In the second week of February, the 52nd ICANN meeting was held in Singapore. These thrice-a-year meetings are the perfect opportunity to learn what’s going on at the highest level of internet governance (and to get involved in that matter), to meet all kinds of registries and other suppliers and to get in touch with our customers worldwide.
In this blog I want to inform you on a number of topics that were discussed during this ICANN meeting which probably relates to your business. If you want to know more about these topics, click the links throughout the text for a record of the sessions.
Those interested in other sessions can take a look at the full schedule. Most sessions are recorded and made publicly available, in video, audio and/or transcription. Several sessions are interpreted into up to seven languages, including Spanish, French and Chinese.
Since the introduction of the new ICANN contract in 2013, “whois” is one of the primary discussion points. Not only between ICANN and the registrars, but also amongst the other stakeholders like governments, law enforcement and consumer rights protection organizations.
You are probably familiar to the concept of whois validation as more and more ccTLD registries introduce this process. Also ICANN is thinking about full validation: not only checking if all fields are filled in and match some syntax requirements, but also checking if the listed street is in the listed city, the listed city is in the listed country and the postal code matches this address.
Luckily ICANN understands that this is commercially not feasible and has put it on hold for the next few years. But in the background, a working group is investigating the options to make it doable.
Registrars, of course, are firmly opposed to this requirement: it will lead to additional work, more complex processes, unjustly suspended domain names and as a result an increase in customer complaints.
At the same time, the benefit of it is unclear. Even for the current simple e-mail address verification requirement it is unclear whether it helps in making the internet safer: nobody involved in one of the stakeholder groups that pushes this verification could give even one single example where a case was solved thanks to the stricter rules since the new ICANN contract.
Unfortunately the only voices in the room were those of the registrars. If any other stakeholder like law enforcement was attending the meeting, they remained extremely silent…
Whois data quality
On the other hand, some of the requirements in the new ICANN contract have actually improved the whois data. A study performed by ICANN shows that whois accuracy improved over the last year-and-a-half. Better contactability helps us in solving any issues with a domain name, whether or not it is registered at Openprovider.
Privacy and proxy services
Currently, many registrars provide privacy or proxy services for domain names, sometimes just by replacing registrant data by their own company data, sometimes a bit more professionally. Also Openprovider is working on a solution to provide anonymous data in the whois; you will be updated about this in the nearby future.
The session on “Privacy & Proxy Services Accreditation” addresses the wish of ICANN to professionalize these services. Once implemented, registrars that offer privacy and/or proxy services will be bound to a number of policies. This prevents abuse of whois anonymization – a problem that every registrar recognizes.
Defining such policies is more complex than it may seem, as multiple stakeholders have different goals: registrars want to serve their customers, law enforcement wants to have easy access to ‘real’ customer data and consumer rights protection organizations try to protect private data as much as possible.
Current topics that still need consensus are those about the definition of contactability/responsiveness; how to deal with disclosure of data; and whether or not “transactional domains” (domains through which commercial transactions are performed) should be excluded.
In case you have assumed that the new gTLDs were not a hot topic anymore: you’re wrong! Okay, there were ‘just’ seven sessions planned on this subject, but looking around you’ll encounter new gTLDs on every corner, you walk into a new gTLD representative every few minutes and no coffee break talk goes without addressing the new gTLDs.
Next round of new gTLDs?
On paper, the most interesting session was the one about the “New gTLD Program: Status, Reviews and Next Round”. Regarding the status of the current round, I gladly invite you to my previous blog on nTLD statistics. But what did ICANN have to say about the opening of a next round?
The first steps are program reviews of all sorts: what are the lessons learned? How is the performance in areas like objection, contention and contracting? What are the experiences with rights protection, e.g. Trademark Clearinghouse and URS? What’s being discussed in the community?
On a technical level, the impact of the new gTLDs to the DNS root system will be investigated. This project is scheduled to kick off in the second quarter of this year.
And, maybe most important, how are customers involved in and affected by the new gTLDs? What about consumer trust and consumer choice? The initial review is scheduled for the third quarter of this year, and it will be repeated in 2017 and every 4 years thereafter.
Not before all of these questions have been addressed, will ICANN concretely think about a next round. Only the fact that these reviews are being done is a clear indication that a next round will certainly come up!
In a lengthy afternoon session, “Joint Registries, Registrars and TLD Applicants Meeting”, new gTLD registries were invited to present themselves to the registrars and the community. Twelve registries participated and highlighted the unique selling points of their extension(s). There was a good mix between the “omnipresent” registries like Donuts and Afilias that expose themselves everywhere and the smaller registries that remain invisible to most.
However, it’s a missed chance that there were insufficient sign-ups to fill a second session as well: I really encourage each registry – and especially the smaller ones! – to grab this opportunity to get in the spotlights. There’s no better place to get known to your customers than those open sessions!
Summarizing the full results of 5 days of ICANN in just one single blog is impossible. The other findings – outside the sessions – In a series of bullets:
- We found lots of opportunities for even more exotic domain extensions; let us know which extension you’re looking for and we’ll get it for you!
- Some of those exotic domain registries are moving from a closed/restricted model to a more open model. During the next years we can expect updates on for example .gn (Guinea), .ky (Cayman Islands) and – less exotic – .fi (Finland).
- Denmark is gradually improving their .dk domain name management options for registrars.
- There are great tools available for up-sell on domain names. Openprovider is investigating some of these to offer to our customers.
- And last but not least, there’s a huge shift going on in the registry/registrar landscape: for an internationally oriented registrar as Openprovider, many opportunities arise in co-operation with registries and other suppliers. Although not directly, it will certainly indirectly affect our customers in the long run.
More information on all those topics will be provided as soon as it is available.