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The CCT Review Needs You!

Come join the discussion on Wednesday 17:15 UTC.

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? As ICANN approaches its 18th birthday, it marks its ascension to adulthood and independence with a new framework of accountability. As we attempt to modernize and empower the organization with oversight of the DNS, the question of “who watches the watchmen?” is on the tip of everyone’s tongue. While the notion of general accountability has dominated the public discourse of late, one of the more interesting Affirmation of Commitments (AoC) mandated reviews has just begun: the assessment of the degree to which the new gTLD program has led to increased consumer trust, choice, and overall competition while providing an efficient application process and effective safeguards against abuse and unintended consequences. One key aspect of accountability is transparent, measurable goals where success can be objectively measured. Similar to a 360 review in business, it’s now an opportunity for those who have just gone through the application process to review the reviewers!

One of the most exciting aspects of this review is the mandate to incorporate data wherever possible. To that end, work has been done over the past five years to identify and collect relevant metrics that could be used to measure aspects of competition, trust, and choice. The metrics that have been tracked by ICANN staff can be found here. In addition, two studies, a survey of users and registrants, and a pricing study were begun to create a baseline for the research. The survey data can be found here and the economic study here. Both are nearing the point of phase two leading perhaps to a delta worthy of examination by the review team. The team is committed to using objective data to identify the challenges of the new gTLD program and measure the success of its recommendations. The very notion of accountability stems from the level of specificity we can employ when attempting review and reform.

The CCT Review Team (CCT-RT) has been announced and has 17 members from all parts of the community and experts in their fields. The proceedings will be made public and interested parties should speak up when they come across something of interest; there are a number of ways to do so along the way. The first and foremost is to reach out to the member of the team that best represents your interests.

However, there are a few inflection points where airing your views are most critical. One such opportunity is this Wednesday, at 17:15 UTC, during the ICANN meeting in Marrakech. As the CCT-RT begins one of the first priorities has been the construction of a work plan and the identification of topics to be considered by the team. As you might imagine, this is a critical time for input into the process. The review team cannot focus too broadly or it will never finish nor make implementable recommendations so a focused set of topics will guide the teams work. This list will be based on the availability of sufficient data to perform some analysis and a perception of relative importance to the improvement of the gTLD program.

The CCT-RT has created three sub teams: Application Process, Competition and Consumer Choice, and Consumer Trust and Safeguards. As an early exercise, each of these sub-teams began to explore the questions they should be asking about the new gTLD program. Each of these sub teams has a dedicated page where you can find their respective evolving work plans:

Briefly, however, each is posing a set of questions. For example, the Application and Evaluation team are asking questions such as whether that process sufficiently addressed the needs of the developing world. For example, are we sufficiently encouraging participation by providers in the developing world and were dispute resolution mechanisms sufficient to meet their needs? Were other communities sufficiently served by the application and dispute resolution process? Are there ways to better promote community participation in the new gTLD program? In addition, did the process provide an efficient way for the GAC to provide recommendations? Were they involved early enough in the process and did they structure their advice as effectively as possible? What are the implications of voluntary vs. mandatory public interest commitments? Finally, would the whole process be better served as ongoing rather than a sequence of rounds?

The Competition and Choice team is attempting to define the relevant market and may define more than one. There’s recognition that social media and third level domains represent competition for the DNS itself and may be relevant to the review. The team is analyzing both price and non-price competition, consumer awareness, and the propensity of domains to get into the “right” hands where they enjoy the most productive use. The team needs to explore the benefits of further segmentation of the namespace and whether those benefits outweigh the costs in terms of user confusion. The long-standing issue of “universal acceptance” raises its ugly head as it is critical to new gTLDs, including IDNs, representing real choices for consumers and registrants.

The Trust and Safeguards team are asking questions like whether the public can safely navigate to and use new gTLDs. For example, do consumers reach their intended destination and is it free of malware? The team will be exploring whether the risk of DNS abuse and end-user confusion has increased or decreased under the new gTLD program. The team will also attempt to evaluate the role of Public Interest Commitment, their impact on the DNS, and whether they are adequately enforced. Finally, the team will be exploring the efficacy of various safeguards, including those put in place for trademark owners.

Are these the questions you think we should be asking? Are there others? Is there further research that you think needs to be done beyond the metrics we’ve collected and the surveys and economic study? Are there existing resources you want to ensure are on the radar of the review team? If you answered yes to any of these questions, this would be a good time to speak up. Send us an email at [email protected] or, better yet, find a way to participate in our public session on Wednesday 17:15 UTC. You can show up to the Toubkal here in Marrakech or participate remotely via Adobe Connect here. Either way, you are welcome and we look forward to learning from your experience and perspective.

By Jonathan Zuck, Executive Director at Innovators Network Foundation

Jonathan is a widely known and respected leader in the technology industry. As a professional software developer and IT executive with more than 15 years of experience, he brings an insider’s perspective to his role as Executive Director of the Innovators Network Foundation.

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