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ICANN monthly magazine - October 2007

October 2007: ICANN magazine

ICANN monthly magazine

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October 2007


In this issue:


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

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.

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
You told us what you thought: online survey
Participation
Other news
Announcements

Policy Matters

Independent review

One of the most important outcomes from a restructure of ICANN a few years ago was it was recognised that, due to the ever-changing nature of the Internet, ICANN itself would have to undergo change in order to act most effectively.

As a result, a process of independent review of ICANN’s different supporting organisations and advisory committees, as well as the Board itself, was put in place. The earliest and most significant review has been that of the Generic Names Supporting Organisation (GNSO) - the body that devises much of the organisation’s policy.

That review was completed in September 2006 and proposed GNSO improvements have been developed and discussed since then. A working group of the Board Governance Committee will finalise its recommendations in time for the Los Angeles meeting, and a special workshop will take place at the meeting to discuss their proposed improvements. The Board is expected to consider public input and vote on GNSO improvements after the Los Angeles meeting.

In the meantime, a number of other reviews have begun.

The terms of reference for both the At Large Advisory Committee (ALAC) and the Board have been posted and put out for public comment. The Board Governance Committee (BGC) is expected to select an independent reviewer for the At-Large Advisory Committee (ALAC) review during the Los Angeles meeting, and a BGC working group will be created to help manage this review.

Terms of reference for review of the Root Server System Advisory Committee (RSSAC) are expected to be posted for review before the Los Angeles meeting.

Review of the Nominating Committee has been carried out by Interisle Consulting Group which has submitted its report [pdf] to the Board. The report has also been posted for public comment and Interisle will present their findings at a special meeting in Los Angeles.

That leaves review of the Security and Stability Advisory Committee (SSAC), country code Names Supporting Organisation (ccNSO), and the Address Supporting Organisation (ASO) remaining. They have estimated start dates of: January 2008, July 2008 and December 2008, respectively.

For more information on all of the reviews, current and future, please visit the dedicated webpage to independent review found at http://www.icann.org/reviews/.  

Key dates:
  • 29 Oct - 2 Nov: Public discussion of GNSO Improvements and the Nominating Committee review results; potential posting of the RSSAC draft Terms of Reference; potential announcement of an ALAC reviewer, and public status reports on all independent reviews.

ICANN staff contact(s): Denise Michel



Accountability and Transparency

ICANN is improving its mechanisms to become more accountable and transparent. As a part of that, the organisation has embarked upon a series of organisation-wide changes, most significantly the creation of a number of frameworks and principles.

The frameworks and principles cover everything from information disclosure to translation of materials to financial accountability. A single document containing all of them was produced and put out for public comment, both online and at a special public meeting in San Juan.

The feedback from that process was used to create a summary and analysis of comments. Following that, a final version was created and put out for a final period of public review and comment, as well as a second special meeting at the upcoming Los Angeles meeting.

Once feedback from those two input points is compiled and incorporated, the frameworks and principles will be put to the Board.

Although this document represents the most formal response of ICANN to the issues of accountability and transparency, the organisation continues to press ahead with changes that make the organisation more easily accessible. They include: newsletters; blog posts; better Board minutes; expanded public comment; greater translation of material; and others, including the public and multilingual Strategic Plan process outlining ICANN’s future plans.
.

Key dates:
  • 31 Oct: Public meeting on frameworks and principles
  • 12Nov: End of public comment period on frameworks and principles
  • 16Dec: Possible framework review by Board
ICANN staff contact(s): Paul Levins


Ombudsman


The Ombudsman role was filled in December 2004 in order to deal with issues that members of the community had with ICANN, in particular if they felt that the organisation had treated them unfairly.

As such, the Ombudsman acts as the first line of accountability in ICANN’s processes (the others being review by the Board Governance Committee, and Independent Review by a third-party arbitrator).

The Ombudsman’s work is largely confidential, although he has the power to make reports public if he feels it is warranted. That power was most recently used in February with the publication of a report outlining concerns in the choice of At-Large Structures. There is also an Ombudsman blog.

The work of the Ombudsman office is outlined at each ICANN meeting and then summarised in an annual report, which will be published this week and presented at the Los Angeles meeting.

Most recent has been the release of the ICANN Office of the Ombudsman Evaluation guide.


