Is ICANN Policymaking Around Its Bottom-Up Multistakeholder Process?

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This week, registry, registrar and user constituencies at the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) complained about what they saw as deviations from the bottom-up multistakeholder process by late additions made to policies or by processes never being laid out to the community for review.

The 46th ICANN Board meeting took place in Beijing from 7-11 April.

Avri Doria, a Swedish-US researcher and member of the Non-Commercial Users Stakeholder Group (NCSG), said during the joint session of the Non-Commercial User Constituency (NCUC) and the ICANN Board that there seemed to be a more and more changes to consensus results of the ICANN community “made by the Board and the staff together.” [corrected]

There has never been a policy process on a “thick” Whois requirement of collecting personal data at the registry instead of keeping it at the registrar, she said, with the whole Whois issue being a Gordian knot the community so far has been unable to entangle. Also the trademark clearinghouse – especially with its late additions – and changes to the contracts between ICANN and the registrars (RAA), and ICANN and the registries (RA) added up to a list of issues changed by the ICANN leadership and without community participation, she said.

On the RAA, consensus between the parties has been said by ICANN CEO and President Fadi Chehade to be very close, with all law enforcement recommendations addressed. On the RA, representatives of large registries along similar lines as the user constituency attacked the ICANN Board for changes made late in the process, especially an option for the ICANN Board to uni-laterally change the registry contracts by a two-thirds Board majority.

“It was not in good faith, at the very last minute, a few weeks before introducing the new generic top-level domains [gTLDs, like .com], to reverse a community decision that was made three years ago,” said Chuck Gomes, vice president of policy and compliance at VeriSign, operator of .com and incumbent registry for many years.

Chehade, reacting to the complaints by the registries, said a decision had been made not to hold a Board meeting on 20 April that was expected to decide on the final base contract versions. Instead, he would put out both contracts for a public comment period. Chehade during the week also accepted criticism about how he had put forward a straw man proposal on the trademark clearinghouse. Chehade repeatedly underlined his support for ICANN’s multi-stakeholder model.

One problem Chehade has to face is that while the wish lists never seem to be complete and technical and procedural details of the introduction still have to be dealt with, applicants also warn against further delays in the process. Discussions are ongoing on the protection of intergovernmental organisations (IGOs), the handling of non-Latin language variants in the application procedure – which is heavily sought by registries from Asia for example – and the question of closed generic TLDs (like .blog, or .app).

After Google, which has applied for 100 TLDs, announced that it would open up several of its closed generic TLDs, Irish Registrar Michele Neylon in the public forum in Beijing yesterday appealed to other applicants to go in the same direction.

Besides 260 public comments ICANN received, governments in a communique also addressed the issue, asking to allow exclusive registry access for the generic TLDs only where this would serve a “public interest goal.” This again could lead to a lot of discussion on the bumpy road to the opening up of the global internet domain name space.


Monika Ermert may be reached at

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