Many Americans do not go a day without utilizing the Internet is some way, shape or form. Part of the web’s intrigue is that utilizing it is fairly simple. To reach a particular location on the web, we all know that you have to type an address into your computer which normally consists of a combination of names and numbers. The address you enter must be unique so computers know where to find each other and how to connect you to the particular site you’re looking for. Because the web seems so simple to the average user, we often don’t consider how difficult it is to manage such a vast and complex network of computers, complicated programs and algorithms.
The Internet Corporation of Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) coordinates these unique identifiers and addresses across the world to help make them secure. Without that coordination, it would almost impossible to have a fully connected, intertwined and truly global Internet.
In June, during the week of the 20th, ICANN held its 38th international meeting in Brussels, Belgium to discuss various critical issues vital to the maintenance and consistent functioning of the Internet as we know it. While there were numerous issues on the agenda, three issues dominated the sessions:
1) Domain Name System Security (DNSEC)
2) Registrars and Registries and their relationship in the Domain Name System and
3) The rollout of new Generic Top Line Domains (gTLDs) (for instance a top level domain is a .com extension on a particular web site).
DNSSEC (short for “DNS Security Extensions”) is a suite of extensions that add security to the DNS protocol. Because current DNS does not offer any form of security, it is vulnerable to attack. Attacks on DNS can compromise the functionality of the Internet. For this reason, it has become critical to develop a means for securing DNS protocol and this topic was a major focus of the sessions in Brussels. ICANN is making great strides towards implementation of a more secure protocol and this progress was extremely big news during the sessions.
Registrars and Registries and their relationship in the Domain Name System
Another major topic of discussion in Brussels was the inter-relationship of Registries and Registrars in the DNS. Historically, ICANN has placed certain restrictions in its contracts with Registries (e.g., Verisign for .com sites) restricting co-ownership of web site Registrars (e.g., GoDaddy etc.). While subtle variations exist today, the general rule is that a Registry cannot own or control more than 15% of an ICANN accredited Registrar. The ICANN Board adopted a resolution stating that it would not allow any cross-ownership for new Registries established as a result of the proposed rollout of new gTLDs. During the Brussels meeting, there were numerous workshops and panel presentations on the continued work on this issue. There were wide varieties of proposals on what, if any, restrictions ICANN should put on such cross-ownership. These proposals ranged from “no restrictions whatsoever” to more complex multi-step solutions that envision involving national competition authorities. It is unclear whether the ICANN community will reach consensus on a solution but the sessions showed positive progress.
The final issue dominating the Brussels meeting was ICANN’s plan to rollout an unlimited number of new gTLDs. On May 31, 2010 ICANN published its fourth version of the Draft Applicant Guidebook (“DAG”) which is the document outlining ICANN’s planned implementation for accepting, evaluating and approving applications for new gTLD Registries. The DAG and ICANN’s proposed rollout of new gTLDs were center stage in Brussels.
Based on the sessions, ICANN illustrated that it is fully committed to finalizing the newest version of the DAG by its December meeting in Cartagena, Colombia in the hope of opening the first round in the application process in early 2011.
senior legal director, global brand & trademarks