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Brussels and the Month Afterwards: Celebrations, New gTLD and Security and Stability Issues Ahead

The 38th ICANN Conference, held in Brussels last month, was an eventful one for .ORG The Public Interest Registry. We got world-wide press coverage for our announcement that we implemented DNSSEC for the entire .ORG top-level domain. Among the many nice compliments we got were these words from Lynn St. Amour, President and CEO of the Internet Society. “Implementing DNSSEC for the .ORG top-level domain is an important step in ensuring the global Internet serves as a trusted channel for communication and collaboration and we applaud the Public Interest Registry’s efforts in this area”. While at the Conference, the Internet Society was the first user of a .ORG domain name to deploy DNSSEC.

Another reason for PIR to celebrate was the 25th anniversary of the launching of the .ORG domain. Although PIR did not take over management of the .ORG registry until January, 2003, PIR celebrated the occasion by sponsoring a gala Music Night at the Conference Center in Brussels, with hundreds of participants joining the festivities. We received a nice letter from President/CEO of Mitre Corporation celebrating .ORG’s Anniversary and MITRE’s special status as the first .ORG registrant in 1985.

Meanwhile, the regular work of ICANN continues, with some progress in some areas, but lots of continuing projects that will become the subject of the next conference in Cartagena, Colombia in December. In particular, the knotty issue of “vertical integration”, the question of how much cross-ownership will be allowed among registries and registrars, has not been resolved. PIR remains supportive of continuing a “structural separation model” between registries and registrars as the best way to address the needs of the ICANN community, and provide for clear and easily enforceable compliance. This model supports ICANN’s commitment to “equivalent access,” the principle that a gTLD registry must work equally with all ICANN-accredited registrars. Preserving equivalent access will keep the barriers to entry low for new and small registrars, particularly those serving cultural and language communities worldwide that might otherwise be underserved.

The GNSO’s Whois Working Group despite great effort, has been unable to reach consensus. Its Initial Report (with multiple proposed solutions) was posted for Public Comment on Friday. The report and comment information are available on the ICANN website. (comment deadline 8/12). Kathy Kleiman, Director of Policy with PIR, was active in both the Working Group and the drafting of this report.

Other aspects of the ongoing new generic top level domain process, discussed at great length in Brussels, remain on the front burner of issues to be resolved before going forward with new gTLDs. There was considerable progress on procedures for the protection of intellectual property, including the Trademark Clearinghouse, Uniform Rapid Suspension system, and the Post-Delegation Dispute Policy. Proposed tweaks and changes were part of an animated set of comments filed in the period which closed last week. The terms and conditions in the base agreement for the new domain registries are beginning to take shape after some serious negotiations between ICANN and many of the interested parties. Extensive comments by the Registries Stakeholder Group, after very close review of the issues and contract language, can be found at the ICANN forum 4gtld.

This is not to say that the road to a final new gTLD process is smooth and straight. There are some issues, such as the question of morality and public order in new gTLDs that are nowhere near resolution. The Governmental Advisory Committee (GAC) made it clear that many of its members are extremely unhappy with the approach being taken by ICANN.

Security and stability issues are being addressed by the Access to Zone Files Working Group, the High Security Domains Working Group, and a community-wide effort to evaluate the issues of Internet/DNS-CERTs (computer emergency response teams) and how they might be defined and implemented.

Another topic that got worldwide press coverage in Brussels was the approval by ICANN of the application for a new domain, .xxx that will attempt to be the exclusive location of so-called adult material. The approval depends in part on further negotiations with the GAC. Considering all the hard work done on more substantial issues facing ICANN, it is ironic that this was apparently the single most newsworthy event.

Finally, the inner workings of ICANN itself in Brussels and continuing afterwards remain the subject of an interesting proceeding. When ICANN and the US Department of Commerce signed the Affirmation of Commitments last year, ICANN agreed to the creation of review teams on various subjects. The first team, reviewing ICANN’s commitment to transparency and accountability, has commenced its work. This led to some friction when Rod Beckstrom, CEO of ICANN, questioned its objectivity. The spat was smoothed over, at least superficially, by a joint statement of mutual assurances of respect. Comments to the Accountability and Transparency Review Team are interesting reading, and the call to submit case studies remains open until the end of July.

Written by David Maher, Senior VP, .ORG, The Public Interest Registry

By .ORG, The Original Purpose-Driven Generic Top-Level Domain

Public Interest Registry (PIR) is a nonprofit that operates the .ORG top-level domain – one of the world’s largest generic top-level domains with more than 10.6 million domain names registered worldwide. PIR has been a champion for a free and open Internet for two decades with a clear mission to be an exemplary domain name registry, provide a trusted digital identity and help educate those who dedicate themselves to improving our world.

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