Key dates:
  • 26 Oct: Release of Ombudsman annual report
ICANN staff contact(s): Frank Fowlie



To be covered in the next newsletter:
  • Contractual compliance
  • New registry services
  • Registrar Accreditation Agreement (RAA)

ICANN Board

The ICANN Board

Recent Board meetings



The Board have met three times since the last edition.

On 11 September, the Board: approved the terms of reference for a review of the Board itself (which have subsequently been through a public comment period); chose ex-Board member Hagen Hultzsch to acting as the next Nominating Committee chairman; approved Delhi as the site for the February 2008 ICANN meeting venue; and discussed the notion of regular "regional meetings".

The Board also considered a number of delegations and redelegations. The North Korean .kp top-level domain was delegated (effectively, created) for the first time. The same was true in the creation of a .me and a .rs TLD acting for Montenegro and Serbia and replacing the existing the Yugoslavian .yu. The former .yu will be slowly phased out.

A series of registry contract changes for .post, .museum and .aero were considered. And finally an update on the Whois process was provided.



The Board met next at a special meeting, not designated an official meeting, in Frankfurt on 4 October. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss the issue of Vint Cerf as departing chair.

The new Board members had been decided by the Nominating Committee, and those chosen were invited to meet their new colleagues prior to taking their seats officially on 2 November.

No decisions were made, although extensive discussions took place over the role of chairman. The votes on who becomes the new chairman and vice-chairman will take place on 2 November.



Lastly, the Board met on 16 October.

A redelegation of Bermuda’s TLD was approved; whereas Western Sahara’s was put on hold. There was discussion of a suggested amendment to Telnic’s registry contract for .tel covering the Whois service. Some financial details, including expenditure on travel, office leases in Sydney, and payment in currency other than dollars, were also discussed.

Other business outlined a number of upcoming issues.



Future meetings

The Board will next meet - twice - on Friday 2 November. There will be two Board meetings: one with the existing Board, and then a second with the new Board member, where the new chair and vice-chair will be chosen.

On the agenda of the first meeting is:
  • ICANN’s Strategic Plan
  • An update on Internationalized Domain Names
  • Changes to the GNSO structure
  • Review of Independent Reviews
  • ALAC bylaws changes
  • And others, including Whois, new gTLDs and contract changes
The second meeting cover election of the chair and vice-chair, as well as election of ICANN’s executive officers.
 



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 Vint Cerf, ICANN’s future and the Los Angeles meeting.

ICANN’s 30th meeting is next week in Los Angeles and the big news is that Vint Cerf is leaving as chairman. What impact do you think this will have on ICANN?

I think it’s both a time for celebration - for Vint’s pretty amazing contribution to ICANN - but also about an ICANN where you can move on without a Vint.

Since he became chairman [in 1999] he has been a great leader. He’s a unique individual: he brings his own technical history but also he’s been so involved with the administration - the funding, the business models and the business of the Internet - for the past 30 years and because of that he has a unique place.

I know he gets very embarrassed by the phrase "Father of the Internet" because he quite rightly points out it was a group initiative, but I think the great thing about Vint is that he has been committed at those stages where it has been necessary to build the administrative and institutional frameworks that have helped cement the Internet.

ICANN’s been a part of that and he’s played a key role as chairman: leading the organisation through review, an evolutionary reform process, a lot of difficult days when faced with multiple lawsuits, and at other times where there have been a number of very significant challenges to the model. And he’s seen it through and now it’s bedded down and quite stable.

At the same time though, no organisation should be focused on one particular individual and I think it will be a good thing for the organisation to move on to where it is not quite so dependent on one individual but moves to a Board leadership that has a different style, a different approach.

To a degree, the testament to Vint having done a great job of chairman is that he can leave and the organisation continues running smoothly.


Is the ICANN model now set then?

I think the model is reasonably set; it has worked and ICANN is here to stay.

I do think a piece of genius in the ICANN constitutional make-up is the regular review of the supporting organisations and advisory committees - and of the Board itself. It’s written into the bylaws and I can’t think of any other international or domestic entity that has an ongoing review process put into them.

For example, this past 12 months there has been a lot of talk about United Nations reform but that hasn’t gone very far. Partly because these organisations have charters that don’t allow for regular review and evolution and so get stuck in some timeframe. So we have quite purposefully ensured we’ve got this ongoing review. I think that makes a huge difference to the stability and accountability of the organisation as it goes forward. And allows it to remain relevant to its mission.


