ICANN Delays .XXX and gTLDs

By Sean Michael Kerner | Dec 13, 2010 | Print this Page
http://www.enterprisenetworkingplanet.com/news/article.php/3916916/ICANN-Delays-XXX-and-gTLDs.htm

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."

Afilias is set to offer domain and security services to prospective new gTLD operators to help enable operations.

"We expect that this additional time will give both ICANN and new TLD registry providers more time to raise awareness among brand owners and other potential applicants about the opportunity of new TLDs and to help current applicants prepare their applications," LaPlante said.

.XXX

In addition to the topic of gTLDs, the GAC also expressed concerns about a separate approval for the .xxx top level domain. ICANN has been debating the approval of a .xxx TLD since at least the year 2000. In June of this year, ICANN indicated that the .xxx TLD could soon be set for approval.

Instead of approving the .xxx domain during the Cartagena meeting, ICANN noted that the GAC also had concerns which still needed to be addressed.

"Resolved (2010.12.10.23), ICANN Board hereby determines that it intends to enter into a registry agreement with ICM Registry for the .XXX sTLD, subject to GAC consultation and advice," ICANN's Cartagena Adopted Board Resolutions state.

A meeting is being scheduled for February of 2011 with the GAC to further discuss the outstanding issues related to both the gTLD and the final approval of the .xxx top level domain.

Sean Michael Kerner is a senior editor at InternetNews.com, the news service of Internet.com, the network for technology professionals.