ICANN Delays .XXX and gTLDs

Last week a major milestone in the history of the Internet was supposed to happen, but it didn't. What happened?

By Sean Michael Kerner | Posted Dec 13, 2010
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After years of debate, observers expected the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) to approve a new system of generic Top Level Domains (gTLDs) for the Internet. The new gTLD approval would have opened up the door to a new world of Internet addresses and change the way that people around the world access the Internet. Instead of approving gTLDs during an event in Cartagena, Columbia held last week, ICANN instead voted to delay the decision until 2011, pending further review.

The delay on gTLDs was accompanied by another deferral by ICANN on the .XXX top level domain, a topic ICANN has been grappling with for a decade.

"Progress in this field takes time, and we have work left to do," Rod Beckstrom, president and chief executive officer of ICANN said in a statement.

The reason for the delay of the new gTLD approvals is rooted in concerns that were raised by world governments -- including the U.S. -- about the new domains. In a letter sent by Lawrence Strickling, the assistant secretary for communications and information at the U.S. Department of Commerce, the U.S. government criticized ICANN's gTLD plans. The U.S. government has concerns about the economic impact of gTLDs. Additionally, Strickling raised concerns about the transparency and accountability of ICANN and its processes.

ICANN was set free from the direct oversight of the U.S. Department of Commerce in September of 2009 with an agreement called the 'Affirmation of Commitments."

"As a signatory to the Affirmation, my expectation was that ICANN would make significant improvements in its operations to meet the obligations identified in the Affirmation (e.g., transparency, accountability, fact-based policy development)," Strickling wrote. "Over a year later, I am concerned that those improvements have yet to be seen. As such, I urge you to carefully consider the next steps of the new gTLD programs and ensure that ICANN meets its obligations as contained in the Affirmation prior to implementation."

The U.S. is now part of the Governmental Advisory Committee (GAC) at ICANN, which includes representatives from over 100 governments around the world. According to ICANN's adopted resolutions from the Cartagena meeting, board minutes, the GAC will provide a list of issues that they believe are still outstanding and require additional discussion between the ICANN Board and the GAC.

There are multiple stakeholders in the gTLDs ecosystem; among them is TLD operator Afilias.

"Afilias is eager for the new TLD process to move forward," Roland LaPlante, chief marketing officer at Afilias told InternetNews.com. "However, ICANN feels that there are still a few issues to resolve and has elected to take a little more time."

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