CCWG-Accountability) would be discussing ways to handle issues, should they arise in the future.
Language diversity was highlighted by several community members, and it was suggested that there should be interpretation services at the meetings in the local host language. ICANN community members were encouraged to join the CCWG Accountability sub-group on diversity, to enhance the discussions.
Issues such as the ICANN's engagement, particularly in underserved regions, such as small islands, and the broadening of participation, especially of the next generation, were raised by several participants. The importance of measuring the engagement of participants in ICANN, especially in the subsequent meetings, was highlighted by one community member. Responding to a question on ICANN's initiatives to increase the engagement of the next generation, Mr Ram Mohan, ICANN Board member, shared examples of a hackathon event (Hack2Build) that took place during ICANN57, while Ms Rinalia Abdul Rahim, ICANN Board member, explained how the DotAsia pilot lead to the formation of the NextGen programme. On the question of how to increase engagement in underserved areas and strengthen ICANN's long term engagement plans, Mr Göran Marby, ICANN President and CEO, said that ICANN would base their plans for improving regional support on what they learn. Creating greater awareness and the continued engagement of ICANN was emphasised by participants.
On the issue of privacy and security of data, the need for stricter rules concerning the handling of private data in the context of Whois services was one of the issues raised byparticipants. Ms Becky Burr, ICANN Board member, said that while there is an ongoing discussion on the way in which Whois data is made available and its legitimate use, personal data, including Whois data, can only be processed for legitimate purposes.
ICANN’s continued engagement with Data Protection Authorities (DPAs), and the setting up a data protection or privacy officer, especially to comply with the European data protection regulations, were some of the recommendations made by participants during the public fora. Burr said that the engagements with DPAs would continue and that while ICANN is going through the compliance check-list, the ICANN community is also actively looking at the developments.
A lack of clarity with regard to the next round of gTLDs was addressed by several community members. However, no timeline for the next round of gTLDs was shared by the Board members. On issues related to specific marketing and awareness raising activities in relation to a subsequent round of gTLDs, Mr Akram Atallah, Director of the Global Domains Division at ICANN, said that such activities would be undertaken if the community so decides.
In response to the dissatisfaction that was expressed by some with regard to a Board resolution allowing the registration of two character codes as second level domain names in the new gTLDs, Crocker stated that the matter continues to be under discussion, due to its sensitive and contentious nature. Furthermore, Mr Thomas Schneider, Chair of the Governmental Advisory Committee (GAC) noted that the issue has been of great concern for a large number of GAC members, and that these governments hope they can work together with new gTLD registries and try to find a solution acceptable to all parties.
Addressing the concerns raised about possible unfair competition arising between registrars in Europe and other regions owing to ICANN's plan to designate one domain name data escrow provider at subsidy, Atallah said that after this initiative is implemented in Europe, other regions would be considered as well.
On the questions regarding status and delay of the independent review related to the Community Priority Evaluation (CPE) and the independent review process, the Board commented that the review process was ongoing and that they will be able to respond based on the outcome of the review.
Two participants raised questions regarding the complaint mechanism process at ICANN. Marby stated that going forward, complaints would be managed by a complaints officer. Mr John Jeffrey, General Counsel, elaborated on the role of the complaints officer and the ombudsman, and said that the process of filing a complaint has yet to be decided on.
On the question related to the priorities of the Board for this year, Mr Cherine Chalaby, ICANN Board member, explained that the Board would be working on three 'clusters'. These include various priorities, among which: improving the Board relationship with the community, with points such as transparency of the Board, increased engagement, increased diversity, and efficient use of volunteers; improving the efficiency and effectiveness of the Board; improving financial stability; enhance the effectiveness of review processes; supporting the ICANN CEO through the creation of an environment where the CEO succeeds; progressing on community public policy issues; progressing on technical issues; and supporting the Nominating Committee (NomCom).
Questions were raised related to transparency in ICANN's selection process of the location for ICANN meetings, the existence of closed sessions, and the expenditure report on travel support to community members to attend various meetings. There was also a request for staff to ensure appropriate planning for the ICANN59 joint session between the GAC, the Generic Names Supporting Organization (GNSO) and the Country Code Names Supporting Organization (ccNSO), on geographic names (i.e. avoiding conflicts with other important sessions). It was observed that there were no sessions on the Public Technical Identifiers during ICANN58.
The involvement of Board members in Policy Development Processes (PDP) was also raised, and it was clarified that, while there is no rule prohibiting Board members to participate in such processes, this has not traditionally been done. The Board was also asked whether it is aware of the various upcoming Internet governance events and activities, and Mr Markus Kummer, ICANN Board Member, confirmed the Board's awareness by talking about their working group on Internet governance. Apart from ICANN taking part in various events, he reaffirmed ICANN's continued support of the Internet Governance Forum (IGF), including regional and national IGFs.
