Thursday was the last day of ICANN, and two things were eagerly awaited – the Government Advisory Committee (GAC) Durban Communiqué and the ICANN Public Forum. The Durban Communiqué will update the GAC Advice from the Beijing Communiqué, clarifying (hopefully) the GAC’s position on a number of burning issues. The Public Forum is where anyone (in the room or participating remotely) can approach the microphone and ask questions (or make statements) to the ICANN Board and staff.

Thursday was also Nelson Mandela Day – Madiba’s 95th birthday. For many ICANN attendees, including CEO Fadi Chehade, Thursday began with a public service project, leaving at 7 a.m. to paint Chesterville High School in Durban. I was with them in spirit…

Before the Public Forum, I went to the Generic Names Supporting Organization (GNSO) Wrap-Up Session. The GNSO Council had a full agenda for this meeting. The Council discussed a number of issues, including how to best use the GNSO’s weekend session. It appeared the Council was leaning toward making stakeholder group and constituency (SG/CO) involvement more a part of the Council’s weekend meeting. I must say that I found being present for the weekend sessions very enlightening and was glad I came early to be there. The Council also discussed how to schedule the flow between Council meetings and SG/CO meetings – this is relevant because it relates to SGs and COs being able to develop and exchange positions between the weekend sessions and the formal meeting of the Council where votes are taken.

The Council also considered various issues relating to Working Groups and improving the Policy Development Process (PDP). The Council also discussed the proposal to delay a mandated GNSO Review, which was just put up for public comment (the delay proposal, that is). It seemed to be the sense of many in the room that the review should not be delayed, and that if it was delayed, the GNSO should undertake its own review, in the name of “continuous improvement.” The Council decided that the Wrap-Up Session would include a formal Public Forum component starting with the next ICANN meeting.

Not long before the Public Forum started, the GAC Communiqué was released. Participants were hurriedly pulling it up on laptops, tablets and smartphones, trying to figure out what the GAC hath wrought (or not wrought). Headline items included:

  • Consensus objection to .amazon and Chinese and Japanese versions
  • The GAC and the NGPC will continue their “dialogue” regarding Category 1 new gTLDs (the long list of risky new gTLDs)
  • Unable to come to conclusion on .wine and .vin, GAC will take 30 more days to try to come to a conclusion
  • GAC is also concerned about the “name clash” (existing network use of new gTLD names vs. future web use of the same names) and dotless domain issues, and demands a written briefing from the ICANN Board. GAC believes all analysis of these issues needs to be made available before any new gTLDs are delegated. Also, the GAC advised the Board “as a matter of urgency” to consider the recommendations regarding dotless domain and name clash issues made by the SSAC (Security and Stability Advisory Committee).
  • In future rounds, ICANN should collaborate with the GAC regarding “protection of terms with national, cultural, geographic and religious significance”

Of more limited interest, the GAC advice also included the following points:

  • Reaffirms that IGO names and acronyms need preventative protection and states that it “understands that the ICANN Board … is prepared to fully implement GAC advice” on this point. As to acronyms, GAC would work with IGOs and the NGPC (New gTLD Program Committee of the ICANN Board) on a clearinghouse type mechanism that would provide (i) notice to an IGO if a third party tried to register an exact match to an IGO acronym and (ii) a third party review if the IGO and the potential registrant had a “disagreement.”
  • The clearinghouse mechanism should also be used to protect the acronyms of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRO/CICR and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFFC/FICR)
  • Consensus objection to .thai
  • Further consideration necessary for .guangzhou (in Chinese), .shenzhen (in Chinese), .spa and .yun
  • No objection to .date and .persiangulf
  • GAC “notes the concern” of India with .indians and .ram

The biggest news was probably no news: The GAC advice regarding nearly 700 domains trapped on the Category 1 list was still unfinished. These domains, along with .vin and .wine, stayed in limbo, while .amazon was (at best) in purgatory. I headed to the Public Forum to see what the crowd thought of the GAC advice and other pressing matters.

The Public Forum is part closing ceremony, part town hall meeting and part performance art. After a tribute to Nelson Mandela, the open mic portion of the Public Forum started, with a line at least 20 people long, most clutching laptops or tablets. Several themes emerged.

  • A number of speakers, including INTA and the IPC, expressed concern about the GAC’s advice on .amazon, and urged the Board to reject the advice, since it has no apparent basis in international law and could set a troublesome precedent
  • A representative of Patagonia noted that the company had withdrawn its .patagonia application in the face of receiving a GAC consensus objection, believing that the ICANN Board was set to approve the objection. The ICANN Board claimed that it would not rubber-stamp the .amazon objection and would not have rubber-stamped the .patagonia objection either.
  • A number of speakers also brought the “name clash” issue to the fore. The ANA (Association of National Advertisers) noted that the name clash issue would even interfere with phone communications over the internet (which even includes calls made and received on conventional phones), including 911 systems, wireless medical devices, oil and gas lines (which use networked remote sensors and controls), etc.
  • The need for improved engagement between the GAC and the rest of ICANN was also a theme

After the Public Forum, the ICANN Board held its public board meeting, which started with a ceremony honoring several ICANN stalwarts who were moving on, and continued through some fairly mundane business. When that was over, we all repaired to the foyer for cocktails.

ICANN47 was over, and it was quite a whirlwind. When I went out to dinner, my head was still spinning. In part, this was due to the Roma Revolving Restaurant (32 stories above Durban) where we went to dinner. But much of it was due to all that I had seen and done in the last six days.

What was the upshot of ICANN47? Reasoned analysis would have to wait. First, I had to fly 28 hours (including 2 layovers) back to New York. Upon return and recovery, I will post my thoughts on the highs and lows of the meeting and what it all means for brandowners and consumers on the internet. Stay tuned!