Welcome to the April issue of ICANN's magazine. Each issue will cover the latest news and events, plus outline how you can interact with the organization.
The magazine will also hopefully give you an insight into the upcoming month. Please note however that this issue will not cover everything that has happened since the last magazine, because as the 2,000 or so of you who are signed up to this magazine will no doubt have noticed there hasn’t been an issue of the ICANN magazine so far in 2008.
Why not? The answer comes in three words: Christmas. JPA. Delhi. It’s been a busy few months for ICANN. Not to mention that the editor of this magazine moved house and home to life in Los Angeles. They're not adequate excuses of course, so readers will be encouraged to know a system is now in place to make sure these magazines appear regularly.
Of course you are free to rage at ICANN's general manager of public participation at firstname.lastname@example.org, but while you are furiously typing away, a few words about what you think about the magazine and what you would like to see in it in future would be welcome. The next issue, incidentally, will also be made available in different languages in an effort to reach more of the global Internet community.
ICANN makes 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.
The issue of internationalizing ICANN is a significant
issue for the organization, and one of the biggest steps in that
process is the translation of materials into the main Internet languages.
For the past 10 months, ICANN’s Translation Committee has been working on making this possible. An independent translation expert was hired in November 2007 to draw up a translation programme for the organization. The process was outlined during a special session at the Los Angeles meeting in November 2007. Many members of the community as well as ICANN staff were subsequently interviewed and a draft translation programme [pdf] produced and outlined in a second session at the Delhi meeting in February [transcript].
A public comment period on that programme was opened on 13 February and closed on 14 March. A summary/analysis of the comments was posted a few days later.
That comment period will be opened again this week with an online survey that is aimed at providing a greater response - and so greater awareness of the programme - from the community.
Input from the public comment periods, online survey, and two public meetings will be reviewed by two independent experts and a revised programme produced. The intent is to have that version of the programme discussed and approved at the upcoming Paris meeting in June so the translation committee can begin implementing it.
A number of different pilot projects are being tested including: automated translation of mailing lists; staff language programmes; community translation wikis; phone conference interpretation; and others. If ruled successful, they will be used more widely. ICANN also expects to work exntensively with the community in finding joint solutions to the provision of non-English material.
- Apr 08: Online survey on Translation Programme goes live
- Jun 08: Paris meeting (programme review and possible approval)
ICANN staff contact(s): Kieren McCarthy (Corporate Affairs)
Security and Stability Advisory Committee (SSAC)
The SSAC is working on a number of papers that should be released over the course of this month (the SSAC has a general policy of not announcing papers before release because of the sensitivity of some areas of its work.)
However, it can announce that it is working on a follow-up to domain name front-running. The original paper [pdf] was released in February and was the center of animated discussion at the SSAC public session in Delhi.
There was also extensive discussion in Delhi on another paper [pdf] produced by SSAC on so-called “fast flux” – where people hosting phishing websites were using the DNS to avoid efforts to take them down. The Committee is likely to review what came out of those discussions.
SSAC is also assisting ICANN staff in deliberating upon and developing responses to the GNSO guidelines for implementing new gTLDs.
As well as the two papers listed above, SSAC has recently published a two-page document [pdf] providing guidance on how to go forward with the introduction of DNSSEC; and provided written comments and recommendations [pdf] to the GNSO with respect to possible Whois studies.
On top of that, a cutdown version of the SSAC report [pdf] on IPv6 support in commercial firewalls has been published in the October issue of Login magazine.
- Apr 08: A number of new SSAC reports are scheduled to be published
- Jun 08: Paris meeting, where new reports and updates will be discussed
ICANN staff contact(s): Dave Piscitello (Policy)
The issue of new generic top-level domains is likely to be the dominant issue for ICANN this year and next.
After literally years of hard work, the policy decisions with regard to new gTLDs have been arrived at and agreed upon by the Generic Names Supporting Organization (GNSO) and have moved into the implementation phase. [The full policy comes in two parts: Part A, and Part B.]
The Board has asked staff to outline how the policy decisions can be implemented, including estimates of risk, time and cost. The past few months have seen significant work in that area, all toward the development of a single Request for Proposals (RFP) that will act as the guide for applications.
The RFP will cover a number of issues currently being developed and reviewed in different parts: business and technical requirements; the objection system; reserved names and so on. The RFP will be released once all the component parts are fully developed and agreed upon, which will be the second half of this year. It will then be put out for public comment, finalised, and applications will be accepted from early 2009.
As of April 2008, the issues being worked on include: developing an application interface that automates as much work as possible; comparative evaluation approaches, including an exploration of the use of auction, for the situation where two people apply for the same gTLD string; and devising the business and technical criteria necessary for a successful application.