Finally, ICANN was applauded for its statement about US Executive Order 13769, titled Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States, its fellowship programme, and the criteria being developed for choosing arbitrators for the Independent Review Panel.
The session was the first meeting between the ICANN Board and the Customer Standing Committee (CSC) after the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) stewardship transition.
Mr Byron Holland, member of the CSC appointed by the Country Code Names Supporting Organisation (ccNSO), started by explaining the main mission of the CSC according to its Charter. He highlighted that the CSC is responsible for monitoring the Public Technical Identifiers' (PTI) performance of the IANA naming function, against the service level expectations in the IANA Naming Function Contract. He also mentioned other responsibilities of the CSC such as participating in reporting, monitoring, conducting surveys, and informing the community about issues related to the performance of the IANA functions. According to him, this role has been assumed according to plan.
Holland explained in detail how the CSC does its work through monthly meetings, which usually take place in the middle of each month. At the meeting, CSC members receive and discuss the PTI report on 63 specific metrics, and decide on the CSC report. He also specified that the meetings are open, that records and proceedings are published on their website, and that the reports are sent to an extensive distribution list. For people who want to stay informed on this issue but do not have time to read a detailed report, he recommended the monthly report, which is only about a page long and gives an update of the IANA functions performance.
Regarding the CSC reports, Holland explained that the CSC rates the overall performance of the PTI based on a number of Service Level Expectations (SLE) achieved – excellent when all the expectations are achieved; satisfactory when not all are achieved – but there is no need for concern; and, needs improvement when actions are necessary. He added that the CSC also reports on metrics that the CSC is tracking closely, on how the SLEs could be adjusted, and on the numbers of complaints.
Holland also listed the CSC activities since October 2016:
To summarise, Holland said that the PTI performance has been very good with only some minor metrics missed and no consumer service impact or operational problems. He also said that the CEO of ICANN has initiated a dialogue with the CSC chair, and that the ICANN community needs to plan for reviews.
After that, the floor was opened to questions and comments from Board members and from the audience. Mr Steve Crocker, Chair of the ICANN Boad, referred to the importance of understanding whether the 63 specific metrics are relevant. Mr Göran Marby, ICANN CEO and President, briefly explained the importance of the meeting between the two external Board Members of the PTI and himself as a way of formalising the context between the organisations. Among other questions, Mr Khaled Koubaa, ICANN Board member, asked about the review of the effectiveness of the CSC (to begin by October 2018) and whether a process has been put in place by ccNSO and the Generic Names Supporting Organization (GNSO) to work on this review. Holland responded that no work has been undertaken within ccNSO in this regard, but that actions are to be expected.
The ICANN58 opening ceremony took place 18 years after ICANN held its first meeting. Mr Jean-Jacques Sahel, Vice President, Europe (Global Stakeholder Engagement) at ICANN, started the meeting off by presenting the speakers.
The first speaker was Dr Steve Crocker, Chair of the ICANN Board of Directors, who shared some interesting facts about Denmark, such as it being one of the most connected countries in the world: Danish people are largely accessing the Internet through mobile devices linked to the nation's 100% 4G cellular systems, which last year facilitated a 97% Internet penetration rate.
Crocker introduced the key topic of the ceremony: transparency. He said that the ICANN Board is increasing its transparency and that they are engaged in a pilot programme to a consider opening some of their sessions. He also mentioned that the organisation's direction is clear and that their top priorities are to continue strengthening their technical orientation and the security of the domain name system (DNS). Crocker finished off by highlighting the work of the community towards this aim and he emphasised that empathy and mutual respect should be the basis of all discussions.
Ms Mette Bock, Danish Minister for Culture, talked about the use and importance of the Internet for Danish people. She said that the country is in the top ten of the UN ICT development index and that Danish people are the most advanced Internet Users in the European Union. She underlined the key and critical role that ICANN plays in coordinating and developing the DNS. She further remarked on the importance of new accountability mechanisms within ICANN. Bock thanked the community for their work during the IANA stewardship transition process.
Sahel then gave the floor to Prof. Henrik Udsen, Chair of the Danish Internet Forum (DIFO) & DK Hostmaster, who noted that the multistakeholder model is a vital component in creating a robust solution to many challenges that we currently face, both at a national and international level. An example is the fight against Internet crime, in which the DNS plays an important role.
