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ICANN shuffles regional bosses, drops “hub” concept

Kevin Murphy, June 29, 2017, Domain Policy

ICANN has made a couple of changes to its senior management team and abandoned the Chehade-era concept of “hub” offices.

Rather than having three offices it calls “hubs” in different parts of the world — Los Angeles, Istanbul and Singapore — it will now have five of what it calls “regional offices”.

As well as the three former hubs, one will be in Brussels, Belgium and the other in Montevideo, Uruguay.

A few vice presidents are being shuffled around to head up each of these offices.

Senior policy VP David Olive is being replaced as managing director of the Istanbul office by Nick Tomasso, who’s also VP in charge of ICANN’s public meetings. Olive will carry on in his VP role, but back in Washington DC, from August.

Fellow policy VP and veteran GAC relations guy Olof Nordling is retiring from ICANN at the end of the July. His role as MD of the Brussels office will be filled by Jean-Jacques Sahel, VP of stakeholder engagement for Europe.

Rodrigo de la Parra, VP of stakeholder engagement for the Latin America region, will be MD of the Montevideo office. Jia-Rong Low runs the Singapore office. ICANN CEO Goran Marby of course is top dog in LA.

The difference in nomenclature — “hub” versus “regional office” — looks to me like it’s quite minor.

Former CEO Fadi Chehade had early on in his stint at ICANN professed a desire to pursue a strategy of aggressive internationalization, with hub offices having equal importance, but I don’t think the idea ever really took off to the extent he expected and he didn’t stick around long enough to see it through.

In addition, the IANA transition last year, which separated ICANN from its US government oversight, pretty much carved ICANN’s California roots into stone for the time being.

ICANN heading to Japan and Canada in 2019

Kevin Murphy, June 28, 2017, Domain Policy

ICANN has named two of the host cities for its 2019 public meetings.

The community will descend upon Kobe, Japan in March 2019 for the first meeting of the year and will head to Montreal, Canada, for the annual general meeting in November.

Both locations were approved by the ICANN board of directors at a meeting this weekend.

The location of the middle “policy forum” meeting for 2019 has not yet been identified.

ICANN is currently meeting in Johannesburg, South Africa. Later this year it will convene in Abu Dhabi, UAE.

Spanish speakers can rejoice next year, when the locations, in order, are Barcelona, Panama City and San Juan (the Puerto Rican one).

Cybersquatting cases down in .uk

Kevin Murphy, June 23, 2017, Domain Policy

The number of cybersquatting complaints filed against .uk domains fell in 2016, according to data out this week from Nominet.

The .uk registry said that there were 703 complaints filed with its Dispute Resolution Service in the year, down from 728 in 2015.

However, the number of individual domains complained about appears to have increased, from 745 to 785. That’s partly due to registrants owning both .co.uk and .uk versions of the same name.

The number of cases that resulted in domains being transferred was 53%, the same as 2015, Nominet said.

The large majority of cases were filed by UK-based entities against UK-based registrants, the stats show.

Zone file access is crap, security panel confirms

Kevin Murphy, June 20, 2017, Domain Policy

ICANN’s Centralized Zone Data Service has some serious shortcomings and needs an overhaul, according to the Security and Stability Advisory Committee.

The panel of DNS security experts has confirmed what CZDS subscribers, including your humble correspondent, have known since 2014 — the system had a major design flaw baked in from day one for no readily apparent reason.

CZDS is the centralized repository of gTLD zone files. It’s hosted by ICANN and aggregates zones from all 2012-round, and some older, gTLDs on a daily basis.

Signing up for it is fairly simple. You simply fill out your contact information, agree to the terms of service, select which zones you want and hit “submit”.

The purpose of the service is to allow researchers to receive zone files without having to enter into separate agreements with each of the 1,200+ gTLDs currently online.

The major problem, as subscribers know and SSAC has confirmed, is that the default subscription period is 90 days.

Unless the gTLD registry extends the period at its end and in its own discretion, each subscription ends after three months — cutting off access — and the subscriber must reapply.

Many of the larger registries exercise this option, but many — particularly dot-brands — do not.

The constant need to reapply and re-approve creates a recurring arse-ache for subscribers and, registry staff have told me, the registries themselves.

The approval process itself is highly unpredictable. Some of the major registries process requests within 24 hours — I’ve found Afilias is the fastest — but I’ve been waiting for approval for Valuetainment’s .voting since September 2016.

Some dot-brands even attempt to insert extra terms of service into the deal before approving requests, which defeats the entire purpose of having a centralized service in the first place.

Usually, a polite email to the person handling the requests can produce results. Other times, it’s necessary to report them to ICANN Compliance.

The SSAC has evidently interviewed many people who share my concerns, as well as looking at data from Compliance (where CZDS reliably generates the most complaints, wasting the time of Compliance staff).

This situation makes zone file access unreliable and subject to unnecessary interruptions. The missing data introduces “blind spots” in security coverage and research projects, and the reliability of software – such as security and analytics applications – that relies upon zone files is reduced. Lastly, the introduced inefficiency creates additional work for both registry operators and subscribers.

The SSAC has no idea why the need to reapply every 90 days was introduced, figuring it must have happened during implementation.

But it recommends that access agreements should automatically renew once they expire, eliminating the busywork of reapplying and closing the holes in researchers’ data sets.

As I’m not objective on this issue, I agree with that recommendation wholeheartedly.

I’m less keen on the SSAC’s recommendation that registries should be able to opt out of the auto-renewals on a per-subscriber basis. This will certainly be abused by the precious snowflake dot-brands that have already shown their reluctance to abide by their contractual obligations.

The SSAC report can be read here (pdf).

Ombudsman steps in after harassment claims in Whois group

Kevin Murphy, June 16, 2017, Domain Policy

ICANN Ombudsman Herb Waye has started monitoring an ICANN mailing list after multiple complaints of disrespectful behavior.

Waye this week told participants in the Registration Data Services working group that he is to trawl through their list archives and proactively monitor the group following “multiple complaints regarding behavior that contravenes the ICANN Expected Standards of Behavior and possibly the Community Anti-Harassment Policy”.

The RDS working group is exploring the possibility of replacing the current Whois system, in which all data is completely open, with something “gated”, restricting access to authenticated individuals based on their role.

Law enforcement agencies, for example, may be able to get a greater level of access to personal contact information than schmucks like me and you.

Privacy advocates are in favor of giving registrants more control over their data, while anti-abuse researchers hate anything that will limit their ability to stop spam, phishing and the like.

It’s controversial stuff, and arguments on the RDS WG list have been been very heated recently, sometimes spilling over into ad hominem attacks.

The Expected Standards of Behavior requires all ICANN community members to treat each other with civility.

I haven’t seen anything especially egregious, but apparently the disrespect on display has been sufficiently upsetting that the Ombudsman has had to step in.

It’s the first time, that I’m aware of, that the ICANN Ombudsman has proactively monitored a list rather than simply responding to complaints.

Waye said that he plans to deliver his verdict before ICANN 59, which kicks off in a little over a week.