On the question of how much a gTLD application will cost: since the GNSO has defined that the process be “revenue neutral”, ICANN is unable to provide an application fee cost until all the components and their likely costs have been agreed upon and reviewed.
There is a dedicated webpage on ICANN's site that provides the latest information on the process.
ICANN staff contact(s): Karla Valente (Services)
To be covered in the next newsletter:
- Domain Name Tasting
Recent Board meetings
The Board has met three times so far in 2008: on 23 January; in public at the Delhi meeting on 15 February; and most recently on 27 March. Each Board meeting is preceded by at least a week by a meeting of the Board’s Executive Committee which decides the agenda.
Preliminary minutes of the most recent meeting can be found here. Highlights include:
- Approval of changes to the .info and .biz registry contracts to allow them to charge for registrars using the Add Grace Period excessively, in an effort to curb domain tasting
- An update on the new gTLD process
- An interesting discussion about “front running” following a request for an emergency Board vote by the At Large Advisory Committee on the matter
- Prior notice of a Board paper that will suggest changes to the way ICANN runs its international meetings
- An update on the GNSO independent review, with a summary of public comments made to the final report and delivered to the Board Governance Committee in Delhi
The previous Board meeting in Delhi in February is covered extensively in a new style of minute. Previously at public Board meetings, just the transcript of the meeting and the final resolutions were posted. That transcript is still there, as are the resolutions, but a new style for public minutes has seen relevant parts of the transcript pulled out and put into topic areas to make the minutes more readily accessible for review.
You can see those new-style minutes here. The highlights are:
- The Accountability and Transparency Frameworks and Principles [pdf] for the organization were approved, affecting how the organization does everything from open its decisions to review, to consult with the community.
- Updates on the GNSO review process and new gTLDs (that were subsequently followed up on at the March meeting)
- Approval of a “summit” for At Large Structures where one person from each of the member organizations in At Large will attend a grand meeting to help strengthen and define the At Large role in ICANN
- New SSAC reports on Domain-Name Front Running, Fast Flux, DNSSEC, and WHOIS
Finally, on 23 January, the Board met – full minutes here. The highlights:
- An agreement between ICANN and the F-root server operator was approved
- The Board pushed for a transaction fee to be charged for all registered domains, irrespective of the five-day Add Grace Period, in order to deal with domain tasting
- The Czech Arbitration Court was selected as a UDRP provider
- The .ae registry was redelegated to the United Arab Emirates’ telecoms regulator
- Update on the issue of Internationalized Domain Names (IDNs)
The Board will meet again on 29 April. An agenda will be posted shortly.
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
The President and CEO of ICANN, Dr Paul Twomey, answers a few questions about: the Joint Project Agreement’s Midterm Review, and upcoming community discussions over its completion; compliance; where we are with new gTLDs and IDNs; and how ICANN as an organization is changing.
So, the United States government held a Midterm Review of the agreement it has with ICANN, an agreement that ICANN said in its submission should be completed. What has been the outcome and what will ICANN do from here?
Well, the review process is not completed yet. The United States government will say what it thinks, and we cannot come to any form of conclusion until that is done. (Note: since this interview, the USG has released its summary and ICANN has responded: see this press release for more information.) The Board position however is that all the things that it said it would do have been done.
We now need to spend some time reviewing and discussing what transition [away from the JPA] actually is. What was most interesting, I think, was how people responded to the review. The submissions were very useful and they clearly pointed out the main concerns that exist at the moment. The overwhelming response however was: “What’s next?”
If people want to get a feel for what happened and what ICANN plans to do, I would suggest looking at the Chairman’s summary. There were three main points or areas in there: firstly for things like compliance and Whois, that the Operating Plan was the ideal place for people to raise those concerns; secondly there are questions with respect to representation, and the independent review mechanism is the ideal place for that; and thirdly – which was the key focus of the review – the concerns that people have with the ways things are currently.
With this third area, the President’s Strategy Committee (PSC) has been asked to do the very important job of consulting with the community to arrive at some ideas or solutions. It will consult very broadly and work with the community to outline the key processes and steps, and point the way forward. But more about that in April, after the PSC has met.
What is the PSC likely to come up with?
Well, I may be being premature but the Committee will want to ask the key questions. There were 171 submissions, and from that the key questions and issues came out. I think they are likely to form the basis for consultation. The Committee may produce an issues paper or some other kind of document; they may ask for other issues to be raised.
