My Sunday started bright and early, with a 7:30 breakfast meeting between the Commercial Stakeholder Group and the GNSO members on the ICANN Board. After admiring the sunrise over the Indian Ocean, I grabbed the shuttle bus for a brief ride over to the land of windowless rooms.
At breakfast, several concerns were raised. One of these was the “name clash” issue: internal networks (such as most businesses employ) have long used internal top level domains (such as . mail and .corp, among others) for technical purposes. Since these top level domains didn’t exist in the “outside world” this raised no issues. Now that these domains have been applied for, they will exist “outside.” As a result, Internet users typing in yourname.mail could find themselves in your private network (and while your network might be secured, what if our Internet user is up to no good?). Conversely, your internal network could experience problems where the same domain name exists inside and outside. The extent of this problem is unknown and has only recently been considered. It appears that the risky top level domains could be delayed while this is worked out, but that is far from certain. Also discussed was the heavy funding in the ICANN Budget for “engagement,” (i.e., P.R. and outreach) while compliance appears to get short shrift. Of course, compliance is not sexy or revenue-producing, but without enough “police on the streets” the new gTLD program could be even more dangerous in practice than it appears to be on paper.
Later that morning, ICANN’s CEO, Fadi Chehade, visited the GNSO. He announced the formation of no less than five “President’s Strategy Committees,” with high-profile chairs (like Vint Cerf) and potential members (like Vivek Pandit), and broad mandates to reexamine various aspects of ICANN. He also announced (another) reorganization of ICANN, with a Generic Domains Division (GDD) in charge of all gTLD matters, but focusing on the “registrant layer” (i.e., domain name owners, which I assume includes domain name speculators (aka “domainers”)).
Leaving the GNSO, I followed the crowd to watch the NGPC (New gTLD Program Committee of the ICANN Board) meet with the GAC (the Government Advisory Committee, composed of government representatives) to discuss open items of the GAC Advice (aka the “Beijing Communique”). The GAC Advice included a number of safeguards and concerns about domain name and SSR (Security, Stability and Resiliency) issues. Many of these safeguards aligned with interests of brandowners and consumers. The NGPC took a rather diffident tone with the GAC, telling them that their advice was “not implementable.” The GAC in turn told the NGPC they should figure out how to implement it. After much puffing and posing, it turned out that if the NGPC actually had a substantive exchange about these items, they might actually figure out the problems together and move on to implementation! Another crisis averted….
The GAC and the NGPC then moved on to discussing the IGO (Intergovernmental Organization) issue. The GAC had requested protection for the names and acronyms of roughly 192 IGO. This could include some form of a “reserved names list.” (Could that be a “Do Not Sell List” for IGOs?). The discussion thrashed through the types of protection and the relative protection versus Red Cross and International Olympic Committee names (which are also receiving special protections). The most likely type of protection appeared to be a Trademark Clearinghouse-like approach, with a list and notifications, but this area is far from settled (as the afternoon would demonstrate).
Carrying a theme through from yesterday, the GNSO Council met with the Board and told them about the potential motion to change the ICANN By-Laws so that the Board couldn’t act contrary to the GNSO advice without dancing with the GNSO first. (Since this motion emerged from an instance where the GNSO Council felt ignored, I keep hearing “Nobody leaves Baby in the corner!” when I think about this motion – hence the reference to dancing.) Predictably, the Board was not amused. While they acknowledged the need for dialogue when policies are being implemented, legislating a forced engagement seemed a bit overbearing.
The GNSO/GAC meeting in the afternoon promised more thrills, and we were not disappointed. First the GNSO explained that the PDP is not, in fact, broken, and that taking 2-3 years to make a recommendation on a change to ICANN policy was not that bad. Visually, the slides showed a shattered glass at the beginning, with the glass put back together (but still full of cracks and none too pretty) at the end. In this case, two pictures are worth a thousand words. The GAC’s response was basically to ask what the heck is up with the IGO/INGO (International Nongovernmental Organization) PDP (Policy Development Process), where a Working Group (WG) has been working hard to find solutions to the same IGO issues that the GAC gave advice on, as well as similar INGO issues. (Full Disclosure: I am a member of this WG.) The GAC wanted to know more about how INGOs would be protected and which INGOs would be eligible. Of course, since the PDP is still in process, that has not been resolved. The GAC was concerned (to say the least) that the PDP could result in recommendations inconsistent with GAC Advice. If it does, the ICANN Board could be presented with quite a dilemma, facing the issue of priority between GAC Advice and GNSO Policy Recommendations (which must be rejected by a 2/3 vote of the Board). Finding a way to converge these two “parallel tracks” will be quite interesting.
Finally, the GNSO and GAC discussed how the GAC could be more involved in the GNSO policy development process (aka, the Policy Development Process). Earlier engagement and greater emphasis on liaisons were discussed and the meeting wrapped up on a hopeful note.
Meanwhile, we learned that the first ICANN registry agreement has been signed. dotShabaka signed the agreement for a TLD that roughly translates to “.web” in Arabic. And so it begins….