Message from the CEO
21 July 2009
First, let me say that I am thrilled to be on board as ICANN’s CEO and President. The moment I joined this exciting organization I found it working on an incredible range of activities involving an array of constituencies.
Without doubt, ICANN is the most complex organization I have ever come across, necessarily, at least in part, because we must navigate through a sea of stakeholder groups, some of which have been formalized in our bylaws, and all of which have an interest in global Internet names, addressing and parameters. To ensure each address is unique, ICANN must take on the difficult role of bringing about clarity among these same stakeholders. In the end, every single name must be unique and only one party can own it.
This is no small task, with nearly 200 million unique names registered and for many of these names there are many different parties who would like to own or control them. What I find impressive is that, despite the many competing pressures in this environment, ICANN has been able to fulfill its core functions in the 11 years since its inception, and has emerged as a strong, stakeholder driven group.
My vision as we move forward is to support a globally unified Internet on which addressing remains unique to ensure interoperability. In this Internet world, a merchant in Bali can effortlessly send an email to a businesswoman in Tokyo. Anyone anywhere will be able to interact with anyone else anywhere else in the world, so long as they both can access the Internet. ICANN is already taking steps toward enhancing this functionality.
The first step is to support the implementation of Internationalized Domain Names (IDNs) so that businessmen in Russia or India, as just two examples, can use their native languages and language scripts to write their domain names, and can access written information and other content in the same way. Perhaps it is appropriate that this very significant change in the Internet marks its roughly 40th anniversary. That same forty years ago, man’s first footsteps on the moon enlightened mankind’s view of his place in the universe. In the same way, IDNs will guarantee that all mankind can have a place on the Internet in their native script.
From here on, once IDNs are released and supported, every language group in the world that signs up and implements their language will be able to see their Internet in ways unimaginable until now. Thus, the rollout of IDNs over the next year is a small but enormously important step for the ICANN community and for the broader global Internet community.
Another step is our continued work with our partners to enhance the security of the Internet. Standards for DNSSEC, a more secure form of the Domain Name System, have been developed by the Internet Engineering Task Force, our partner. We have even successfully operated DNSSEC in a root testbed environment for two years, and we are now working closely with our partners at VeriSign and the U.S. Department of Commerce, and with DNSSEC experts and ccTLD operators around the world to make the DNS even more secure and Internet applications more resilient to attacks that exploit domain names, starting with the DNS root which ICANN is charged with managing.
DNSSEC is another line of defense against phishing and pharming and other malicious invasions, and will help ensure that when we type an address in our browser we are directed to the desired, authentic site and not an impersonator collecting password information. This effort is highly technical in nature but I believe it is essential in helping to improve the security of the Domain Name System which is being heavily exploited by miscreants and criminals today. Considerable coordination and cooperation are needed, but the resulting name service should provide greater security for Internet users worldwide. Given my personal experience in international cybersecurity efforts, I know the DNSSEC effort is truly important.
The Internet has historically thrived whenever the system is opened up further to allow users to express their creativity and innovation. We are now working on opening up the top-level domains so that not only nations but also other peoples and groups can have a unique identity on the Internet.
For example, the chief of the Zulu tribe, His Majesty King Goodwill Zwelithini kaBhekuzulu, recently sent a letter notifying us of his intent to register the dot-zulu domain name so that different but related businesses and other groups can be linked by their domain name to the entire Zulu community. According to His Majesty, “We believe that the .Zulu TLD, as conceived and proposed by the Dot Zulu Project Inc. represents the best interests of the Zulu community and will be able to provide a viable structure for us as an evolving community.” New York City and the city of Berlin have expressed a similar interest in their own domain names. It is impossible to imagine the possibilities that could occur when these and a multitude of other TLDs are opened.
The ICANN responsibility to support methods for securely introducing new TLDs was specified in the original White Paper that led to our formation. And our original 1998 memorandum of understanding with the U.S. Government stated one of our key responsibilities this way: “Oversight of the policy for determining the circumstances under which new top level domains would be added to the root system.” It went on to say, “The Parties will jointly design, develop, and test the mechanisms, methods, and procedures that will achieve the transition without disrupting the functional operation of the Internet.” According to Chairman of the Board Peter Dengate Thrush, “We are . . . declaring success on these points. It’s been 11 years. We have developed and tested those mechanisms, and we find that they work.”
The original limitations on domain names had to do with the limited capabilities of computers and networks in decades gone by. Given today’s advances in power, bandwidth and memory, the time has clearly come to open up the myriad possibilities in Internet naming.
As with the acceptance of any innovation, there are areas of concern and friction, and a healthy debate is taking place within the many ICANN stakeholder groups on how to handle the key facets of these new TLDs smoothly. Some of the more interesting debates have centered around protection of intellectual property rights. We have been pleased with the concrete solutions being developed by experts in the intellectual property field. Just like the internationalization of domain names, this will help make the Internet an even more useful technological phenomenon in the years to come. At the very least we expect to see even more memorable—and short—domain names. We look forward to working through these and other issues with the community.
This set of ambitious and important projects should more than keep me busy as ICANN’s new CEO for the foreseeable future. I relish the challenge and thank you for this opportunity to lead this community of communities.