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August 2007: ICANN magazine

ICANN monthly magazine

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August 2007


In this issue:


Welcome to the ICANN monthly magazine. Each issue will cover the latest news and events, plus outline how you can interact with the organisation.

ICANN is making decisions that directly affect all those that use the Internet, whether governments, businesses or individual Net users.

We help coordinate the names and numbers that are vital to producing one globally interoperable Internet. Our decision-making processes are open to all and we welcome all those equally passionate about how the Internet evolves.

Links within sections below will provide more information, both of a focused and more general nature for those interesting in learning more.

If you have any questions, comments or queries please feel free to contact ICANN's general manager of public participation: kieren.mccarthy@icann.org.

Links
Policy Matters
ICANN Board
Interview with the CEO
Global Partnerships
Participation
Online development
Other news
Announcements
Policy Matters

WHOIS

Background info

Will the Whois debate ever end? The issue over what contact information for domain names should appear on the public Internet has been under formal discussion since June 2003, but despite determined efforts by the GSNO and ICANN staff, there has so far been no resolution.

The latest effort to break the impasse has seen the GNSO experiment with non-voting working groups. And three of those groups recently reported on different aspects of the Whois question, namely: natural versus legal person registrations; access to unpublished data; and development of OPoC (Operational Point of Contact) requirements.

The reports were compiled and debated at a special session at the ICANN San Juan meeting on 24 June, and huge progress was made. Difficult issues remain however: like how law enforcement from around the world would get quick access if personal data was shielded.
 
A report will be finalised by early August and given to the GNSO Council. The Council will then choose to either make recommendations to the Board or carry out further work.

Key date:
  • Early August: Final report to GNSO Council
ICANN staff contact(s): Maria Farrell



DOMAIN NAME TASTING


Background info

One sure sign of the growing maturity of the domain name system is the speculative market that has grown up around domains. But is this market a sign of health, the result of a loophole that needs to be closed, or somewhere in between?

An Issues Report on domain tasting was produced for the San Juan ICANN meeting where it was discussed in a number of sessions - including a tutorial on the issue.

There is no simple solution however and the GNSO Council declined to launch a formal policy development process (PDP) into it, delaying a decision until September in order to provide time for more research to be carried out. An ad hoc group will draft a focused terms of reference for the possible PDP.

A GNSO process isn't the only route however: ICANN staff pointed out that domain tasting may also be tackled through the ICANN Budget process; registry contractual changes; and the approval of new registry services.

Each change would be aimed at removing the financial incentive that currently exists for companies to register and then "drop" tens of thousands of domain names every day.

Key date:
  • September: GNSO Council discussion on whether to launch domain tasting PDP
ICANN staff contact(s): Olof Nordling (GNSO); Karen Lentz and Patrick Jones (Services).


NEW gTLDs
Background info

There are calls for the registry market to be liberalised from next year. It that occurs, it will allow for a whole new range of top-level domains to appear on the global Internet.

Unsurprisingly, opening up the Internet in this way has thrown up a few problems: such as what do you do when someone applies for something someone else may find offensive? (The commonest example used in the community at the moment is ".nazi" but it is easy to think of other, equally offensive TLDs.)

And then there is the issue of trademarks; of famous cities (bids for .berlin, .paris and. nyc have already been prepared); and top-level domains for languages other than English.

Three reports and six sessions were dedicated to the issue of new gTLDs at the recent San Juan meeting. Significant attention was also given to the topic in public fora and in several joint meetings between the various constituencies.

But while much of the debate has been around what rules should be introduced and how, another part of the community is arguing that any rules covering what is allowed would be a restriction on freedom of expression.

A draft final report on new gTLDs has been combined with the two others covering "reserved names" and "protecting the rights of others" (available here and here). A final report will be produced and considered by the GNSO Council in September with the result sent to the ICANN Board.

