ICANN Toronto: what happened?

Stephane Van Gelder of NetNames reports on the latest developments in Internet governance

ICANN's last international meeting of the year was held in Toronto last week. The new gTLD program and ongoing negotiations with the Registrar Accreditation Agreement were among headline items.

New gTLD applicants will be drawn in lots

For new gTLDs, the main point of discussion in Toronto was an ICANN proposal to draw lots to determine which TLD applicants get to be approved first.

ICANN is proposing to organize a draw, on an unspecified day between 4 December and 15 December 2012.

IDN applicants will be given priority under the proposed scheme, but everyone else would have to go through the drawing process. Here's how this would work:

  • Evaluation of applications by ICANN will be carried out according to numbers drawn.

  • Each applicant will be asked to buy paper draw tickets, in person, at a cost of $100 per ticket.

  • After the draw, each applicant will be assigned a draw number to be used during the whole evaluation process.

No matter what position an applicant draws, ICANN will not sign any new gTLD contract until after its first meeting of 2013, held in Beijing from April 7 to April 11, to give evaluation teams sufficient time to carry out their work.

Delegations, i.e. actually inserting a new gTLD into the Internet root, will remain limited to one thousand TLDs per year, as was always planned.

Currently, ICANN has 1,923 new gTLD applications in its pipeline, as 7 applicants have withdrawn from the process and sought a partial refund of their application fees.

ICANN told by EU agency that proposed data verification measures infringe data protection laws

Negotiations have been going on for months between ICANN and accredited registrars such as NetNames to agree on a new version of the Registrar Accreditation Agreement (RAA), i.e. the contract governing the relationship between the registrars and ICANN.

These were based on a set of 12 recommendations made by Law Enforcement Agencies (LEA) and registrars have engaged in these negotiations with a very real desire to see progress. This has been achieved in several keys areas, some examples of which are:

  • Having a point of contact at the registrar which both LEAs and the public can use if they are seeing domain name related abuse.

  • Requesting that companies operating as registrars provide more information about themselves to ICANN.

  • Enhanced compliance systems.

  • Measures to prevent cybersquatting by registrars.

  • Requirements to implement technical parameters such as DNSSEC and IPv6.

Most of these improvements are aimed at bringing the whole registrar community to the level of industry-leading registrars such as NetNames. However, two LEA requirements worry registrars. The first one is a request to validate WHOIS registrar data using either telephone or email methods. The second is a request for registrars to collect registrant data and keep it for up to 2 years.

The strong reservations expressed by registrars were given further voice by a letter from the Article 29 Data Protection Working Party, an advisory group to the EU, sent to ICANN Chairman Steve Crocker and ICANN interim CEO Akram Attalah on 26 September 2012. The letter suggests that some of the requirements may actually be unlawful under European law!

Since the letter became public, many in the ICANN community have suggested that it is now high time to put an end to the RAA negotiations. The current intent is to conclude them by December and publish a new version of the RAA, which could then be approved in the first quarter of 2013.

ICANN gets personal

New ICANN CEO Fadi Chehadé has said he wants to work on clarity and communications. One concrete step towards this is the Toronto unveiling of a new, personalized ICANN website, www.myicann.org. Regular users of the www.icann.org website will find the new portal gives them greater flexibility to aggregate content of interest to them.

This includes great features such as listing content according to language, which fits perfectly with Chehadé's stated intent to boost internationalization for ICANN (see my previous blog post here) and will be of considerable help to those non-English users that have up to now found it difficult to understand what goes on at ICANN.

The new website is based on a personal account access, giving the added benefit of allowing users to customize the site to their needs. This is the first change of this magnitude made to the ICANN website since it was launched.


Written by Stéphane Van Gelder, Registry Relations and Strategy Director, NetNames

19 October 2012