Who’s going to be the new chairman?

Well the Board hasn’t decided yet - and it won’t be decided until the first meeting of the new Board that takes place after the annual general meeting on the Friday of the Los Angeles meeting.

But whoever ends up being chairman of the new Board will bring different things to the organisation. The Board has spent a long time talking about what it expects from the leadership of the Board and I have to say the Board is probably the most collegial that I have ever seen it. There is a sense of common purpose and the need to work together as a Board which I think is a very positive place for us to be at this stage.


Internationalised Domain Names (IDNs) is a crucial expansion of the domain name system. What is ICANN doing to make sure it is understandable to the rest of the world, i.e. those people that will be registering these new domains?

That’s a very good point. First and foremost obviously we are doing the test of the different strings at the moment - that’s getting a lot of interaction, a lot of feedback. We’ve just finished a regional workshop in North East Asia on a number of topics including IDN and its implementation so we are engaging parts of the world where this is important.

But I do think we will see a change in the participants in the ICANN process both at the staff level and the community level as we begin to see people that are interested in gTLDs that are in internationalized domain names. We tend to see that part of the community almost within the country code space, but other parts of the organisation are going to start looking more like the ccNSO in that they will have people from different parts of the world attending.

I think part of that means we have to do more support both for translation of documents and also interpretation during ICANN meetings. At the staff level, we are preparing to recruit more registry/registrar support staff - and other staff, legal staff and others - who have got languages skills in the languages we expect will be important, particularly in Asia-Pacific and Asia generally.

We’ve been preparing for more time-zone support and we’ll begin increase staffing with those particular skills come the New Year.


What’s going to be the big issues at the Los Angeles meeting?

This is a very intense meeting this one. The new gTLD policy review that will go on for six or seven hours on Monday afternoon is very important. It will allow the whole community to really hear all the thinking that has gone into that policy work.

I think the Registration Accreditation work is going to continue - I think that’s very important. We’ll have more updates on where we are on IDNs. We have got the Strategic Plan draft that is now out for public consultation - and for consultation in multiple languages.

At this meeting we will have interpretation available in all the UN languages except for Arabic, I believe - in English, Spanish, French, Russian and Chinese. And this is part of our continued commitment to make ICANN’s processes available to all.

Also I will be reporting on quite a number of important issues we’re hearing around security and stability, issues facing the ICANN community as a whole. There’s a lot of work to be reported on.


Getting back to the issue of independent review of ICANN structures, there is the GNSO review final report and also the Nominating Committee review due to be discussed at LA...

Yes. ICANN needs to keep evolving and so in that respect these reports are important. But in some respects it is also business as usual.

The GNSO review has been through an orderly process and it is now out for comment. The NomCom review is following the same model. The next one will be the Board review - which has attracted surprisingly little comment from the community.

And I think there is something very important happening here. Namely that these reviews are being handled with maturity. Going back a few years, we would have had a vast array of perspectives on changes, without a common sense of the objective. Now I think people are far more pragmatic.

ICANN is structured to remain noisy, and all the interests will continue to argue about policies, but I see a pattern - a very positive step, I think - in that things are now much more consensus-oriented. And outcome oriented.


You told us what you thought: online survey
Online surveyIn last month’s magazine, we published details of an online survey aimed at eliciting responses from the community about the information that ICANN provides. We are very grateful to the 82 people that went to the trouble of voting, as well as leaving comments. The results will be used to inform our approach to providing future information on ICANN and its work. Here’s a brief summary of what you told us:

A not-bad 39 percent of you were "satisfied" overall with the information ICANN provides; 24 percent were "not happy", and 18 percent "happy". Considering the fact that provision of information has been a consistent complaint in the past, we have taken this to mean: "You’re on the right road but still have work to do." Which is precisely our view as well.

In terms of the information outlets that people use, the website front page came a clear top with 68 percent of you saying you read it. We don’t think this is high enough - not for an online organisation - and only reinforces our belief that the front page needs to be made more user-friendly.

It ain’t what you do...

News alerts came next with 58 percent and the blog third with 52 percent - both of which seem pretty reasonable. At the bottom came the public comment page, and this magazine, with 38 and 35 percent respectively. This is too low in our view but since both are relatively new, we’ll watch and wait to see if they pick up.  What was interesting is that clearly different people are using different methods to keep in touch with what ICANN is doing. So there appears to be some value in providing different outlets for information.

