Chris Disspain Discusses ICANN, New gTLDs, Future of Domain Names and GDPR

Posted in: Domain Names at 07/03/2019 16:04

In today’s Domain Pulse Q&A we speak to ICANN Board member and founding CEO of Australia’s ccTLD policy and regulatory body, auDA, whose involvement in the domain name sector is around 2 decades. Disspain discusses his 2018 highlights (working on ICANN’s new strategic plan and how ‘when it is a success, the multi-stakeholder can really work’).

He also discusses how the EU’s GDPR ‘is neither good nor bad. It just is.’ Looking ahead to 2019 Disspain says he’s looking forward ‘to finalising the strategic plan and continuing discussions on the evolution of ICANN’s governance model and phase 2 of GDPR. On new gTLDs Disspain believes they “would be better known in the wider world if those operated by brands were more visible than they currently are.” He also gives his views on the future of domain names. All views expressed are Disspain’s personal views and not those of the ICANN board.

Domain Pulse: What were the highlights, lowlights and challenges of 2018 in the domain name industry for you?

Chris Disspain: One of the main responsibilities of ICANN board is strategy and a highlight of 2018 for me has been working on the new strategic plan. It would be interesting and challenging just being part of a ‘normal’ board in this process but having to develop strategy both as a board and with the wider ICANN community makes it more interesting and challenging. And when it is a success it is a joy because it shows how the multi-stakeholder model can really work.

The board has also started work on consulting the ICANN community on the evolution of the governance model. Many years ago I was involved in the evolution of ICANN to what was then called ICANN 2.0. ICANN is, of course, in a constant state of evolution and so it’s a highlight that we are shining a light on this evolution yet again.

The main challenge has been GDPR but see below on that!

DP: GDPR – good, bad and/or indifferent to you and the wider industry and why?

CD: Good and bad. Mainly challenging. As the board liaison to the EPDP I have been so impressed with the willingness of the members of the EPDP on behalf of their stakeholder groups, SOs and ACs to be collegial and to build consensus. As is often the case, ICANN shines in adversity and the members of the community really can achieve extraordinary things.

Many ccTLDs have had ‘restricted access’ WHOIS for many years and the sky has not fallen. However, single ccTLDs don’t have many of the cross-jurisdictional issues that plague the generic WHOIS.

Outside of ICANN’s efforts to have WHOIS be GDPR compliant, work is being done at a principle level on jurisdictional issues. One example is The Internet & Jurisdiction Policy Network which, for those with an interest, is well worth a look.

Generally, I think GDPR is neither good nor bad. It just is. And it wasn’t written for ICANN, for WHOIS or to make life for ICANN and the community easier or harder. ICANN and WHOIS wasn’t even on the radar.

DP: What are you looking forward to in 2019?

CD: Working with my board colleagues and the ICANN community to finalise the strategic plan, continuing discussions on the evolution of ICANN’s governance model and phase 2 of GDPR, developing an access model.

DP: What challenges and opportunities do you see for the year ahead?

CD: Working with my board colleagues and the ICANN community to finalise the strategic plan, continuing discussions on the evolution of ICANN’s governance model and phase 2 of GDPR, developing an access model.  :-)

DP: 2019 will mark 5 years since the first new gTLDs came online. How do you view them now?

CD: I think that new gTLDs would be better known in the wider world if those operated by brands were more visible than they currently are. Brand gTLDs are the most likely way that the public will be introduced to something that isn’t their ccTLD or one of the original stable of gTLDs.

I don’t think there is any doubt that new gTLDs have brought greater diversity and choice into the market. And, interestingly, that increased diversity and choice doesn’t seem to be dependent on a massive take up on new gTLDs but rather just on their existence. I think that niche gTLDs that fill a specific gap in the market will continue to lead the way. These are less price sensitive and don’t require a large uptake to be considered a success.

I think there is still room for innovation in the market even within names that have been delegated over the last 5 years.

DP: Are domain names as relevant now for consumers – business, government and individuals – as they have been in the past?

CD: Yes but that doesn’t mean they will continue to be in the same way as they are now. A brand gTLD may be relevant to consumers in a different way to a truly generic one. If my bank has its own gTLD then it may become relevant to me from a security point of view. If I know that there is a place I can go where every domain is that of a lawyer then the relevance is different from a mere look up. Equally as a business if I had a place I could register that would distinguish me from other businesses then I might consider paying more money for that.

How much longer an actual meaningful domain name (rather than the domain name system) will be relevant is anyone’s guess. If I access the web exclusively from my mobile and I use an app to search through and each of the business that I interact with offers me an app or a direct link from a phone icon then a meaningful domain name may no longer be relevant.


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