The World Turned Upside Down
It's fortunate that as my first blog, I should have the occasion to comment on a rather eventful ICANN meeting, namely the 37th ICANN meeting in Nairobi.
This was a meeting that almost did not happen, and when it did it produced some remarkable decisions from the ICANN Board of Directors. Although the discussions prior to the ICANN meeting have been oft repeated, the undercurrent of the meeting was a new one: the ICANN Community seems to like the direction ICANN is heading in offering new top level domains (gTLDs), but not the emerging details of who and how companies will be applying for these domain.
The idea of filing for an “The Expressions of Interest” (EOIs) even prior to completing all the rules for the new gTLD application process, for example, was a interesting idea. EOIs were – and one designed to give ICANN, and all the ICANN Community, a sense of who is interested in what new gTLDs – and provide a jump-start to the now long drawn-out process of establishing the new gTLD rules of the road. However, the knowledge and understanding of the EOI process did not spread equally around the world, and missed some regions almost completely. In the end, I think there was a sense that moving forward with the EOIs, on their fast-track, would be unfair to certain groups and countries. So on March 12th, at its main meeting, the Board voted to veto the EOI idea (Resolution #4). They voted the same night to launch a new set of communication activities to let the global Internet community know more about the new gTLD process and application opportunities (Resolution #11).
These resolutions together will create a more level playing field for new gTLD applicants – from all countries, and all regions.
The Vertical Integration Resolution (#5) was another tough issue that the ICANN Board tackled head-on. The question was whether Registrars should be allowed to own Registries, and vice versa. Those seeking to change the rules argued that the current rules, with firm separations betweens Registrars and Registries, are outdated and bygone. But the change and elimination of separation is a significant one –that threatens to change much of the DNS landscape as we know it, including the equal access for all Registrars that we (Registries) currently practice.
The Board, pushed back on the tide with a definitive No. Its Resolution stated: “there will be strict separation of entities offering registry services and those acting as registrars. No co-ownership will be allowed.” Although the Board’s intent is very clear, there is still room for change – a special working group of the GNSO, the policy arm of new gTLDs, has been formed to look at the vertical separation issues. When the group speaks, if the GNSO Council supports it, and if the Board supports it, then changes may still yet occur to the Vertical Separation rules. So, stay tuned for more discussions and much work in the months ahead.
Finally, on a personal note, it felt good to read Resolution #6 thanking the GNSO-STI (Special Trademarks Initiative Team) and IRT groups for their “tireless good work” and supporting the STI’s proposals for a Trademark Clearinghouse and Uniform Rapid Suspension procedure. These two new mechanisms provide protections for trademark owners in new gTLDs while still protecting the rights of the Internet community to use dictionary words, generic terms, and common names in their domain names. I spent six weeks of nonstop work on the STI team, from the end of October to December, and it was gratifying to hear and see the praise and support of the Board.
All of the ICANN Board resolutions are posted at http://www.icann.org/en/minutes/resolutions-12mar10-en.htm
Another ICANN meeting now enters the history books, and a new set of challenges and opportunities opens as we head towards ICANN’s 38th meeting in Brussels from June 20 to 25th.