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Message from the CEO

2009 – A Historic Year in the DNS

24 December 2009

It's often good as we bring each year to a close to reflect back on our work.

After six months as ICANN's CEO and President, I've been enormously impressed by the huge strides the ICANN community has made, not to mention the years of collaborative work, dedication and professionalism by the ICANN community in preparing the way.

A singular achievement is the signing of the Affirmation of Commitments between ICANN and the US government in September. This Affirmation brings to an end a series of amendments to the original 1998 Memorandum of Understanding between ICANN and the US government, the last of which, the Joint Project Agreement, expired on 30 September. The Affirmation broadens ICANN's reporting commitment to the entire global Internet community, and it cements the ICANN multi-stakeholder bottom-up model. A series of reviews embodied in the Affirmation will help ensure a high degree of public, global accountability throughout the ICANN community.

Another noteworthy achievement is the launch of IDN ccTLD Fast Track Process in mid-November. The culmination of 11 years of technical preparation and 7 years of policy development, Internationalized Domain Names represent the greatest advance in the use of names on the Internet since its inception 40 years ago. For the first time in Internet history, non-English speakers across the globe will soon see Internet addresses completely in their own language. To date, 16 applications representing six languages have been completed.

In March, the Board ratified a global policy for allocating the rapidly depleting IPv4 address blocks. Under this policy, when only five blocks of IANA IPv4 addresses remain, each of the five Regional Internet Registries (RIRs) will receive one block, or approximately 16 million addresses. We expect this to occur in 2011.

After much development work, public comment, and collaboration with the registrar community, in May ICANN's Board approved an amended Registrar Accreditation Agreement (RAA) that includes many new protections for domain name registrants encompassing data escrow, no name deletions or auto-renewals unless the registrant is notified, strict registrar responsibility and accountability requirements, and more. ICANN-accredited registrars representing over 87 percent of all gTLD registrations have signed or asked to review the 2009 RAA. In 2010, we expect to see additional RAA amendments being considered, along with the creation of a registrant rights charter.

Ongoing focus on contractual compliance saw significant further results this year, including more timely de-accreditation of noncompliant registrars and transfer of their domain names to accredited registrars. In 2009 over 20 registrars were terminated or not renewed, up from seven registrars in 2008. The grounds for registrar terminations and non-renewals were broad and more varied than in any previous year, and encompass terminations and non-renewals based on Whois noncompliance, data escrow noncompliance, failure to pay fees, insolvency and UDRP noncompliance. To further enhance global enforcement efforts, a contractual compliance senior director was hired in the Asia-Pacific region in 2009. In 2010, ICANN will continue to augment its contractual compliance program by conducting a registrar transfer policy audit, publishing the findings from the Whois Data Accuracy Study and continuing to aggressively enforce the provisions of the registrar and registry agreements.

As might be expected, the ICANN community grew markedly in 2009. A number of countries joined the Governmental Advisory Committee, including China, Georgia, Iraq, Mongolia, the Philippines, and the Russian Federation, bringing the number of countries represented on the committee to just over 90. The At-Large community added roughly 20 individual Internet user groups, or At-Large Structures, including the first from Pakistan, sending the total worldwide past 135.

ICANN also signed formal accountability frameworks or exchanges of letters with the country-code top-level domain operators for Aruba, Austria, Bolivia, Haiti, Korea, Mexico, Paraguay, Portugal, Singapore, and Uruguay, bringing the total number of such agreements to 59. The Country Code Names Supporting Organization (ccNSO) also welcomed notable additions such as Russia (.ru) and the European Union (.eu), boosting its membership to 100 country code operators.

In December, ICANN and the Swiss-based Universal Postal Union signed a historic agreement giving the UPU managing authority over .post as a top-level domain. This agreement came about after long negotiations, public review through ICANN's public comment process, and consideration by ICANN's Board of Directors. An equal level of effort was required from representatives of the UPU. The result is a new top-level domain for the provision of new and exciting services by the UPU member states.