You told us that the material ICANN provides was "sufficiently technical" (equal numbers - just over 10 percent - felt it was both too technical and not technical enough). So that is a positive sign. Unfortunately, 30 percent of people specifically chose the option that the material is "difficult to understand" - and that view was expressed across the organisation (ALAC, ccNSO, GAC, GNSO). So clearly we have to focus on that.

Interestingly, while 26 percent felt the material was "poorly organised and presented" another 23 percent felt it was "clearly organised and presented". This discrepancy is most likely because different supporting organisations provide information in different ways. The ccNSO came out of this well but otherwise it was a fairly clean split. This warrants further investigation.

Meeting meetings

In terms of actual interaction, ICANN meetings came top (60 percent) - which is what we would have expected. Otherwise what would be the point of spending huge amounts of resources on having three meetings a year? Emailing ICANN staff came second with 59 percent. Interestingly, 40 percent of people claimed to have responded to a public comment period and 35 percent to have posted a comment on the public participation site. We’re not so certain this is true, but at least it shows a willingness to engage with these formats so there is clear room for improvement in these areas.

In terms of the information you want more of, there were two very clear frontrunners: policy decisions with 80 percent, and ICANN processes (the way ICANN works) with 76 percent. This has been duly noted and we will focus our attention on these two areas. What was also useful was the "Ways that ICANN policies affect the general public" option that 46 percent of people voted for, and the "Benefits of participation in the supporting organisations" that 16 percent of people voted for.

The reason these two are interesting is that they were options added by those taking part in the survey (an interesting feature made possible by the polling software we use). It is clear that a need has expressed itself there, so we will get on it.

And lastly, in terms of the format you wanted to get future information in, a remarkable 72 percent of you chose "factsheets" - again a pretty clear signal. Next was "interactive forums" with 49 percent - something that we believe demonstrates the fact that ICANN’s interactivity is still too one-way, particular the public comment forums. Online meetings also came out high with 46 percent, so we shall spend some time experimenting with them to see how they could fit in with ICANN’s work.

Groucho club

In terms of respondents, there was an overwhelming number of people - nearly half - that said they were not a member of any supporting organisation. There are a number of possible explanations for this. The most worrying is that people are not being pulled into the ICANN system sufficiently and so sit outside the official bodies. But it is equally possible of course that those already within supporting organisations don’t feel the need to respond to an information survey because they’re happy with what they’ve got. Or it could just be a case of Internet economics, where a glut of people somewhere out there all decided to take the survey and so have provided a false view of representativeness. We’ll ask some questions of people over the coming months to see if we can pin down if there is an issue at the heart of this statistic.

As for the extra comments that people made: there was a wide range of views and some quite detailed comments on different areas. The general feeling what that people were pleased with the survey itself. There was also a surprising amount of praise and a surprising lack of criticism given the robust nature of the Net community when it comes to ICANN. What stood out clearly however was a sense that ICANN was not focused enough on individual registrants. This is something that ICANN is already working on; but then it also represents the fact that the majority of respondents to the survey were themselves individual registrants.

Thankyou

So that’s the summary. We’ll get to work right away focusing on what you’ve told us. If anyone has any comments they’d like to make, please do email ICANN’s general manager of public participation, Kieren McCarthy, at kieren.mccarthy@icann.org.

 

Participation

PUBLIC COMMENT

There is a large number of public comment periods open at the moment, seven of them opened in the week before the Los Angeles meeting in order to provide time for people to review the material prior to public discussions.

You can view full details, as ever, on the public comment webpage, plus closed forums are available on the September and October archive pages.

Among those comment periods open are: a registry failover plan; the Strategic Plan; management operating principles; changes to the GNSO; independent review of the Nominating Committee; and a request for suggestions on how to allocate single-letter domains.

Among those forums that have closed since the last magazine are: an issues paper for the Strategic Plan; Board review terms of reference; amendments to contracts for .museum and .post; and a request for information on domain name tasting.

They can all be found, with full links, at the top of the main public comment webpage.




