ICANN’s 48th Public Meeting in Buenos Aires, Argentina, marked an important transition point for the organization and for all members of the ICANN community.
Community members as well as ICANN staff have focused for the past several meetings on the successful implementation of the New gTLD Program. But by the close of the Buenos Aires meeting, it was clear that ICANN leadership had turned a corner and is beginning to focus on new initiatives beyond the New gTLD Program.
An important milestone in this transition has been the delegation of new gTLDs. The number of delegated gTLDs surpassed the number of legacy gTLDs like .COM, .NET and .ORG shortly before the Buenos Aires meeting opened. Before the first new gTLD, there were 22 top-level domains in the root. Now there are 31 newly delegated gTLDs, and dozens more could come online before the end of 2013.
A second indication of ICANN’s transition is President and CEO Fadi Chehadé’s drive to involve ICANN in the emerging global discussion around Internet governance. ICANN supported the September Montevideo statement on expanding the global nature of Internet governance. And Chehade and the ICANN Board of Directors made news in Buenos Aires through their involvement in upcoming global meetings on Internet governance.
Such a shift of focus is hardly surprising given ICANN’s broad mandate. However, many applicants are concerned that this transition comes too early and well before ongoing programs, such as the New gTLD Program, are fully and successfully implemented. For example, while the Public Meeting in Buenos Aires fostered positive progress on the .BRAND Registry Agreement, the continued delay of ICANN’s auctions has left hundreds of contention sets unresolved. Moreover, the lack of a finalized plan to mitigate name collision risks has left many gTLD applicants in a state of limbo.
More than ever, applicants must navigate a more complicated environment in completing the new gTLD process. ICANN’s focus has changed at the very moment applicants must begin considering ICANN a regulator.
What remains constant, though, is the fact that ICANN will continue to exert significant influence over brand owners’ new gTLD activities, and so brand owners must continue to keep a close eye on the organization in order to extract the most value from their new gTLD investments.
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