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ICANN names compliance chief

Kevin Murphy, March 15, 2011, Domain Policy

ICANN has found itself a new senior director of contractual compliance, nine months after the post was vacated.

Maguy Serad, most recently with Nissan North America, starts April 4 at ICANN’s headquarters in Marina Del Rey, California.

She’s apparently a Black Belt Six-Sigma (don’t worry, that’s a real thing), Liberian by birth and currently a Lebanese citizen. She speaks English, French and Arabic.

ICANN has also hired Colombian intellectual property lawyer Carlos Alvarez as a new contractual compliance manager/auditor. He has a history in initiatives fighting software piracy and child pornography.

The timing of the hires means ICANN has probably dodged a bullet.

There have been grumblings in some parts of the ICANN community about the vacant compliance posts for some months, and some stakeholders here at the San Francisco meeting planned to make their feelings known to ICANN’s senior staff and board.

ICANN’s compliance team is responsible for monitoring and enforcing ICANN’s contracts with registries and registrars, which will become a lot more important when the new top-level domains program kicks off.

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Beckstrom calls for ICANN’s independence

Kevin Murphy, March 15, 2011, Domain Policy

ICANN president Rod Beckstrom has called for the organization to be allowed to further loosen its ties to the US government.

The two-hour opening ceremony of its 40th public meeting, here in San Francisco this morning, had a heavy focus on ICANN’s relationship with governments, and looked as much to its roots in the Clinton administration as it addressed more immediate concerns internationally.

Beckstrom and others tackled the renewal of the soon-to-expire IANA contract, with which the US grants ICANN many of its powers over the domain name system, head-on.

Beckstrom said some have expressed “a belief that the US government should live up to its 1998 White Paper commitment to transfer management of the IANA functions to the private sector-led organization entrusted to manage the DNS, which is ICANN. ”

That would mean severing one of the most frequently criticized links between ICANN and the USA.

In a press conference later, he confirmed that this is in fact his belief, saying that internet governance is “evolving behind the curve” as internet usage grows internationally.

The US handing the keys to the internet over to ICANN doesn’t appear to be immediately likely, however. But there may be some ways to continue to phase out the US special relationship on a shorter term basis.

Beckstrom took the stage shortly after Lawrence Strickling, head of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration, part of the US Department of Commerce, made some frank criticisms.

While stressing the Obama administration’s commitment to what he called “multistakeholderism” in internet governance, he had a few pointed remarks to make about ICANN’s decision-making process.

He accused the ICANN board of directors of “picking winners and losers” by making decisions in situations where the community has been unable to reach a consensus policy.

He singled out two recent policies where he believes ICANN has failed to sufficiently rationalize its decisions: registry-registrar integration and economic studies into new TLDs.

The criticisms are not new, and many of them may well go away if and when ICANN implements the recommendations of its Accountability and Transparency Review Team.

My initial sense is that the fact Strickling was able to speak so frankly and so publicly about the administration’s feelings is an encouraging sign of ICANN’s maturity.

And Beckstrom’s response was equally ballsy, urging ICANN’s supporters to lobby the NTIA for a loosening of US-ICANN ties.

The NTIA’s Notice Of Inquiry regarding IANA, which floats the idea of breaking up the IANA functions and possibly assigning them to three different entities, was released a few weeks ago.

During his address this morning, former ICANN chair Vint Cerf put forth the view that this kind of government procurement contract may be an inappropriate mechanism for overseeing IANA functions:

I believe that that concept of procuring service from ICANN really ought to change to become a cooperative agreement because I believe that format expresses more correctly the relationship between ICANN and the Department of Commerce.

Beckstrom evidently agrees with Cerf. At the press conference, he pointed out that the disadvantage of a procurement contract is that it’s short term, undermining confidence in ICANN.

It also requires ICANN to run the IANA to the benefit of the American people, rather than the international community, he said. This obviously can reinforce the perception in some parts of the world that ICANN has an untenable American bias.

“A cooperative agreement seems more befitting of the relationship the NTIA and ICANN has developed,” he said, noting that this is currently the structure of NTIA’s relationship with VeriSign.

The Number Resource Organization may give a further clue to ICANN’s game plan in this email (pdf) published today, in which the NRO says:

We strongly believe that no government should have a special role in managing, regulating or supervising the IANA functions.

The NRO suggests that ICANN, through these coming negotiations, should advocate for a staged reduction of the level of DoC’s oversight to IANA. This process could possibly involve a transitionfrom a contract to a cooperation agreement, and ultimately arrival at a non-binding arrangement, such as an affirmation of commitments

Beckstrom now wants your help to make this happen. During his keynote, he urged the ICANN community to make its disparate views known to the NTIA, “openly and in writing”.

“This is the chance to add your voice to those determining the fate of the IANA function,” he said. “If your voice is to be heard, you must speak up.”

“When all voices are heard, no single voice can dominate an organization – not even governments. Not even the government that facilitated its creation,” Beckstrom said.

Details about how to respond to the NOI can be found in this PDF.

