Here’s your daily WTF moment, courtesy of ICANN’s official YouTube account.
If you’ve ever wanted to see ICANN chair Steve Crocker without his trousers — and let’s face it, who hasn’t? — now’s your chance.
Don’t ask. I’m just as baffled as you.
ICANN CEO Fadi Chehade is heading to Washington DC this week to defend plans to decouple the organization from formal US oversight in front of a potentially hostile committee of Congresspeople.
The Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation will meet this Wednesday at 1000 local time to grill Chehade and others on the plan to remove the US government from the current triumvirate responsible for managing changes to the DNS root zone under the IANA arrangements.
He will be joined by Larry Strickling, who as head of the National Telecommunications and Information Administration is the US government’s point person on the transition, and Ambassador David Gross, a top DC lawyer formerly with the Department of State.
All three men are pro-transition, while the Republican-tilted committee is likely to be much more skeptical.
The blurb for the Wednesday hearing reads:
As the U.S. government considers relinquishing control over certain aspects of Internet governance to the private sector, concerns remain that the loss of U.S. involvement over the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA) could empower foreign powers — acting through intergovernmental institutions or other surrogates — to gain increased control over critical Internet functions.
Republicans and right-leaning media commentators have warned that handing over IANA oversight to a multistakeholder body risks giving too much power to governments the US doesn’t like, such as Russia and China.
Several bills introduced in the House and Senate over the last year would have given Congress much more power to delay or deny the transition.
An amendment to an appropriations bill approved in December prevents the NTIA from spending any taxpayer money on relinquishing its DNS root oversight role until after September 30 this year, the same day that the current IANA contract expires.
This effectively prevents a transition during the current IANA contract’s run. Strickling recently said that the NTIA is complying with this legislation, but noted that it does not prevent the agency participating in the development of the transition proposal.
ICANN community working groups are currently working on plans for ICANN oversight post-NTIA and for addressing ICANN accountability.
These documents are hoped to be ready to sent to the NTIA by July, so the NTIA will have enough time to consider them before September 30.
Strickling recently addressed this date in a speech at the State of the Net conference in Washington, saying:
I want to reiterate again that there is no hard and fast deadline for this transition. September 2015 has been a target date because that is when the base period of our contract with ICANN expires. But this should not be seen as a deadline. If the community needs more time, we have the ability to extend the IANA functions contract for up to four years. It is up to the community to determine a timeline that works best for stakeholders as they develop a proposal that meets NTIA’s conditions, but also works.
Opponents of the transition say that because the NTIA is prevented from terminating the IANA contract before October 1, the NTIA will have no choice but to extend it until September 30, 2017.
Given that 2016 is a presidential election year in the US, Barack Obama would be a private citizen again by the time the next opportunity to transition comes around, they say.
Which presidential hopeful — from either party — would not buckle if asked whether he supports a plan to let Iran run the internet? That’s the political logic at work here.
Chehade himself told the AFP news agency earlier this month that the transition would have to happen before the 2016 elections, to avoid political distractions.
I’m not so sure I agree with the premise that, due to the restraints imposed by the appropriation bill, the transition now has to happen under the next president’s administration.
In my layman’s reading of the current IANA contract, the NTIA is able to terminate it for the “convenience of the government” pretty much whenever it wants.
There’s also an option to extend the contract by up to six months. The NTIA exercised this option in March 2012 when it did not approve of ICANN’s first renewal proposals.
The first new gTLD to go live is seeing its first-year renewals at 55% one year after hitting general availability.
dotShabaka Registry’s شبكة. (or “.shabaka”, the Arabic for “.web”) has also seen its zone file shrink by about 27% over the last two weeks.
The zone peaked at 2,069 domains on February 1, 2015, but today stands at 1,521. Exactly one year ago, it was at 1,561 names.
The zone is smaller today than it was just two weeks after GA began, in other words.
“We can confirm we’re seeing renewal rates for names due in February at around 55%,” Adrian Kinderis, CEO of ARI Registry Services, which runs .shabaka’s back-end, told DI in a statement.
The registry added 1,608 domains in February 2014, 1,400 of those in the first half of the month.
The 55% is the number of domains that were renewed before their February expiry date. The full number for February will not be known until the grace period ends in mid-April.
“We have a handful of cancel renews and all other expired domains are in the auto-renew period,” he said. “It’s too early to examine the numbers for renews post-expiry date, but we expect this will increase the overall tally.”
“Given the market conditions we face in the region, the results align with our forecasts and we expect the numbers to improve for renewals due in the coming weeks and months,” he said.
In gTLDs, domains can enter a Auto Renew Grace Period for up to 45 days after expiration, during which they can still be renewed by their registrant and may or may not appear in the zone file.
It wouldn’t be fair on other new gTLD registries to read to much into these numbers, assuming they do not improve, as شبكة. is a bit of an unusual case.
It’s seen low registration volume, despite the apparently attractive string, largely because it’s restricted to Arabic script at the second level and the Arabic-speaking market is in its infancy.
When شبكة. launched there were no registrars offering an end-to-end Arabic shopping cart, Kinderis said. He added:
The most significant problem still remains demand and consumer awareness…
In regards to demand, the lack of awareness is a direct result of little to no marketing in the region. Apart from our own efforts, there has been little marketing or education programs deployed to increase awareness of new Top-Level Domains and Arabic script domain names.
We have even limited our marketing efforts because we identified early that market readiness is inadequate. Any large investment in marketing from dotShabaka Registry at the moment would be premature and wasteful until supply, demand and universal acceptance issues have been addressed.