Key dates:
  • August-September: Final report to GNSO Council
  • September: GNSO Council decision on final report
ICANN staff contact(s): Liz Williams (GNSO); Craig Schwartz (Services).



To be covered in the next newsletter:
  • IDNs
  • Registry/registrar contract review
  • IPv6
ICANN Board

The ICANN Board

Recent Board meetings


The Board met on 15 May 2007 to discuss the proposed budget for 2007/2008. The meeting comprised a presentation by Chief Operating Office Doug Brent.

Brent outlined ICANN's expected Net revenue for 2007/8 of $49.4 million, with expenses amounting to $41.6 million. For the first time in ICANN's history there will be a capital budget of $1.6 million, and the remaining $6.1 million will be a contribution to reserves. [N.B. the figures presented here are final and vary slightly from the near-final figures presented at the meeting.]

Doug Brent's presentation is available here. The meeting's minutes can be found here.



On 18 June, the Board met and the agenda included:
  • Discussion of Ombudsman's Report 7-317
  • Review of Board Governance Committee's GNSO Review Process
  • Review of Status of ccTLD Redelegation Requests from IANA
The Ombudsman report concerned an issue with ALAC membership; the Board will review the report and get back to the Ombudsman. A move to a different bank for ICANN was approved as it would prove cheaper and more effective. A draft report for suggested changes to the GNSO would be produced for the San Juan meeting.

Minutes of the meeting can be found here.



On 29 June, the Board held a public meeting on the last day of the San Juan meeting. The agenda included:
  • Approval of the 2007-2008 ICANN Budget
  • Election of a new Chief Financial Officer
  • Consultation on Operating Principles and Frameworks for Transparency and Accountability
  • .COOP renewal sponsor agreement
  • .TEL ICANN fee amendment
  • Report: Protections for gTLD registrants
  • Global Policy Proposals on IPv4 allocations
  • Adoption of IANA Root Zone Procedures
  • Board Committee Work and Other Business
Most of the discussion revolved around four topics: changes to the registrar contracts following RegisterFly; Internationalized Domain Names; accountability and transparency and the progress ICANN is making with regard to them; and the issue of IPv4 and IPv6 address expansion.

The adopted resolutions can be viewed in full here.
A full transcript of the meeting can be found here.
 


Future meetings

You can view all past, current and future Board meetings, along with minutes and agenda on one webpage on the ICANN website at http://www.icann.org/minutes/.

Interview with the CEO
Paul Twomey - CEO and President, ICANN

The President and CEO of ICANN, Dr Paul Twomey, answers a few questions about what the organisation has been up to recently and looks forward to changes coming.

So what is most on your mind at the moment?
Two things, and they inter-connect with one another. There are the rules liberalising the introduction of new general top-level domains (gTLDs), and then there is the introduction of internationalized domain names (IDNs).

With new gTLDs, it is inherently about choice. We've had two rounds of new top-level domains and we have learned from those experiences. The issue is now how to introduce them and what kind of third-party or arbitration process there can be for strings that might pose problems.

There has been an intense set of discussions over those rules and they are very important for the future of the domain name system. And that ties in with IDNs. We have accomplished more here than people realise. We're running a "twin track" of lab tests and evaluations that have all been successful so far. There is a new set of guidelines out, and then there is a set of policy questions that we are waiting for the ccNSO and GAC to get back to us on.

There is still some work that we need to do with IDNs though. A lot of people keep calling for domains to be "in their language" but they need to know that domains are not in any language, they simply use character sets and scripts that people then use to represent their languages. It's an important distinction because at the moment domains are restricted to a through to z, 0 to 9 and a few symbols. You can't, for example, use brackets or speech marks. People need to understand that the same limitations in Roman characters will also apply in other character sets. 

What about RegisterFly?
Well, we're currently reviewing a set of questions I posed as President following the debacle of the RegisterFly implosion. There is some protection already for registrants but we are looking at how to further ensure their protection, and how to encourage good practice among registrars.