Then they will ask: consultations with whom and in what timeframe? The community will be asked for its perspective, and I think it’s important to say that this is going to be a discussion; it is not going to be made up of staff saying “here’s what the solution is”.
You mentioned earlier the issue of compliance. This was something that a number of people raised during the Midterm Review, claiming ICANN wasn’t doing enough. What is ICANN doing about that?
Well, first of all let me say that compliance is about ensuring that parties contracted to ICANN are keeping up their performance. That’s not the same as wanting to get things fixed. Compliance can only do what is already in the contracts.
And with regard to that, there is lots of work that has already been done. In order to make that visible, we have produced a Compliance Newsletter, which acts as a digest and update of that work, and which we will be publishing regularly (see the announcement of the newsletter here).
We have also augmented the core compliance team in terms of resources, and we have created a cross-functional team of people from compliance, legal, corporate affairs and services, which Doug Brent (ICANN’s COO) is helping to co-ordinate.
There are also some other things already underway – probably more than people realize. Whois compliance auditing, for example. One thing we did learn from the review was that we need to make clear to people the processes we are following. In the past, we have taken a softly-softly approach in the expectation that sorting things out quietly would work out better. What we heard from the community was that we need to be more vocal – so that is the approach we are now taking.
A good example of this is a number of statements I heard that said ICANN has never de-accredited a registrar. This is simply not true. Since I have been President, there have been, I think, 13 companies de-accredited. And we have issued hundreds of warnings.
Getting to ongoing policy work, where is ICANN with new gTLDs and IDNs at the moment?
The implementation plan for new gTLDs is well underway, and we will be briefing on that at the Paris meeting in June. The staff is looking at how to implement the policy recommendations – and that is a lot of hard work. It will soon be time for the community to start giving feedback.
As for IDNs: there is work going on in the IETF at the moment to finalize the RFCs, and they still have work to do. Again, in Paris, we will get back to the community on how that is progressing, and also on the fast-track approach for country code domains – where there is a lot of work going on intersessionally.
There is a lot of talk around ICANN at the moment about how it is changing and what that means. The organization is growing, it is becoming more professional and more international, but at the core is still this history and this Internet culture way-of-doing-things. How do you see these changes? What are the big changes – the good and the bad?
I’d say that ICANN is evolving rather than step-changing. And I think that’s the right approach for the organization. ICANN’s community, however, is changing, and changing rapidly. In five years’ time, for example, there will be many more Asian participants because that’s where the growth is. When ICANN was founded 10 years ago, Asia-Pacific was only a small part of the organization but we are already seeing a large user base emerging from that region.
The functions and staff functions will change but I don’t foresee a major quantum change in the way we work. We will still be bottom-up and participatory, for example, with most of the work done by volunteers. We have three offices but the headquarters will remain in the United States. I do see the organization evolving in its supporting work with liaisons in different parts of the world, and I can see us utilize other jurisdictions, but we are not going to move away from our basic ethos, and it’s important to retain the culture.
But we also need to be sensible. For example, we use contracts and use them for enforcement; if they break them, we will sue. We assume contracts have the same meaning across the world, but in parts of Asia there isn’t the same understanding and it’s important to get people to understand that. We have to make it clear, for example, that if there is a breach of the registrar agreement that they can be de-accredited so they can’t operate.
Importantly, we will have to makes some changes in order to get full participation. People want to be able to communicate, but that may not necessarily be by speaking into a microphone. And individuals are far more comfortable speaking and communicating in their own language.
To sum up, I would say that this year – with the JPA, new gTLDs and IDNs – is the year of consolidation. There is a lot of hard work here. It’s not perfect but I’m pretty pleased with where we are, and we are on track.
How much does it cost to end domain tasting?
Real-life policy making in ICANN
It was at the Marrakech meeting back in June 2006 that Jothan Frakes held a workshop that first informed the community about a new phenomenon where registrars were buying tens of thousands of domain names and then, within just a few days, returning the majority of them.
It turned out that a mechanism introduced in 2002 of refunding fees for domains returned within five days because of “unintentional domain-name deletions” had inadvertently created an economic model following the advent of pay-per-click advertising.
By registering a domain name and then watching to see the number of visitors that that address attracted, companies were able to find out if the domain name was likely to make them more than they would have to pay to register it (in most cases around $6).
If it was going to make more than $6, it was kept; if it wasn’t, it was returned and the fee was returned under the Add Grace Period. The problem was that this new market was a low-margin, high-turnover business. At Marrakech, it was estimated by one registry that 70 percent of all new domain registrations were thanks to this domain tasting process. A year-and-a-half later, it is now over 95 percent.
So what has ICANN and ICANN’s community done in the meantime?
