93rd IETF meeting took place in Prague, with the IAB plenary within. Interesting discussions on vehicular networking took place. ITU Secretary General also joined the technical plenary.
The Internet technical standards and services form the infrastructure that makes the Internet work, and include the Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol (TCP/IP), the domain name system (DNS), and the secure sockets layer (SSL). Standards ensure that hardware and software developed or manufactured by developed entities can work together as seamlessly as possible. Standards therefore guide the technical community, including manufacturers, to develop interoperable hardware and software.
TCP/IP is the main Internet technical standard. It is based on three principles: packet-switching, end-to-end networking, and robustness. Internet governance related to TCP/IP has two important aspects: the introduction of new standards - an aspect that is shared by technical standards in general - and the distribution of IP numbers, which is explained in more detail in the section on IP numbers.
Technical standards are increasingly being set by private and professional institutions. The Internet Architecture Board (IAB) oversees the technical and engineering development of the Internet, while most standards are set by the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) as Request for Comments (RFC). Both the IAB and the IETF have their institutional home within the Internet Society (ISOC).
Other institutions include: the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE), which develops standards such as the WiFi standard (IEEE 802.11b); the WiFi Internet Governance Alliance, which is the certification body for WiFi-compatible equipment; and the Groupe Speciale Mobile Association (GSMA), which develops standards for mobile networks.
Standards that are open (open Internet standards) allow developers to set up new services without requiring permission. Examples include the World Wide Web and a range of Internet protocols. The open approach to standards development has been affirmed by a number of institutions. One such affirmation is the Open Stand initiative, endorsed by bodies including IEEE, IETF, IAB, the World Wide Web Consortium (W3C), and the Internet Society.
The relevance of setting or implementing standards in such a fast developing market gives standard-setting bodies a considerable amount of influence.
Technical standards could have far-reaching economic and social consequences, promoting specific interests and altering the balance of power between competing businesses and/or national interests. Standards are essential for the Internet. Through standards and software design, Internet developers can shape how human rights are used and protected (e.g. freedom of information, privacy, and data protection).
Efforts to create formal standards bring private technical decisions made by system builders into the public realm; in this way, standards battles can bring to light unspoken assumptions and conflicts of interest. The very passion with which stakeholders contest standards decisions should alert us to the deeper meaning beneath the nuts and bolts.
Non-technical aspects - such as security, human rights, and competition policy - may not be sufficiently covered during the process of developing technical standards. For instance, most of the past developments of Internet standards aimed at improving performance or introducing new applications, whereas security was not a priority. It is now unclear whether the IETF will be able to change standards to provide proper authentication and, ultimately, reduce the misuse of the Internet (e.g. spam, cybercrime).
Given the controversy surrounding any changes to basic Internet standards, it is likely that security-related improvements in the basic Internet protocol will be gradual and slow. Yet decisive steps are starting to be implemented in this direction, with the Domain Name System Security Extensions (DNSSEC) being a good illustrative example. Following almost 12 years of research, trials, and debates within the technical community, DNSSEC first started to be deployed for some ccTLDs and from 2010 it was also implemented at the root server level. However, further challenges reside in the large-scale adoption of this new security standard down the ladder by the domain name registrars, ISPs, and website owners.
As with web standards, there appears to be a gap in the participation of stakeholders in the development of technical standards. Even though participation is open to all stakeholders groups, some submissions to the WGEC/correspondence group have noted the need for more involvement from specific stakeholder groups such as governments.
The session was moderated by Mr Walid A Saqaf, Internet Society, and was part of EuroDIG’s educational track. At the beginning, Mr Ken Hansen, Blockchain Roadshow, offered a simplified explanation on blockchain technology. He explained that blockchain is a distributed open ledger network with no single centralised point. It operates on the P2P (peer-to-peer) distributed application architecture. Hanson clarified that bitcoin is not synonymous with blockchain, it is just one of the applications that runs on a blockchain, such as ‘Ripple’ (financial transfers solution) or ‘FlightDelay’ (instant payout in case of a delayed flight).
After Hansen’s presentation, the interactive part of the session started. It was organised as a game in which the audience learned how blocks are created inside a blockchain. ‘Miners’ (volunteers from the audience),were working as block creators and were awarded with Yummi coins (chocolate bars). Miners serve as protectors of this distributed ledger, monitoring the transactions which take place in a blockchain. The audience learned why blockchain ensures the immutability of transactions by referring to everything that happens in a network.
Continuing the discussion, Mr Anton Zurenko, Stratum, addressed the question of trust on the Internet, and the question was raised: is blockchain a technology that can help? He pointed out that blockchain is a system that requires no trust, since everything is regulated by algorithms and mathematics. It is a system that makes sure that there is a shared protocol, but that each participant still retains independence.
Ms Hannahe Boujemi, blockchain researcher, added that there is no clear picture on what should be regulated. This technology is not yet mainstream and it would be good to wait a while longer with the regulations. The EU is taking this specific approach regarding regulation. Generally speaking, regulators do not have a lot of options at the money, and they need to leave it to the market to bring more clarity.
Mr Arvin Kamberi, DiploFoundation, pointed out that blockchain was developed as an answer to the loss of trust after the 2008 financial downfall. It was created as a response to the need for a decentralised trust system. He added that is important to distinguish that, aside from open blockchains (such as the bitcoin blockchain), other blockchain applications can include permissions, and adding additional layers of security and scalability. These blockchains would be managed in a centralised way, but would significantly help in reducing cost and increasing efficiency. On the other hand, open blockchains offer a new way of system governance by emerged consensus. Since the story of developing blockchains resembles the early days of the Internet and the discussions of standardisation, Kamberi added that we might need a similar solution (for example the multistakeholder model within the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers – ICANN).
Mr Michael Oghia, Internet governance consultant, added that one important aspect of governance is the sustainability of blockchains. When it comes to blockchains, many applications will be developed, and this might lead to significant levels of energy consumption. He added that as we move forward, this issue should be incorporated as much as possible into the Internet governance discussions.
Questions from the audience addressed the issue of regulation. Regulation needs to be done in the context of specific sectors. If it has impact on the financial sector, it should be regulated there, but not as a technology in itself. It was concluded that the Internet, as we know it today, emerged as a platform that provides services. One can anticipate that blockchains will have a similar range of applications to build on top. Some of the most prominent players are involved in harnessing this new technology for their products. That has been recognised as the main challenge for future regulation.
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.
The report outlines several predictions for technology developments in 2016. It focuses on: 5G, big data, Internet of Things, the customerisation of software, and market convergence.
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 set of guidelines contain recommendations on how to mitigate security threats and weaknesses in Internet of Things services. It includes guidelines for service ecosystems, endpoint ecosystems, and network operators.