The next speaker was Mr Göran Marby, President and CEO of ICANN, who started off by highlighting the power of the Internet in giving opportunities to people who would otherwise have none. However, he highlighted that users' needs are changing and that we need to take these needs into account. He went on to share some of the actions that ICANN is taking in order to be more transparent. One of them is the recent creation of the Complaints Office as an additional way for the ICANN organisation to be accountable for and transparent about its performance. Marby explained that it will work with ICANN's various internal complaints processes to assist improvements and collect data about complaints received across the organisation.
The last speaker was Mr David Conrad, ICANN Senior Vice President & Chief Technology Officer, who announced that on 11 October 2017, ICANN will be changing the root zone key signing key (KSK). Before this happens, DNS operators who have enabled DNS Security Extensions (DNSSEC) validation must update their configurations. To assist operators, ICANN has launched a testbed for them to determine the readiness to support the KSK rollover.
At the end of the ceremony, participants were treated to a special performance by the Tivoli Youth Guard.
The Governmental Advisory Committee (GAC) met with the Country Code Name Supporting Organisation (ccNSO) to discuss a variety of topics such as various policy development processes (PDP); the retirement of country code top-level domains (ccTLDs); the delegation, revocation and retirement of ccTLDs; as well as an update by the Cross Community Working Group (CWG) on the use of country and territory names as TLDs (CWG-UCTN).
Ms Katrina Sataki, Chair of the ccNSO, opened the meeting and introduced Mr Nigel Roberts, ccNSO Councillor, who talked about the ccNSO PDP to address the lack of policy with respect to the retirement of ccTLDs and the introduction of a review mechanism on issues pertaining to the delegation, transfer, revocation and retirement of ccTLDs.
During ICANN57, in November 2016, the ccNSO Council resolved to appoint a drafting team to develop a charter and delineate the issues pertaining to the review mechanism and retirement of ccTLDs. To that end, a working group to address this issue will be presented to the ccNSO and the Council will be asked to formally start the PDP.
Mr Bart Boswinkel, Sr Director, ccNSO Policy Development Support, ICANN, shared three questions from the ccNSO Council on this process:
Several questions were addressed and three recommendations made. The first one was that the PDP process needs be started for both the review and the retirement of ccTLDs. It was also recommended to have one Working Group at this stage and that this way of organising could be more effective than a Task Force, as the community has more experience with them.
Boswinkel pointed out the next steps, which will involve:
He also remarked that the work is expected to be completed by January 2019, as there will be several rounds of public consultation.
Ms Annabeth Lange, Chair of the CWG-UCTN, gave an update about the work that the group has been doing. She noted that the mandate of this WG was limited to codes and names based on ISO3166, and that its aim is to review the existing policies and find a common framework that all stakeholders could agree on.
The group has been working on developing its Interim Paper for public comment, including the consensus views to date, the issues faced, and the conviction of the group that a harmonised framework is not feasible. She talked about the current status of the CCWG as the group has finalised its discussion on 2-letter codes, but there are still deliberation about 3-letter codes. She made a call to action for the present to read the report and give input.
Lange also referred to the tentative recommendations that this CCWG has made. The main one was to close the CCWG with the end of its current mandate, but to continue working on the issue in another format. In order to do so, there is a need of consolidation efforts. In addition, she mentioned the next steps to take on the matter such as a webinar on 25 April, to discuss geographical names as a whole, and a face to face meeting during ICANN59.
After the presentation, some of the GAC members made comments and asked questions. The GAC Vice Chair from Argentina, Ms Olga Cavalli, spoke about the work that is being done at the GAC Working Group to Examine the Protection of Geographic Names in Any Future Expansion of gTLDs, and she brought attention to the importance of merging their work with this CCWG. Cavalli also stressed that the GAC WG is undergoing an analysis of what happened/will happen with the names that are not on any of the lists.
The New gTLD Subsequent Procedures Policy Development Process (PDP) Working Group, established within the framework of ICANN’s Generic Names Supporting Organization (GNSO) held an open meeting in the context of ICANN58, with the aim of advancing its work. As mentioned in its charter, the group is tasked with determining whether any changes should be made to the new generic top-level domains (gTLD) policy recommendations.
In the introductory part of the meeting, it was explained that the group had initially discussed broader issues such as: Should there be a new round of applications for new gTLDs? If so, should the categories of TLDs described in the 2012 Applicant Guidebook (AGB) be maintained, or should new categories be defined? Should there be rounds of applications, or should ICANN adopt a first-come-first-served principle? Currently, the group is focusing on more substantive issues, within the framework of four Work Tracks (WT). These are: (1) overall process, support, and outreach; (2) legal, regulatory, and contractual requirements; (3) string contention objections and disputes; and (4) Internationalised Domain Names and technical and operational.