Well, at the Marrakech meeting, the Security and Stability Advisory Committee (SSAC) released a report [pdf] covering the issue, following a request by the owner of the .org registry, PIR, which had been getting annoyed with the practice.
A few months later (September 2006), PIR pushed [pdf] for it to be allowed to charge five cents for .org domains, irrespective of whether they were returned during the Add Grace Period, if the returns accounted for more than 90 percent of domains registered in that month.
The Board approved the measure a month later and the first effort to stamp out domain tasting began. It was, according to PIR, immediately successful in reducing domain tasting.
In the meantime, a series of workshops was held at ICANN meetings covering the issue in increasing depth. The meeting after Marrakech, in São Paulo, Brazil in December 2006, saw a Domain Name Marketplace presentation. And no less than two sessions were held at the Lisbon meeting in March 2007: How the Marketplace for Expiring Names Has Changed; and the Domain name secondary market.
All of this prompted the At Large Advisory Committee to demand an issues report into the issue of domain tasting, which ICANN staff promptly did, producing a report in May 2007, putting it out for public comment, revising it, and then providing a final Issues Report [pdf] to the GNSO Council in June 2007, recommending that a formal policy development process (PDP) be launched.
The GNSO decided to create a Working Group, which produced an Outcomes Report [pdf] four months later in October 2007. That report then led to the GNSO launching a formal policy development process on the issue.
The result of this was an Initial Report [pdf] by staff in January 2008, put out for public comment. That led to a draft Final Report [pdf] the next month (February 2008). In March, the GNSO Council voted to solicit comments on a draft motion that had been prepared by a number of Council members and constituency representatives in an effort to curb domain tasting (a summary/analysis of those comments subsequently pulled back into the process).
In the meantime, the Board had embarked on its own solution, recommending at its January 2008 meeting that all domains be charged the 20 cent transaction fee, regardless of whether it was returned during the Add Grace Period. That proposal would have to go through the budgetary process for the next fiscal year before being enacted.
The result so far in this 12-month process is slightly different to the proposal introduce by PIR in 2006. Rather than the five-cent fee charged by PIR, or the 20-cent fee proposed by the Board, the full fee would be charged (or, more accurately, not refunded) for any domain returned that accounted for more than 10 percent of a registrar's monthly registrations (or 50 domains, whichever was greater).
So if a company registers 10,000 domains in a given month, it can return up to 1,000 (10 percent) and be fully reimbursed. But for every domain returned after that, it is charged the full registry fee.
This approach seemed to gel with the owners of the .info and .biz registries, who both put in formal requests to change their contracts to include exactly this process. The Board approved both at its most recent meeting on 27 March.
And so, in answer to the question: how much does it cost to end domain tasting?
The answer is: $1,284 per domain.
The maths was provided to the Board a fortnight ago by Senior Vice President Kurt Pritz. From the minutes: “Kurt Pritz indicated that presently ICANN charges a 20-cent fee on every registration that lasts longer than five days (i.e., not a tasted name). Tasted names comprise more than 95% of all registrations, only 1 name in 20 ‘sticks’. Registrars that exclusively taste and do not register ‘regular’ names delete 99.5% of names during the AGP (1 in 200 (0.5%) ‘stick’).
“If a 20-cent fee is attached to each of the deleted names for these registrars the apparent price of each name that sticks increases from $6.42 to $6.42 + 0.20 * 199 or $46.22. With the new fee, a name will have to be worth $1,284 in the point-and-click market (as opposed to $6.43*) to be kept. In practice, this will serve to further reduce the percentage of names kept and therefore will increase the apparent price even more.”
So there you have it. That’s how the issue of domain tasting was tackled by ICANN.
At least so far... Some parts of the ICANN community are pushing for the AGP to be scrapped altogether, removing any issues of fees or refunds.
As ever with the domain name market, things are in flux. Fast flux. But more on that next month.
* In October, the price of .com and .net domains will increase, so the $6.43 figure above is only indicative.
There are five comment periods open at the time of writing, with a further nine opened and closed so far in 2008.
Three have concerned the hot-potato issue of domain tasting (see above). An initial report on the issue became, after public comments had been reviewed, a draft Final Report, which was put out for public comment a second time. That second period closed on 28 March and a final report will be given to the GNSO Council at its 17 April meeting.
You can see the summary/analysis of the first comment period here and the second comment period here.
Tied in with that the owners of the .biz and .info registries decided not to wait for the policy development process (PDP) to run its full course and asked if they could change their contracts to charge for a certain number of domains to deal with domain tasting.
