Internet Governance & Policy

ICANN 55 Kicks Off in Marrakech

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March 7, 2016

By jbourne

The global internet governance community has gathered in Marrakech, Morocco, for ICANN 55. Although much of the agenda of this Public Meeting will yet again be dominated by the topic of the IANA transition and enhancing ICANN’s accountability, with the community pushing to finalize the accountability recommendations by the meeting’s end, a number of additional items of interest to brand owners and new gTLD operators will be discussed and worked on.

Operational Items for New gTLD Owners at ICANN 55

At the time the Marrakech meeting convenes, just shy of 930 new gTLDs have delegated, with some having been in operation for two years or more already. While a few hundred strings still need to progress through the remaining stages to become part of the Internet, by and large the focus at ICANN meetings has shifted to operational matters impacting new gTLDs once they are up and running – both .BRANDs and .GENERICs alike.

At ICANN 55, we expect to see additional progress toward finalizing some changes to the New gTLD Registry Agreement, a process that was initiated in July 2014 and has unsurprisingly required concessions both on the part of ICANN’s legal team and Registry Operators. While many of the changes amount to clarifications, the exercise has been an important first step in opening the door to potential future terms negotiations.

ICANN is also in the process of finalizing, with the input of Registry Operators, an Advisory to clarify Specification 11 3b of the Registry Agreement, which stipulates that Registry Operators must periodically conduct tests to determine whether their gTLDs are being used to perpetrate security threats like malware, phishing, and botnets. This clause was added to the Registry Agreement as the result of GAC Advice, but ICANN has yet to communicate specifics about the contractual requirements to Registry Operators. This Advisory aims to give Registry Operators much more clarity in how to comply with this clause, and the Marrakech meeting will be an opportunity to further refine the details of the Advisory before it is made public.

Finally, ICANN’s very own version of the Never-Ending Story: the release of two-letter domain names. On the heels of a recent update from ICANN’s staff about the next steps in the process – where Registry Operators will need to submit planned mitigation measures in response to comments received from governments – Registry Operators are expected to take time in Marrakech to begin discussing and potentially coordinating how to approach these mitigation measures.

Work Progresses on ICANN’s Next New gTLD Program Round

Despite the focus on operational matters related to the current round and the broader topics of the IANA transition and ICANN accountability, the policymaking work toward a second new gTLD round marches onward, both up to and during the Marrakech meeting. Policy Development Process Working Groups have begun in earnest working toward both reviewing the Rights Protection Mechanisms from Round 1 and in creating policy to govern a subsequent round, both of which are critical steps to eventually open a new opportunity for organizations to apply for their own new gTLDs.

Stay tuned for updates from on the ground at ICANN 55.

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About jbourne