The leading registrars have taken a very positive approach on this. It is also in their commercial interests since satisfied customers equals good business. The Regional At Large Organisations will be a key voice in this, as will the GNSO Council, but I'm very pleased with the leadership that the registrars themselves have shown with this.

[Since this interview occurred, ICANN has opened a new consultation on reform of the Registrar Accredition Agreement.]

What is ICANN doing to solve its organisational issues?
Well, one of the key priorities of the Board following the signing of the Joint Project Agreement with the United States government has been to really work on making ICANN an exemplar among international organisations when it comes to accountability and transparency.

I think this is another area where we have achieved much more than people realise. For example, there are the extended and extensive Board minutes, the OneWorldTrust report whose recommendations we are already implementing, we have improved our websites, produced a blog to aid dialogue with the community. Then we have a public participation website, a new general manager of public participation. We have the open budget process, and the complex and multi-sided processes that form our Strategic Plan and our Operating Plan.

So there's a lot there - oh, and a new set of principles and frameworks released recently - and we're continuing to work and improve upon them.

Finally, how is ICANN getting the message out about what it is doing?
I think like many organisations and companies that live in an information-rich world, one of the challenges we have in ICANN is: how do we ensure that our community and the people affected by our decisions understand what is going on?

One of the most important things about this magazine is that it should ensure that people get information in a quick and to-the-point way. Hopefully we will be able to guide them to things that affect their interests rather than expect them to track changes on a website. To say: "Here's something new and here's how it affects you."

But we are continuing to look for ways to be more effective so any and all feedback is welcomed.

Global Partnerships
Regional manager map

The Internet is a global phenonmenon in which ICANN plays a vital role. The Global Partnerships team and its regional managers are based internationally and reach out to those interested in the organisation in order to explain ICANN's processes and involve them in the ICANN model.

They also act as ICANN's international face, discussing with government and business representatives the unique nature of the Internet and ICANN itself. As a result, the team possesses a unique insight into the impact that the Internet has on societies across the world.

You can learn more about the regional managers here. Several of the managers also have their own webpages where they post the latest information from their region, listed below:


Recent highlights:
  • An accountability framework was signed with the Netherlands ccTLD
  • Accountability framework with Puerto Rico
  • Accountability framework with Fiji
  • A public preparatory IGF meeting in San Juan
N.B. You can review all the ccTLD agreements graphically at: http://www.icann.org/maps/cctld-agreements.htm


Participation

ICANN's ethos is one of cooperation between different groups to arrive at the best solution for all.

Vital in making this process work is participation by all those affected by, or interested in, a particular topic. ICANN has a number of ways in which you can get involved:
  • Join one of the supporting organisations or advisory committees
  • The ICANN blog, where topics of interest are posted by staff and opened up to comment and review
  • The Public Participation Site, where open and active discussion on all topics under ICANN's purview is encouraged
  • Post your comments on any of the topics that are currently out for public review.
More details can be found at: http://icann.org/participate/
Online Development

  • A new IANA website has seen the old site undergo an entire rewrite and reorganisation. Information about IANA, its role, domain names, number resources and protocol assignments are all clearly and simply explained and an search engine helps make everything easier to find. The site is, for the moment, in beta awaiting feedback. Make your comments here.
  • A new-look public participation site has seen some improvements, and meeting sub-sites have been set up for the San Juan meeting and the upcoming Los Angeles meeting.
  • The ccNSO has a new website which improves the layout and provision of information. Further improvements will be introduced over the next few months.
  • A series of new interactive maps have been produced and are available at: http://www.icann.org/maps/. They cover: Accredited Registrars; Board & Staff Representation; ccTLD Agreements; ccTLD Financial Contributions 05-06; Meetings; Regional Internet Registries; Root Servers; Root Zone Whois; San Juan 2007 Pre-Registrations; and Support for IDNs at TLD Registries.
  • A new public comment webpage on the main ICANN site makes it easy to review and respond to issues current out for public review.
Other News

IANA: The Rootzone Management Workflow Automation (RMWA) system has gone into beta testing. You will probably know it as eIANA. The system will ultimately mean faster changes to the Internet's base rootzone. It will also mean people can see the status of requested changes.