The summary/analysis of that comment period can be found here. The contractual changes were subsequently approved by the Board at its 27 March meeting (see above).
IDNs and ccTLDs
A further three comment periods have covered the contentious issue of country code Internationalized Domain Names. The first invited the community to consider a bylaw change, and whether the ccNSO should start a policy development process for delegating IDN ccTLDs.
The second comment period asked for feedback on a discussion draft for a so-called “fast track” that would allow non-contentious IDNs to be added to the Internet faster that the ongoing IDN policy process.
Both of these are now closed. However, a draft report [pdf] from the working group created to review the possible addition of ccIDNs (as an example, the word “China” in Chinese script) is currently open to public comment and will be until 25 April.
- The Translation Programme had its own public comment period (summary/analysis), which will be reopened soon (see Policy above).
- The latest version of the GNSO Improvements report was released and is open to comment until 25 April
- Recommendations for Whois studies proved interesting (summary/analysis)
- ICANN’s Travel Support policy is open to comment until 24 April
- A comment period for the Nominating Committee independent review report is closing on 11 April
You can view full details, as ever, on the public comment webpage. All closed forums should have a summary and analysis of the comments received clearly labeled.
Closed forums can be found on the archive pages.
Readers of the blog may have noticed a strange thing of late – not all the posts are in English. Strange and baffling symbols are, we are pleased to inform readers, the way in which in which non-English speakers communicate.
Thanks to both ICANN’s regional managers, and a few people within the community - most notably Stephane Van Gelder - we have been supplying information relevant to other language groups in French, Spanish, Arabic and Russian. This has, unsurprisingly, proved popular with speakers of those languages so we are looking to increase the number in the hope of pulling more people into ICANN’s processes.
For those looking just for those postings in English, however, we have a special link.
So what’s been discussed recently? Well, most recently, the signing of an MoU with Moscow University’s Internet Security Institute. There were some strong words exchanged on a post lampooning people for taking a new graphic on the ICANN website too seriously. And there was a note on additions to the IDN wikis – Hebrew and Amharic no less.
Also, a plea from the COO about ICANN’s new travel policy. More tests with DNSSEC. A video of the CEO explaining his position on the Joint Project Agreement, and much, much more.
In short, a wide-ranging and interesting mix of posts about ICANN and issues surrounding both ICANN and the wider Internet. Probably worth visiting occasionally.
More details on participating with ICANN can be found at: http://icann.org/participate/
As explained in the interview with Hagen Hultzsch in this issue, the NomCom is accepting applications until 15 April, so if you want to help ICANN with its work either as a Council member or on the Board, now is your chance. All the details you need can be found on the NomCom website at: http://nomcom.icann.org/.
A regional meeting was held in Dubai between 1-3 April. Full details are on the public participation site. And we have posted a briefing note covering what happened.
The agenda for the Paris meeting (22-27 June) has been posted. There are two main changes to the normal structure - the meeting will end a day early on Thursday, with the Friday Board meeting moved to Thursday afternoon.
Also, a new “business stream” has been added in an effort to explain ICANN’s role to business. Otherwise, the meeting runs as usual with workshops this time on new gTLDs, the JPA, protection of registrants, IPv6, translation, and others.
A brief public forum on the Monday will be continued on late Wednesday afternoon and then finished up with the presentation of reports on the Thursday.
As mentioned in Paul Twomey’s interview above, a new compliance newsletter has been produced in order to keep people up-to-date with what ICANN is doing to ensure that parties contracted to it are keeping up their side of things. You can sign up to this newsletter and the others ICANN produces at: http://www.icann.org/newsletter/.
The following announcements were made in the past month:
9 Apr: Education Agreement Signed with Russian Internet Security Institute
3 Apr: Inter-Registrar Transfer Policy advisory issued
2 Apr: Response to NTIA statement on JPA
31 Mar: Call put out for 2009 meeting hosts
20 Mar: Nominating Committee deadline reminder
A full list of announcements is available online at: http://www.icann.org/announcements/
What Does ICANN Do?
To reach another person on the Internet you have to type an address into your computer - a name or a number. That address has to be unique so computers know where to find each other. ICANN coordinates these unique identifiers across the world. Without that coordination we wouldn't have one global Internet.
ICANN was formed in 1998. It is a not-for-profit partnership of people from all over the world dedicated to keeping the Internet secure, stable and interoperable. It promotes competition and develops policy on the Internet’s unique identifiers.
ICANN doesn’t control content on the Internet. It cannot stop spam and it doesn’t deal with access to the Internet. But through its coordination role of the Internet’s naming system, it does have an important impact on the expansion and evolution of the Internet.