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Belgium slashes its ICANN funding in “mission creep” protest

Kevin Murphy, August 12, 2022, 12:02:44 (UTC), Domain Policy

DNS Belgium has cut its contribution to ICANN’s budget by two thirds, in protest at ICANN’s “mission creep” and its handling of GDPR.

The Belgian ccTLD registry informed ICANN CFO Xavier Calvez that it will only pay $25,000 this fiscal year, compared to the $75,000 it usually pays.

Registry general manager Philip Du Bois wrote (pdf) that “during recent years there has been a shift in focus which is not in the benefit of ccTLD’s”.

ICANN has become a large corporate structure with a tendency to suffer from “mission creep”… At the same time ICANN seems to fail in dealing in an appropriate way with important issues such as GDPR/privacy. It goes beyond our comprehension that ICANN and its officers don’t feel any reluctancy to “advise” European institutions and national governmental bodies to embrace “standards developed by the multi-stakeholder structures on international level” while at the same time it is obvious that ICANN itself has not yet mastered the implementation of important European legislation.

Based in the heart of the EU, DNS Belgium was a strong proponent of Whois privacy many years before the GDPR came into effect in 2018.

Calvez, in his reply (pdf), acknowledges that ccTLD contributions are voluntary, but seems to insinuate (call me a cynic) that the criticisms are hollow and that the registry might simply be trying to reduce its costs during an economic downturn:

We do appreciate any amount of contribution, and also that the ability for any ccTLD to contribute varies over time, including based on economic circumstances. We do understand that the reduction of DNS Belgium’s contribution from US$75,000 to US$25,000 represents a significant and meaningful reduction of costs for DNS Belgium.

DNS Belgium seems to be doing okay, based on its latest annual financial report. It’s not a huge company, but registrations and revenue have been growing at a slow and steady rate for the last several years.

All ccTLD contributions to ICANN are voluntary, but there are suggested donations based on how many domains a registry has under management, ranging from the $225,000 paid by the likes of the UK registry to the $500 paid by the likes of Pitcairn.

DNS Belgium, which manages about 1.7 million names, falls into the third-highest band, with a $75,000 suggested contribution.

ICANN is budgeting for funding of $152 million in its current FY23.

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Comments (5)

  1. John McCabe says:

    It’s bad enough when the peasants are storming the fortress, but when national governments do, things have historically escalated into world war.

    This is a canary in the coal mine for ICANN, which may choose to respond with a “let them eat brioche” response, as a clueless Marie Antoinette famously did back when (because she also did not grasp the underlying issue).

    I have recently joined the RySG and hoped to press for the OPTIONAL inclusion of digital identifiers in the next gTLD round. But since the multi-stakeholder process is nearing completion, out of respect for the participants’ huge contribution, and my eleventh-hour arrival, I withdrew my request.

    The OPTIONAL publication of DIDs may in future provide a meeting ground for such parties, but even a movement in that direction could signal ICANN détente toward the ccTLD constituency (rather than a regal, “Never explain, never complain.”)

    Nonetheless, it does seem particularly timely in light of Decentralized Identifiers (DIDs) v1.0 being published as a W3C Recommendation (which also specifies blockchain compatibility) on July 19, 2022. The work has been done, as evidenced by the fact that DIDs are already in RFC 9083, Hollenbeck & Newton’s JSON Responses for the Registration Data Access Protocol (RDAP), where it says at page 5:

    “Object Classes / 5.1 The Entity Object Class is stated: This object class represents the information of organizations, corporations, governments, non-profits, clubs, individual persons, and informal groups of people.”

    and, at page 20:
    “The entity object class can contain the following members:” (inter alia) “publicIds — see Section 4.8”.

    At the age of sixteen, I developed my first theory of communication: before you can tell anybody anything, you have to get their attention. I chose a two-week vacation to Hawaii with youthful earnings (without first seeking parental consent); Belgium has chosen a reduction in their voluntary patronage of ICANN to voice their disapproval of the status quo (and chose to limit voluntary support payments).

    Unfortunately for ICANN, their action is likely to resound with other ccTLDs, some of whose governments may simply have other financial priorities for those funds at this time. ICANN may not need the money, but the tinge of insurrection is unflattering to say the least.

    Such is life.

    • John McCabe says:

      In the event that it was unclear in my previous Comment, I was NOT advocating for the use of blockchain-based technologies such as the Decentralized Identifiers (DIDs) v1.0 (published as a W3C Recommendation on July 19, 2022), but rather pointing out that DIDs would likely be one of many “types” that seem to be compatible with RFC 9083 in the future.

      What I wished instead to draw attention to is not only that RFC 9083 exists, but also that it has the potential to identify a range of publicIds, of which the more traditional ones may be of particular interest to DomainIncite readers.

      As stated above, in RFC 9083 – JSON Responses for the Registration Data Access Protocol (RDAP), S. Hollenbeck & A. Newton at 5. Object Classes / 5.1 The Entity Object Class is state the range of suitable information sources at “d:”(see earlier Comment) and include publicIds as among the possible members of the entity object class.

      Further, at “4.8. Public IDs” RFC 9083 it is articulated that:
      “This data structure maps a public identifier to an object class. It is named “publicIds” and is an array of objects, with each object containing the following members:

      · type — a string denoting the type of public identifier
      · identifier — a string denoting a public identifier of the type
      related to “type”

      In lieu of RFC 9083’s example, we offer our own, OF THE TYPE WE DO ADVOCATE at this time:

      “type”: “LEI”,
      “identifier”: “254900GOXTEHAE3DHQ65”

      It might also be possible to hypertext link the public data source to make these publicIds clickable (although this would likely require a revision to RFC 9083).

      Who’s Who Registry already uses a clickable LEI in the masthead of our Invoices (rendered separately in this Comment box, text + hypertext-linked string):

      LEI: 254900GOXTEHAE3DHQ65

      Created in response to the aftermath of the 2008 global financial crisis, when counter-parties to transactions could not be adequately identified, LEIs currently number over 2 million. The Global Legal Entity Identifier Foundation ( is also launching the vLEI which links together [a legal entity + a person + a role], which should offer an GDPR-friendly resolution to publishing personal names as identifiers in future.

      With the LEI included on the invoice, the party generating the invoice is unequivocally identified. Why not OPTIONALLY for domain names?

  2. Rubens Kuhl says:

    Besides being the registry for .be, DNS Belgium also operates .brussels and .vlaanderen. It’s more likely that the GDPR issues they are referring are about the gTLDs, since they have full control of GDPR compliance on the ccTLD side, and that the shift in focus they mention is also about the new gTLD program.
    But they can’t stop or change payments for the gTLDs, which amounts to USD 50k per annum for both gTLDs, the same amount they deducted from their ccTLD contribution.

  3. Volker Greimann says:

    Frankly, ICANN advising governments how to regulate their ccTLDs is an outrage and reminiscent of the conflicts between ICANN and ccTLDs in the early days of ICANN that led to the ccTLDs withdrawing from the DNSO.

    ICANN needs to remember its remit is the management of the gTLD space and stay out of the realm of the ccTLDs.

  4. John McCabe says:

    Where is the “institutional memory,” or is that viewed as unimportant. Just as Belgium being the seat of the European parliament … is merely coincidental and symbolic of absolutely nothing.

    Indeed, princes, diplomats and politicians are famous for their direct and to the point communication. Take Machiavelli for example: a real straight-shooter if there ever was one.

    Spanish philosopher George Santayana is credited with the aphorism, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” (Or, in another’s words: “Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” Sir Winston Churchill.)

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