ICANN also entered into an important agreement with another U.N. entity, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. This agreement will help expand the inclusion of as many language groups as possible through IDN implementation and, in doing so, will help ICANN fulfill its mission of global inclusivity by expanding our wide arena of international stakeholders.

Then there is our continuing work to enhance Internet security on several fronts. After successfully operating DNSSEC, the Domain Name System Security Extensions, in a root testbed environment for more than two years, ICANN is now working with the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) and VeriSign to ensure that a DNSSEC-signed DNS root zone will be fully available in 2010, with significant progress already made.

A ccNSO survey of country code operators found that while only 7 percent of country code registries implemented DNSSEC in 2007, in 2009, 25 percent implemented DNSSEC, and 80 percent of the remaining registries plan to do so.

Early in the year, ICANN took a leading role in the DNS community's response to the spread of the Conficker worm by facilitating information sharing between security researchers and TLD registry operators. This work highlighted both the value of a collaborative response by the broad DNS community and the challenges of doing so in an ad-hoc manner. We are now collaborating with our partners in the Conficker Working Group to improve the security, stability and resiliency response capacities of the DNS community, and to ensure these efforts are linked with the broader cybersecurity community.

We continue to improve the security and resiliency of Internet Assigned Numbers Authority and L-root server operations through investing in increased capacity and implementing more effective processes. For example, a new L-root high capacity, global node was added in the Czech Republic in October.

In May 2009 ICANN released a Plan for Enhanced Internet Security, Stability and Resiliency that sets out the organization's role in Internet security, stability and resiliency, especially our programs, activities and initiatives. This living document will be updated for fiscal year 2010 to reflect the dynamic nature of the security issues having the potential to disrupt a stable and resilient Internet.

ICANN initiated an IANA Business Excellence project this year based on the principles of the European Foundation for Quality Management. This project will allow us to assess the performance of the IANA functions in a structured way, and benchmark IANA's results. With this exercise as a core strategic goal for IANA, ICANN will ensure that its management of the IANA function continuously improves in specific, measurable ways even as the pace of that management work grows to meet new needs.

The ICANN community made great progress this year toward implementing new generic top-level domains (new gTLDs) to create greater competition, consumer trust and consumer choice in the domain name space. The applicant guidebook reached its third revision, with each revision reflecting careful incorporation of public comment and the recommendations of many experts. We continue to work on the resolution of a few remaining outstanding issues. The focus in 2010 will be to continue work on operational readiness, further explore the possible introduction of a model for Expressions of Interest/Pre-Registrations, and resolve outstanding issues in a way that accommodates the legitimate concerns of stakeholders.

Alongside the new gTLD work will be ICANN's continuing development of a more permanent process for implementing IDN ccTLDs. The technical basis of this work will be the IDNA protocols being finalized by the Internet Engineering Task Force. The policy basis will be work currently under way in the ccNSO, and accommodating lessons learned from the fast track process. Addressing long-term policy for both generic and country code Internationalized Domain Names becomes extremely important when we understand that more than 56 percent of consumers say that the ability to obtain information in their own language is more important than price, and that websites offered in only one language can address at most 30 percent of the total online population. The final process, which may be available as early as 2013, will be open to all qualified applicants.

This has truly been a historic year for the ICANN community and for the global Internet community. The Internet is now better fitted to fulfilling its potential as a global commons for the next billion users and beyond, and the growth in the ICANN community is mirroring the Internet's global reach and diversity. We are just beginning to understand what ICANN will do now that the Affirmation of Commitments is in place, but we do know that with strategic and operational planning in consultation with our community, we will be able to respond to all the Internet's stakeholders in a way that serves them and the public interest – the Internet's users. So while well-deserved kudos and thanks can be offered all around, we still have much to do. I hope everyone is as eager as I am to be a part next year's work toward realizing the promise of one world, one Internet, everyone connected.

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