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Delays likely as governments demand gTLD timetable rethink

Kevin Murphy, June 19, 2012, Domain Policy

If you think you’ll be able to launch your new generic top level domain in the first quarter of 2013, you can pretty much forget it.

The Governmental Advisory Committee told ICANN yesterday that it does not think it will be able to provide advice on new gTLD applications until April 2013 at the earliest.

It’s also told ICANN to seriously reconsider its controversial digital archery program and the whole gTLD application batching concept.

The current timetable calls for GAC Early Warnings – the “headsup” stage for applicants – to be submitted concurrently with the public comment period, which runs through August 12.

The more substantial GAC Advice on New gTLDs period is meant to track with the regular objection window, which is expected to close about seven months from now, in January 2013.

Now the GAC says it won’t be able to meet either of those deadlines.

In a letter to ICANN chairman Steve Crocker, GAC chair Heather Dryden gave applicants several excellent reasons to believe that the Applicant Guidebook’s timetable will not be met:

the GAC has identified several benefits from having a single Early Warning period in relation to all applications (these relate to efficiency, consistency, and timeliness). On this basis, the GAC advises the Board that it is planning to issue any Early Warnings shortly after the Toronto ICANN meeting, in October 2012.

Given the delays to the gTLD application process, the timing of upcoming ICANN meetings, and the amount of work involved, the GAC advises the Board that it will not be in a position to offer any advice on new gTLD applications in 2012. For this reason, the GAC is considering the implications of providing any GAC advice on gTLD applications. These considerations are not expected to be finalised before the Asia-Pacific meeting in April 2013.

The bold text was in the original, indicating that this is official GAC advice that should not be ignored.

Given the bigger picture, with the looming threat of the ITU’s big summit in December, ICANN is likely to be extra receptive to governmental advice.

Readers will notice that Dryden isn’t saying that the GAC will provide its objections before April 2013, merely that it won’t have finished thinking about the “implications” of such advice before April 2013.

What this means for the gTLD evaluation timeline is anyone’s guess. I expect more clarity will be requested during ICANN’s public meeting in Prague next week.

These two pieces of timing advice have the effect of focusing ICANN’s mind on the more immediate problem of application batching.

The GAC seems to be backing calls from registries and intellectual property interests to scrap the batching concept and the ramshackle “digital archery” system.

Dryden wrote (pdf):

the GAC is concerned that the potential risks associated with the digital archery and batching mechanisms may outweigh the benefits. In light of ICANN’s decision to initiate digital archery on 8 June 2012, the GAC advises the Board to consult with the community as a matter of urgency to consider ways to improve its assessment and delegation processes in order to minimise the downside risks and uncertainty for applicants.

In line with the concerns raised by the community, this should include a focus on competition and fairness with delegation timing.

Far be it from me to suggest that the GAC picked its revised advice deadlines strategically, but they do seem to fit quite nicely into a batchless Initial Evaluation period that lasts about a year, as some community members have recently proposed.

Those who were paying attention during the panel discussion portion of Reveal Day last week will have noticed me and a couple of audience members putting Cherine Chalaby, chair of ICANN’s board new gTLDs committtee, on the spot about batching.

Chalaby confirmed that the committee – which has the powers of the board when it comes to new gTLDs – wants to hear from the community about batching during the Prague meeting.

The trick, he indicated, is to be able to reconsider batching without simply relocating it to the pre-delegation phase of the program, which will probably be next year.

“We will listen to alternatives and we will think about it, there’s no doubt, you have to be open minded about it,” he said.

My sense is that if opponents of batching want to have a shot at getting it killed off, they’re going to have to present a strong case – with a fully considered alternative – during their face-to-face with the ICANN board of directors on Monday.

Moaning and whining isn’t going to cut it this time, ICANN is going to want to see dates, delegation models, the works.

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The TLD Song: an instant classic

Kevin Murphy, June 18, 2012, Gossip

I may not agree with all of Lauren Weinstein’s views on ICANN’s new generic top-level domain expansion, but damn, the man can spoof a Gilbert & Sullivan song.