He called on ICANN and its recently created Middle East Working Group to focus on ways to increase awareness and demand for domain names in the region. To date, it’s focused too much registrars and technical issues, he said.
شبكة. has its own set of issues and is probably not the best test case for new gTLDs in general.
That’s going to come soon. Donuts’ first batch of gTLDs — .guru, .bike, .holdings, .plumbing, .singles, .ventures and .clothing — had their base-price GA anniversary on February 4, and it appears that domains have already started to drop.
There’s little indication of anything amiss in the .guru zone file so far but the other six are down slightly — by maybe 100 or so names apiece, or less than 1% each — over the last two weeks.
Donuts executives have said they expect first-year renewals to be strong, but we’ve got a few weeks left before anyone will be in a position to know for sure.
A little over a year into the live phase of the new gTLD program, a group of domain industry companies are getting together to make sure the expansion is supported across the whole internet.
A new Universal Acceptance Steering Group has formed, with the support of ICANN and the Domain Name Association, to help fix many of the compatibility problems facing new gTLD registrants today.
“The basic problem is that these new types of domains and email addresses just break stuff,” Google’s Brent London said during a UASG meeting at the ICANN meeting in Singapore last week.
“You try to use an internationalized domain or a long new gTLD, or even a short new gTLD, or certainly an internationalized email address and you’re likely to run into problems,” he said. “What we’re doing is going around asking developers to make their products work.”
Universal acceptance is a long-understood problem. Even 15 years after the approval of .info there are still web sites that validate email addresses by ensuring the TLD is no longer than three characters in length.
But the 2012 new gTLD round has brought the issue into sharper focus, particularly given the introduction of internationalized domain names, IDNs, which use non-Latin scripts.
Over the last year we’ve seen scattered examples of popular software — including browsers, instant messaging and social media apps — not recognizing new gTLD domains as domains. The problems I’ve seen are usually fixed quite quickly.
While I’ve not seen any deal-breakers that would prevent me registering a new gTLD domain, I gather that IDN email addresses are often basically unusable, due to the chain of dependencies involved in sending an email.
In my experience as a programmer, supporting all TLDs is not a particularly challenging problem when you’re coding something afresh.
However, when bad practices have been coded in to large, sprawling, interdependent systems over decades, it could be likened to the Y2K problem — the so-called Millennium Bug that caused developer headaches worldwide at the end of the last century.
There’s also a tonne of bad advice on the web, with coders telling other coders to validate domains in ways that do not support an expanding root.
UASG members think the problem is large-scale and that it’s a long-term project — 10 years or more — to fix it satisfactorily.
Members include Donuts, Google, Microsoft, Go Daddy and Afilias.
The DNA has started creating a repository of information for developers, with the aim of describing the problem in plain English and providing code samples. Along with other UASG members, there’s a plan to conduct outreach to make more people aware of the acceptance issue.
You can check out the repository in its unfinished state here.
ICANN is getting involved in a coordination role. After the UASG’s inaugural meeting in Washington DC a few weeks ago, ICANN hosted a session during ICANN 52.
New gTLD registries will have to wait a bit longer before they’re allowed to start selling two-character domain names, after ICANN’s Governmental Advisory Committee controversially issued new guidelines on their release.
The registries for hundreds of gTLDs will be affected by the delays, which could last a few months and were put in place by the ICANN board of directors at the request of the GAC at the ICANN 52 meeting in Singapore last week.
The two-character domain issue was one of the most contentious topics discussed at ICANN 52.
Exasperated registries complained to ICANN’s board that their requests to release such domains had been placed on hold by ICANN staff, apparently based on a letter from GAC chair Thomas Schneider which highlighted concerns held by a small number of governments.
The requests were frozen without a formal resolution by the board, and despite the fact that the GAC had stated more than once that it did not have consensus advice to give.
Some governments don’t want any two-letter domains that match their own ccTLDs to be released.
Italy, for example, has made it clear that it wants it.example and 1t.example blocked from registration, to avoid confusion.
Others, such as the US, have stated publicly that they have no issue with any two-character names being sold.
The process for releasing the names went live in December, following an October board resolution. It calls for a 30-day comment period on each request, with official approval coming seven to 10 days later.
But despite hundreds of requests going through the pipe, ICANN has yet to approve any. That seems to be due to Schneider’s letter, which said some governments were worried the comment process was not transparent enough.
This looked like a case of ICANN staff putting an unreasonable delay on part of registries’ businesses, based on a non-consensus GAC position that was delivered months after everyone thought it was settled law.
Registries grilled the board and senior ICANN executives about this apparent breakdown in multi-stakeholder policy-making last Tuesday, but didn’t get much in the way of an explanation.
It seems the GAC chair made the request, and ICANN implemented a freeze on a live business process, without regard to the usual formal channels for GAC advice.
However, the GAC did issue formal advice on two-letter domains on Wednesday during the Singapore meeting. ICANN’s board adopted the advice wholesale the next day.
This means that the comment period on each request — even the ones that have already completed the 30-day period — will be extended to 60 days.
The delay will be longer than a month for those already in the pipe, however, as ICANN still has to implement the board-approved changes to the process.
One of those changes is to alert governments when a new registry request has been made, a potentially complex task given that not every government is a member of the GAC.
The board’s resolution says that all comments from governments “will be fully considered”, which probably means we won’t be seeing the string “it” released in any new gTLD.
The GAC has also said it will publish a list of governments that do not intend to object to any request, and a list of governments that intend to object to every request.