BLOG

The blog has been particularly lively in the past month, with a number of posts covering different aspects of Internationalized Domain Names (IDNs); reviews of Russia’s approach to the Internet; a review of the redelegation process for country-code top-level domains; a guide to the work ICANN is doing between the San Juan and Los Angeles meetings; and another episode of the South American Internet podcast series by ICANN regional manager Pablo Hinojosa.

Debate has also been lively, particularly with respect to the rules and theories behind delegations, and over the issue of IDNs. There has also been some back-and-forth discussions about participation within ICANN’s processes and what can be done to improve it.




PUBLIC PARTICIPATION SITE


The public participation site is open to all interested individuals, who are free to blog directly to the site, or comments on others’ posts as soon as they have registered. The site also runs feeds of news from ICANN and from the community on each page.



More details on participating with ICANN can be found at: http://icann.org/participate/

Other News
Taipei meeting: ICANN kicked off the first of what may become regular "regional meetings" that focus on particular topics of importance to individual regions in Taipei.

Titled Toward the New Era of Internet, the three-day meeting broadly covered a different topic each day: security, IDNs, and IPv6. A number of ICANN staff including the CEO Paul Twomey and Board member Steve Crocker attended, as well as a number of notable Asian scientists and academics.

You can find out more on the Taipei meeting website at http://taipei2007.icann.org.


L-root: ICANN runs one of the Internet’s 13 root servers - L-root. As part of ongoing efforts to improve the resilience and performance, ICANN is now also serving from a new, additional system in Florida.

The system is a copy of the large cluster that operates from the Los Angeles area, and the addition of the Miami system has effectively doubled the capacity of L-root while also allowing ICANN to peer directly with many ISPs in the Latin America and Caribbean, directly improving service to those regions.

The addition has also seen the introduction of "Anycast" technology - fitting alongside many of the other root operators.


Nominating Committee: The Nominating Committee has announced who it selected to fill a large number of roles within the ICANN model since the last edition of this magazine.

We produced a special edition to cover the choices in full, providing the names, brief biographies, pictures and quick quotes from the individuals involved which you can see in full here.

In the meantime, here are just the names:

ICANN Board of Directors

    * Harald Tveit Alvestrand (Norway, Europe)
    * Dennis Jennings (Ireland/UK, Europe)
    * Jean-Jacques Subrenat (France, Europe)

GNSO Council

    * Avri Doria (USA, North America)
    * Olga Cavalli (Argentina, Latin America & Caribbean)

At-Large Advisory Committee

    * Vanda Scartezini (Brazil, Latin America & Caribbean)
    * Fatimata Seye Sylla (Senegal, Africa)
    * Nguyen Thu Hue (Vietnam, Asia/Australia/Pacific)

ccNSO Council

    * Nashwa Abdel-Baki (Egypt, Africa)

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 Avri Doria
Avri Doria, chair of the GNSO
As chair of the GNSO, Avri Doria deals with some of the thorniest areas within the ICANN model. An academic at heart, she gives a relaxed and personal view of ICANN and why the "messy tussles" are the heart of the organisation.

ICANN is in the midst of a continuing tussle in terms of policy and technology. Lots of people with very strong beliefs are all fighting for what they think is important. And we all think that our needs and beliefs are the most important.

For me, personally, one belief is the importance of personal privacy. But for banks, for example, it may be the need to protect profits and that may require having private information to protect customers from phishing. All of us in ICANN represent different needs and differing views on how to meet these needs.

The GNSO Council has to take all of these views into account. We need a solution that everyone hates equally.

When you look at each and every one of the recommendations [in the new gTLD report], or the principles, or the guidelines, each one was a rough consensus; a compromise built up after years of discussion that most committee members were willing to live with. What we do is try to bridge the gap between our respective viewpoints.

We can’t achieve perfection and with the Internet, we need to view it not as an empty sheet where we can create the perfect solution but need to look at it from the position of compromise where we can create a satisfactory solution. That we come close to achieving this is a very big hope that I have.

Even in the case of Whois - where people argue that part of the problem is the desire to keep the status quo. Well, what is the status quo? The status quo from when the Whois discussion started is not the status quo of now. As some philosophers have argued you can’t put your foot into the same river twice, in fact some argue you can’t put your foot in the same river even once.

And this is the world ICANN lives in - where people have different drives, but no one is any more right than anyone else. We are here to deal with the messy untidyness of the tussles. It’s quite a crucible - and that’s one of the cool things about ICANN.

 
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