The meeting continued with general introductions to the WTs, and further, more focused, discussions on a few of the issues covered within these tracks.
WT 1: Overall process, support, and outreach
This track looks into issues such as support and outreach regarding applications for new gTLD, communication (e.g. between ICANN and applicants), fees, and application queuing. Up until now, the sub-group mostly discussed issues related to fees (e.g. whether there should be different types of fees for different types of applications, and what areas should be emphasised when it comes to applicant support), and the possibility of introducing a pre-approval accreditation programme for registry service providers (RSPs).
During the discussions, concerns were raised with regards to the clarity of the new gTLD application process, and references were made to the fact that, during the 2012 round, there were several changes made in the process, after the release of the AGB. Many applicants found those changes as impacting the applications throughout the process. For future rounds, the amount of such ‘late implementation clarifications’ should be reduced, to bring more clarity and predictability into the process.
WT2: Legal, regulatory, and contractual requirements
The second track deals with issues related to the new gTLD registry agreement (whether there should be a template agreement for all types of gTLDs, or different templates for different types of gTLDs), mechanisms for rights protection at the second level – for domain names registered in new gTLDs, reserved names (whether the current policy for reserved names should change), registrant protection, ‘closed generics’, registry/registrar separation, and the global public interest.
On the issue of ‘closed generics’, the question is whether an entity could apply for a generic string, and restrict the registration of domain names to itself and its affiliates. The ICANN Board prohibited closed generics in the 2012 applications round (based on advice from the Governmental Advisory Committee), but the question remains open for possible future rounds. There have been voices both in favour of and against maintaining this prohibition, and comments were made on the need to actually define what a generic term is, and what the difference between generic and specific terms is.
On the issue of reserved names, there seems to be a preference among the group to largely maintain the existing policy regarding reserved names at the second level. Discussions were held on the advantages and disadvantages of producing a more or less definite list of reserved names, for registries to be able to use as reference and have more clarity on what is expected from them (as the current AGB only describes the categories of names that should be reserved).
WT3: String contention objections and disputes
This track looks into aspects related to: objections to new gTLD applications (e.g. on morality and public order grounds, legal rights objections, confusing similarity, etc.) and related costs and outcomes, string similarity in new gTLD applications, community applications (the overall approach to community-based applications, and how community priority evaluation worked), accountability mechanisms.
One of the issues raised during discussions on community-based applications (applications for gTLDs representing certain communities) was the possibility of introducing an ‘expression of interest’ period, during which entities would express their interest in applying for a certain string, and a timeframe would be made available for competing community-based applications to be submitted for some of the strings. A possible introduction of priority rounds for community-based applications was also discussed.
On the issue of string similarity, debates focused on the singulars – plurals cases (i.e. applications for two gTLDs that represent the singular and plural versions of the same word). Some mentioned that TLDs should be seen as public goods, and, as such, used in the public interest. As the public could be confused by singulars – plurals gTLDs, there should be a rule saying that such gTLDs should be prohibited. Others have argued that more attention needs to be paid to the fact that the plural version of an English word, for example, might have a different meaning in another language. It was also said that, instead of introducing a prohibition per se, emphasis should be put on education and awareness-raising among end-users.
WT4: Internationalised Domain Names (IDNs) and technical & operational
The sub-group focusing on this track discusses issues such as: IDNs, universal acceptance, applicant evaluation (e.g. the technical and financial evaluation of the applications), name collisions, and security and stability.
Discussions focused on new gTLD applicant evaluations. During the 2012 round, applicants were subject to background checks on criminal, financial, and cybersquatting grounds. As none of the applications failed these checks, two main questions were raised: Should such evaluations be eliminated for future rounds? Or should the requirements rather be enhanced?
The group will continue addressing these and other issues, and plans to issue a call for comments on a number of questions related to the four tracks of work in the upcoming period. A draft version of this call is available. The group intends to publish an initial report for public comment by the end of the year.
The document contains a series of proposals aimed to transfer NTIA’s current stewardship role over the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) functions to the global multistakeholder community. It is composed of three distinct proposals, from the three communities directly affected by the transition: the domain names community, the numbering resources community (mainly the Internet Regional Registries responsible for the regional allocation and management of IP addresses), and the protocol parameters community (represented by the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) and the Internet Architecture Board (IAB)).
The accountability proposal outlines a series of recommendations aimed to make ICANN more accountable to the global Internet community. It is complementary to the proposal on the transition of the stewardship of the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) functions from the U.S. Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration to the global multistakeholder community.