Despite many people's belief to the contrary, three-week changes in the rootzone only spend two or three days within IANA's system. That part at least will get faster. IANA is looking for ccTLD volunteers to test it out.

ALAC: The last regional at large organisation (RALO) covering North America was signed at the San Juan meeting in June, completing all five worldwide RALOs and finally removing the ALAC from its "interim" status. At the same time, changes to membership rules will open up the organisations to a wider range of influences.

ICANN: A number of new frameworks and principles have been released in draft form for community review. The documents include, for the first time, an information disclosure policy, a translation framework, code of conduct, and consultation framework. The documents were specifically designed to improve ICANN's accountability and transparency.
 
Announcements

 

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) is an internationally organized, non-profit corporation that has responsibility for Internet Protocol (IP) address space allocation, protocol identifier assignment, generic (gTLD) and country code (ccTLD) Top-Level Domain name system management, and root server system management functions. These services were originally performed under U.S. Government contract by the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) and other entities. ICANN now performs the IANA function.

As a private-public partnership, ICANN is dedicated to preserving the operational stability of the Internet; to promoting competition; to achieving broad representation of global Internet communities; and to developing policy appropriate to its mission through bottom-up, consensus-based processes.

Interview with Janis Karklins
Janis Karklins - GAC chair
Ambassador Janis Karklins is chair of the Governmental Advisory Committee (GAC). He is Latvia's Permanent Representative to the United Nations in Geneva.

We asked him about why he took the job, what he sees as the biggest challenges for GAC  and what issues most concern governments at the moment.

Why did you accept the GAC chairman role?
I don't know [laughs]. I got involved in the GAC after WSIS [the United Nations' world summit on the information society] and, well, people thought I could do the job. But it is a fascinating job, considering these issues that we are addressing. I want to contribute to putting in place successful processes.


How do you see GAC's role in ICANN?
We have managed in the last year or two years to bring the GAC to a new level of co-operation. GAC is becoming part of ICANN's policy development process from the beginning: not acting as a standalone judge that makes up its mind on a standalone project.

I think the GAC needs to be involved from the very beginning to bring in a public policy perspective to the process. For example, the GAC produced Whois and new gTLDs principles at the last meeting - which other constituencies have told us were helpful in formulating their policies.


What would you say to those that fear the GAC is trying to run the show?
I would disagree. The bylaws define the role of the GAC plays in the decision making process. There is a division of responsibilities and a division of powers. The role of GAC in an ICANN of the future can only be decided in consultations and with the approval of other constituencies. This is a joint exercise.

The GAC is trying to stay in touch with ICANN. We have an annual work programme that was produced in Sao Paulo, and at Los Angeles we will produce the work programme for 2008 - that programme is public, it is not secret.


What issues are likely to appear in the next annual work programme?
IDNs in cc [country code] spaces is on our radar screen. Then there are security issues such as the denial of service attacks: what governments need to do with the potential threat. And recent attacks [a denial of service attack on Estonia] demonstrate a real need for governmental awareness.

Deployment of IPv6 is also something that governments need to keep an eye on. And then there are the rest of the issues: Whois, new gTLDs - topics that we view as follow-up issues.


What changes are in the pipeline for GAC?
I am looking to keep GAC interacting with ICANN, and that is one of the biggest challenges. The GAC has limited resources. Recently we got a government staff liaison and we highly appreciate that, it will be extremely useful, but there is also a limitation on GAC members.

I am going around telling everyone that it is my hobby to be chair of GAC. I have a lot of other duties, and I'm not an exception. I can think of only one or two GAC members that have ICANN and the GAC as a full-time job.

As such, keeping GAC in touch with a fast-moving community is a major challenge.
 
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