(Between jet lag and the pace of ICANN-related events, it's taken a while to summarize the events at ICANN 49 in Singapore...)
Monday, March 23, began with the Opening Ceremony, even though the work of ICANN started on Saturday for many attendees. This ICANN meeting is freighted with history - Singapore was the site of ICANN 1, and also the site of ICANN 41 in 2011, where the New gTLD Program was officially approved. And now it has become the official kick-off for the IANA transition, the biggest change in the structure of Internet governance in many a year.
Steve Crocker, Chairman of the ICANN Board - himself freighted with history - kicked off the Opening Ceremony, then ceded the floor to Fadi Chehade, President and CEO of ICANN. Not surprisingly, much of the Opening, after the Ceremony, was devoted to Internet Governance - the IANA transition and the upcoming NETmundial meeting.
Immediately after the Opening, the room was turned over to a meeting that wasn't even on the schedule two weeks ago - "IANA Accountability Transition." After touching on other developments at ICANN, Fadi walked through a series of slides, showed ICANN's vision of how the transition process should go - and subtly pushed a plan where oversight of the IANA function is transferred to a global "multistakeholder mechanism" (not a separate entity), while the IANA function remains ensconced within ICANN, functionally separate and insulated from the policy business of ICANN. While this may be the wish list for ICANN management, others definitely disagreed on both points. An active discussion followed. The community made it clear, in comments from the floor, that ICANN needed to respect the bottom-up, consensus-driven multistakeholder process in facilitating the discussion and process of development.… Continue Reading
House Republicans have introduced a bill to block the IANA transition. These are the same Republicans behind the quickly-called hearings set for April 2. "America shouldn't surrender its leadership on the world stage to a 'multistakeholder model' that's controlled by foreign governments," said Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.). This seems to ignore a number of the points set out in the NTIA announcement, which specifically says that any government-led or intergovernmental-led solution will be rejected. On top of that, an implementation of the multistakeholder model to assume the IANA oversight functions hasn't been proposed yet. The process of developing that implementation hasn't even been proposed yet. Yet somehow, these lawmakers believe they need to pull out jingoistic rhetoric to support wild-eyed claims that the Internet could turn into "another Russian land-grab."… Continue Reading
The second day of ICANN49 was "visiting day" for the Generic Names Supporting Organization (GNSO), with various ICANN staff and stakeholder groups meeting with the GNSO. Meanwhile, the Governmental Advisory Committee (GAC), ICANN's mini-United Nations, huddled in another room, also receiving visitors from time to time.
The GNSO was visited by Cyrus Namazi and others from the Generic Domains Division (GDD), the group within ICANN staff tasked with running the New gTLD Program and dealing with existing gTLDs as well. We received a breakneck summary of the status of applications. Most objections to the new gTLDs have now been resolved - only 14 are still left to resolve. It looks like ICANN will be running some "last resort" auctions to resolve contention sets (where there are multiple applicants for the same domain name). In last resort auctions, ICANN keeps the money paid by the winning bidder. In private auctions or other arrangements, the losing bidder(s) get paid by the winning bidder. The last resort auction is only used where the bidders cannot agree among themselves to resolve the contention set privately (hence the "last resort" name). Some thought there would be no last resort auctions, so this was a mild surprise.
The real surprise from the GDD came out when they announced their intention to measure and track the economic and social impact of the new gTLDs, in order to prepare for round two of new gTLD applications. Round Two? Round Two? Many have asked if there would be a Round Two; now. It appears that Round Two is a "when" and a "how," not an "if." For those of you who survived Round One, this is big news. If you felt left out, this is good news. If you are a first round applicant, this may be bad news, as more competition floods the market. If you are a brandowner, still trying to figure out how to police and enforce your trademarks in over 1,000 new domains, be prepared to redouble your efforts. Brandowners should look at Round Two skeptically - is it needed? Can issues in Round One be resolved? Can it be stopped? Be prepared to spend time, money and effort on these questions, if you want to help shape the answers.… Continue Reading
The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) is descending on Singapore for its 49th semi-annual meeting: #ICANN49. A week ago, the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), part of the U.S. Department of Commerce, dropped a bombshell - the United States would relinquish its oversight of key functions of the Internet: the "IANA functions." The NTIA decreed that ICANN would oversee the transition of this oversight to the "global stakeholder community," and the NTIA wanted it done by the end of September 2015, when the current "IANA contract" expires.
This announcement changed the focus, the agenda, and the tone of the ICANN meeting. After the "Snowden revelations," it was clear that "Internet Governance" was going to be a major topic - but on a theoretical level, with no particular timeline and no particular role for ICANN. Now, with a real project, a real role and a real deadline, ICANN and the ICANN community are on the clock and under the microscope.… Continue Reading