ICANN’s Mexico City Meeting Closes – New gTLDs and IDNs Inch Closer

ICANN’s Mexico City meeting was held last week with new generic Top Level Domains (gTLDs), internationalised domain names and the IDN Fast Track, amendments to the Registrar Accreditation Agreement (RAA), Improving Institutional Confidence (IIC) consultation, GNSO improvements and independent reviews all being discussed in detail.But probably the most newsworthy event of the week happened at the opening session of the meeting with Paul Twomey, ICANN’s CEO and President, announcing he will be stepping at the end of his term on July 1 this year, although he has agreed to stay on till the end of the year to assist in the handover to his successor.New gTLDs
New gTLDs are an ongoing topic of discussion with ICANN staring down the efforts of the intellectual property interests who ideally wish to stop their introduction. However ICANN has agreed to discuss the issues of concern to them and work out ways to accommodate their interests. This has led to another delay in their introduction, something that dismays those such as dotBERLIN who have been working on a proposal for the .berlin gTLD for several years now. Each delay causes them financial heartache.To address these concerns ICANN has agreed to establish an Implementation Recommendation Team (IRT) comprised, ICANN say, “of an internationally diverse group of people to develop and propose solutions to the over-arching issue of trademark protection in connection with the introduction of new generic top level domain names (gTLDs).””The Board has clearly heard and believes strongly that the concerns of trademark holders must be addressed before this process is opened for applications,” said Chairman Peter Dengate Thrush. “The establishment of this team, is an attempt to get proposed solutions from the people with skill in trademark protection and other issues.”The IRT will be comprised of people who put forward solutions in the first public comment period on the new gTLD Applicant Guidebook.Note the phrase “an internationally diverse group of people” which means it will not only be intellectually property owners whose voices will be heard.Feedback from the meeting, as well as comments sent to the second public comment period (which closes on 13 April 2009) will be used to produce a third version of the Draft Applicant Guidebook.IDNs and IDN Fast Track
On internationalised domain names (IDNs) and their proposed Fast Track, there was extensive discussion. IDNs have been caught up in the new gTLD process, and with the delays of the gTLD process, this important process to give internet users around the world the ability to type in domain names in their own language has also been delayed.As a result of the discussions and feedback from the meeting, as well as comments sent to a public comment period on the Implementation Plan and papers (which closes on 6 April 2009) will be used to produce a revised version of the Implementation Plan. The Board requested that the Implementation Plan be finalised for its last meeting of 2009. So light at the end of the tunnel here!RAA Amendments
Another topic of intense discussion was the Registrar Accreditation Agreement (RAA). The GNSO Council approved a wide range of amendments to the RAA – the contract that ICANN has with the companies that register generic top-level domains. The Board then asked the amendments to be put out to a 30-day comment period.The 17 amendments cover four broad categories:

  • New enforcement tools – new Registrar Audit and a group liability provision amongst other things.
  • Registrant protections – shining a light on the risks of proxy registration.
  • Consistent minimum standards of service for all registrars.
  • A modernising of the agreement to get up-to-date with the domain name market.

Improving Institutional Confidence (IIC)
The President’s Strategy Committee published its draft Implementation Plan with a set of proposed recommendations on how to improve institutional confidence in ICANN ahead of the conclusion of the Joint Project Agreement (JPA) in September 2009. This revised document was the result of extensive community consultations during 2008, and it was produced for information, not decision. The ultimate decision will be taken by the Board.The Mexico City meeting saw widespread discussion of these documents. A special session was held on Wednesday and the issue was also discussed at the At Large Summit and within a number of supporting organisations and advisory committees.The Board will next consider the Improving Institutional Confidence report at its next meeting on 23 April 2009. At that meeting, the Board will consider whether to ask staff to do more detailed implementation work. There will be a public comment period of 60 days, beginning shortly after the Mexico City meeting.GNSO Improvements
Progress continued on structural and operational changes to ICANN’s main policy-making body. Early meetings on Saturday and Sunday focused on operational and process work team efforts. Another team discussed resolution of transition issues to seat the newly structured GNSO Council.Several new stakeholder group charters were submitted by the community throughout the week and a consolidated public comment forum was initiated for comments on those proposals. The community heard from proponents of the Cybersafety, City TLD and Consumer constituencies. A formal petition from the CyberSafety constituency was also posted for community comments. At its Friday meeting, the Board directed the ICANN staff to identify potential changes to existing GNSO constituency charters and to suggest specific changes to help them conform more closely to ICANN bylaw principles.The work teams covering different aspects of the improvements will continue to move forward with calls and meetings in the coming weeks. The community will have opportunities to comment on the proposed charters for new GNSO stakeholder groups as well as the petition for the new CyberSafety constituency.Independent Reviews
The independent review process requires each of ICANN’s Supporting Organisations and Advisory Committees to undergo review every few years to make sure that the organisation as a whole continues to serves the needs of the global Internet community.There are six reviews going on at the moment, and one will be started in the upcoming future. Starting with the most advanced to the least advanced: GNSO, NomCom, ALAC, Board, RSSAC, SSAC and ccNSO. The advancement of each of these reviews was presented during specific meetings in Mexico.The GNSO advanced its implementation of changes; the Nominating Committee review will be soon updated for publication for public comments; ALAC review is accepting last public comments before finalisation. The Board review is soliciting public comments into the working group discussion; and the RSSAC and SSAC reviews will soon enter the working group stage. The terms of reference for review of the ccNSO is nearly finished.The reviews will continue to advance through working group work, public comments and community response and review.Much of the above information was sourced from ICANN’s Briefing Note that came out of the meeting which is available from:
mex.icann.org/briefing-note.The Briefing Note also includes links to further information.