The advisory, elaborated by the Root Server System Advisory Committee (RSSAC) of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), and addressed to the ICANN Board of Directors, contains recommendations on a set of parameters considered to be useful to monitor and establish a baseline trend of the root server system.
The guide provides basic information about the so-called IANA functions: protocol parameters, Internet number resources, and root zone management of the Domain Name System.
The proposal, elaborated by ICANN and Verisign, outlines a possible modality for removing US's government's administrative role associated with root zone management (in the overall context of the transition of the US government oversight role over key Internet domain name functions to the global multistakeholder community - the so called 'IANA stewardship transition process').
The presentation outlines the role of the US Government's National Telecommunications and Information Administration in the management of the Internet root zone file.
The brief outlines a number of policy suggestions for ensuring the global inviolability of the Internet root zone.
The fact sheet is intended to explain DNSSEC in simple terms.
The guide provides an introduction into domain names, as well as a summary of key aspects related to obtaining and using a domain name.
The paper provides a general overview of what teh Domain Name System is and how it works.
The website offers up-to-date statistics about new generic top level domain (new gTLDs): number of gTLDs, number of domain name registrations, top gTLDs, largest registrars, etc.
The webpage provides weekly updated statistical information on the status of new generic top level domains (gTLD) applications.
At IGF 2016, discussions regarding the DNS revolved around the impact of new generic top level domains (gTLDs) on market competition and Internet security and stability (ICANN New gTLD Program: Exploring Impact & Future Direction - WS63), the role of Internationalised Domain Names - IDNs (Open Forum: ICANN - OF14) in the development of local content, and the lessons learnt from the IANA stewardship transition (A Post IANA Transition ICANN - WS64).
This year, for the first time, the discussions on controversies related to the ICANN and the IANA functions took a different angle, following the finalisation of the IANA stewardship transition process. Discussions focused on the role of the community in the process, and the future of ICANN’s multistakeholder model. Sessions discussed the implementation phase of the various reforms, and the accountability process.
Aspects related to the Internet architecture were touched on during the WSIS Forum. Internet Fragmentation (session 169) discussed the need to maintain an open, unique, and global Internet, and looked at various types of risks (of technical, governmental, or commercial nature) than can lead to Internet fragmentation. The expansion of the DNS with over 1000 new gTLDs was the focus of ICANN New gTLD Program Reviews and Lessons Learned (session 141). ICANN is currently undertaking reviews of the new gTLD programme (its impact on competition, consumer choice, rights protection, etc.). These are expected to inform a decision on whether and when there will be a new round of the programme.
In CCWG Accountability (session 186), the discussion focused on the IANA stewardship transition process and the related work on enhancing ICANN’s accountability, both processes being de- scribed as a remarkable example of a working multistakeholder model. The transition and accountability proposals were seen as a compromise reached by various stakeholders who shared the same goal: ensuring that, as the transition takes place, Internet technical functions continue to work well and ICANN becomes more accountable to the community.
The discussions on the IANA transition during the IGF 2015 need to be looked at from the broader process which has been ongoing for the past few months. Specifically, the IANA Stewardship Transition Coordination Group (ICG) recently completed its work (with only one outstanding item related to accountability), while the Cross Community Working Group on Enhancing ICANN Accountability (CCWG-Accountability) agreed on the development of the Triple E approach (engagement, escalation, and enforcement) and on the Sole Designator model.
At the IGF, two main discussions took place. The first was in relation to jurisdiction and the fact that ICANN is subject to the laws of California. Although the question was floated as to whether ICANN would serve the global public interest if it remained subject to California’s jurisdiction, the conclusions of the workshop on National and Transnational Internet Governance: Jurisdiction (WS 135) were quite clear. It was concluded that the stability of the existing operation of ICANN in California should not be disturbed, and that the few motivations for change are political and not realistic. In addition, the new arrangements which would see ICANN remain in the USA are sound. They allow for future change, but no change is foreseen. The discussion on jurisdiction continued during a parallel session on IANA Functions Transition: A New Era in Internet Governance? (WS 72).
In another discussion - Multistakeholder Internet Governance - IANA Stewardship (WS 163) - ICANN was urged to put more effort into ensuring greater diversity in its engagement process. Contributors to the ongoing process are not representative of the whole community, as statistics show that most contributors are from North America and Europe, whereas Africa and Latin America are hardly represented in the exercise. In addition, ICANN’s participation model is a challenge to some contributors; extended conference calls and time zone differences were among the examples used to urge ICANN to enhance its outreach programme. The next step is for CCWG-Accountability to publish a high-level overview of recommendations and a summary of changes from the second draft proposal.