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ICANN staff grilled over new TLDs

Kevin Murphy, March 13, 2011, Domain Registries

ICANN’s San Francisco meeting kicked off this morning with staff members responsible for the new top-level domains program answering – and trying to answer – stakeholder questions.

The short version: it’s still not clear what the end result of San Francisco will be when it comes to new TLDs.

The big deal this week is ICANN’s ongoing consultation with its Governmental Advisory Committee, which remains the biggest hurdle before ICANN can approve the program.

GNSO stakeholders wanted to know the current state of play with this consultation, and how close ICANN is to wrapping up policy development and launching the new TLD program.

A key question is whether the two days of talks the board has scheduled for this week count as the final GAC consultation called for in ICANN’s bylaws.

If they are, the board and the GAC could wrap up their negotiations before the board meets on Friday, and the program is one step closer to approval. ICANN wants this.

If they’re not, we could be looking at further GAC talks stretching on into the weeks or months between now and the Singapore meeting in June. The GAC seems to want this.

ICANN senior vice president Kurt Pritz said that the board and GAC met for one hour yesterday, but that they still have not agreed on the “bylaws” designation.

He said that the board “has a sense of urgency” about approving the program as soon as possible, and that the GAC is newly “energized”.

Staff were asked, by VeriSign’s Chuck Gomes and Minds + Machines’ Antony Van Couvering, whether such a consultation is needed at all.

After all, as has been discussed in articles on CircleID and .nxt recently, there’s no mention in the ICANN bylaws of a “consultation” per se.

Deputy general counsel Dan Halloran said that this is an area still open for discussion, but indicated that reaching common ground on the substantive issues is currently the priority.

There seems to be a feeling that the current talks represent not only a necessary step in approving new TLDs, but also a landmark piece of cooperation in the sphere of internet governance.

On the substantive issues, ICANN has currently marked each of the 80 points the GAC has made with the designation 1a, 1b or 2, depending on whether agreement has been reached, only reached in principle, or has not been reached at all.

The focus this week is going to be on the 23 “2s”. These are the issues, Pritz said, where ICANN has determined that to agree with the GAC would run contrary to the GNSO’s consensus positions.

Philip Corwin of the Internet Commerce Association, which represents domain investors, wanted to know whether “1a” topics are currently locked – the ICA is unhappy with a 1a concession ICANN has made regarding the Uniform Rapid Suspension policy.

The answer from staff was basically yes — a 1a is where ICANN’s board and staff think “we’re done”, Pritz said.

The plan for the rest of the week is to hold open discussions on the new TLD process on Monday and Wednesday, with corresponding bilateral GAC-board sessions on Tuesday and Thursday.

Stakeholder groups have been invited to make statements before and to inform these sessions.

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Slim pickings in the ICANN 40 schwag bag

Kevin Murphy, March 13, 2011, Gossip

Perhaps I checked in too early, before all the sponsors have showed up, but the schwag bag for the ICANN San Francisco meeting seems to offer surprisingly slim pickings.

Here’s what you can expect to clutter up your luggage if you’re in attendance at ICANN 40.

  • Baseball-style executive stress squeezy toy (VeriSign, .net)
  • Black polo shirt (IronDNS)
  • M&Ms-style candy (NameMedia)
  • Coffee mug (RegistryPro, .pro)
  • Badge/button (.green)
  • Mini beer-flagon-style shot glass thing (United Domains, newdomains.org)
  • Pack of tissues (.SO Registry, .so)
  • Post-it notes (VeriSign, .net)

Given the high sponsorship fees and the anticipated turn-out of 1,600 to 2,000 delegates, I was expecting much more. Perhaps some gold-plated breath mints or Armani cufflinks.

Never mind.

Still, nice to see .SO Registry pushing the boat out there. Tissues are always useful, but I was expecting at least a branded eye-patch.

I shall re-register under a fake name in a day or two to see if the quality of the schwag improves.

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dotMusic and ICANN execs form TLD consultancy

Kevin Murphy, March 11, 2011, Domain Services

Just what the world needs, another top-level domain consultancy.

Constantine Roussos, best known his campaign for .music, has teamed up with ICANN veteran Tina Dam to launch MyTLD.com, promising to help applicants with their TLD bids.

Dam was senior director of internationalized domain names at ICANN, spearheading the IDN ccTLD Fast Track program, until she quit last December.

Those are good credentials, especially for supporting IDN TLD applicants.

Dam is currently critical of how ICANN’s Applicant Guidebook treats IDN TLDs, saying that the process is too expensive and does not effectively handle transliterations and translations.

Roussos is an entrepreneur, owner of music.us/.biz/.co, who has been pushing his own self-financed .music bid for the last couple of years.

A running joke at the recent .nxt conference was that he was once an “outsider” but has since been firmly institutionalized by the ICANN environment. He’s also critical of aspects of the Guidebook.

MyTLD.com is the latest of a series of companies to form over the last few months to provide consulting to potential TLD applicants.

Recently, domain investors Mike Berkens and Monte Cahn founded Right Of The Dot, which specializes in marketing and premium domain strategy.

And Alexa Raad, former CEO of the .org registry PIR, is currently plugging her new consulting play, Architelos.

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