Check out Weinstein’s blog for the lyrics and a downloadable MP3.

Kudos, sir.

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ICANN CEO to be announced Friday

Kevin Murphy, June 18, 2012, Domain Policy

ICANN will reveal the identity of its new CEO at a press conference this coming Friday.

But there’s a rumor going around that he or she is not expected to actually join the organization until September.

ICANN has just issued a press release stating that it will hold a news conference in Prague at 1600 local time (1400 UTC) during which Rod Beckstrom’s replacement will take questions from reporters.

People have been asking me for months if I know who it is and I have to say I haven’t got a clue.

The latest rumor doing the rounds, however, is that whoever has been selected will not actually take the helm until later this year.

I’ve heard September from some sources and October from others, but ICANN is currently declining to confirm or deny the rumor.

Beckstrom announced his departure from ICANN a year ago. His contract expires at the end of the month and is not expected to be extended.

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China proposes to split up the DNS

Kevin Murphy, June 18, 2012, Domain Policy

A trio of Chinese techies have proposed a new IETF standard to enable governments to break up the Domain Name System along national borders.

Named “DNS Extension for Autonomous Internet (AIP)”, the spec describes a way to operate alternate DNS root servers within national boundaries using gateways for translation.

For internet users subscribed to one of these “AIP” networks, DNS requests would carry an extra TLD, such as .a or .b, to flag the fact that the requests are headed for an alternate root:

Domain node “www.yahoo.com” in network B is expressed as “www.yahoo.com.B” for its external domain name.

Written in broken English, the Internet Draft is a poorly masked description of a way to install government censorship via officially sanctioned domain name system Balkanization.

It appears to be designed to enable governments to cut ICANN and the authoritative DNS root out of the picture entirely in favor of a national peering system more akin to traditional telecoms networks.

The paper reads:

In order to realize the transition from Internet to Autonomous Internet, each partition of current Internet should first realize possible self-government and gradually reduce its dependence on the foreign domain names, such as COM, NET et al.

It is not likely the whole Internet can be transformed synchronally in one time. In order not to affect existing domain name resolution before the Internet core part transforms into an AIP network, any country can set up an AIP DNS independently and connect to the Internet through the original link; or any two countries in agreement can set up their AIP networks and connect to each others.

The paper was written by Yuping Diao of Guangdong Commercial College, Yongping Diao of China Telecom and Ming Liao of China Mobile.

It’s just an Internet Draft at this stage, and probably nothing to get too worked up about, but it does reflect the Bigger Picture framing the ICANN expansion of the DNS.

During the ITU’s World Conference on International Telecommunications this December, backwards governments are expected to proposed a greater degree of government control over the internet.

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ICANN apologizes for gTLD privacy snafu

ICANN’s top brass have sent personal apologies to the people whose home addresses were exposed when it published their new gTLD applications last week.

The organization blamed “human error” and said it is now conducting an “investigation” to figure out what went wrong.

The note, which is signed by CEO Rod Beckstrom, chairman Steve Crocker, and COO Akram Atallah, reads:

Dear [name of the affected executive],

On behalf of ICANN, we want to personally apologize for our error in exposing your postal address on the TLD Application website. This was a human error, and we have corrected it. We are conducting an internal investigation in order to learn from this mistake and to ensure that it does not happen again.

In the meantime, please be assured that the New Generic Top-level Domain Program remains on track. We are moving ahead with the screening and evaluation of applications, and returning to our shared goal of bringing competition and choice to the Internet’s domain name space.

We are committed to serving you to the very best of our ability and to ensuring the integrity of the New gTLD Program. If you have questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us directly.

Sincerely,

ICANN

As I blogged last week, ICANN accidentally neglected to redact the home addresses of many applicants’ named primary and secondary contacts when it published all 1,930 applications last week.

It has since removed the offending information.

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