2015 was a year that ICANN and its community were immersed in the work necessary to execute the impending IANA Stewardship transition and the accountability reforms it necessitated. However, there were a number of additional developments and progress made on a variety of topics. Here are five notable developments from 2015 and a look at what’s ahead for the new year.

New gTLDs 

While the first gTLDs contracted with ICANN and were activated in 2013, hundreds of brands executed their contracts with ICANN this year in order to meet ICANN’s July 2015 contracting deadline. Other brands have progressed more quickly through the ICANN process and delegated in 2015. While many of the brands that contracted with ICANN this year and a handful of other gTLDs will delegate in 2016, ICANN is significantly closer to concluding the first gTLD round. As of December 31, 2015, the New gTLD Program has made significant progress:

  • Over 11 million domains registered
  • Over 450 gTLDs accepting registrations from third parties
  • Over 850 gTLDs delegated
  • 1,218 Registry Agreements executed

Subsequent New gTLD Rounds 

By the end of 2015, all of the requisite reviews of the first New gTLD round are in progress.

While the Security and Stability Review and the Competition, Consumer Choice and Consumer Trust (CCT) Review are not set to conclude until mid-2017, it is clear that ICANN is committed to dedicating the resources necessary and working to complete the various reviews on a predictable and timely schedule.

Additionally, the Generic Names Supporting Organization (GNSO) published its Final Issue Report on New gTLD Subsequent Procedures, which identified topics that should be reviewed in advance of subsequent gTLD rounds and initiated a Policy Development Process (PDP) on New gTLD Subsequent Procedures before the close of the year. Despite this progress, it is clear that the IANA Transition and corresponding accountability work took precedence over efforts to review the current gTLD round and push forward with a subsequent round this past year.

Inaugural GDD Summit

ICANN hosted its first Global Domains Division (GDD) Summit in Los Angeles in September.

The inaugural Summit, which was hosted by ICANN for registries, registrars, and gTLD applicants, focused on ICANN’s contracted parties (rather than on policy like at regular ICANN Meetings). Over 200 attendees, which included a number of brands, engaged with ICANN and other registries and registrars on operational and other business issues. The GDD Summit was considered a success and plans are already underway to repeat the summit at least once per year, with a target date for the next Summit in May 2016.

Fadi Chehadé’s Departure Announcement

ICANN’s CEO Fadi Chehadé announced that he would be leaving ICANN in March 2016.

The months following his announcement have been filled with discussions on his departure, the desired qualities for his replacement, and speculation about who might replace him. ICANN’s Board formed a Search Committee in July to find a candidate to fulfill the role. The Search Committee would like his replacement to have managerial and operational competence; the ability to relate to and work with the ICANN community; and representation in the international arena. While the ICANN Board originally aimed to announce Chehadé’s replacement before the end of 2015, the announcement is now expected for early 2016.

.SUCKS

While .SUCKS received considerable attention from many inside and outside of the ICANN community, the gTLD received noteworthy attention from ICANN itself. After receiving a number of complaints from brand owners and others in the ICANN community about the gTLD’s designation of premium names and pricing, ICANN referred .SUCKS to the agencies responsible for consumer protection in the United States and Canada. In April 2015, ICANN’s General Counsel, John Jeffrey wrote to the United States’ Federal Trade Commission and Canada’s Office of Consumer Affairs requesting that the two organizations assess whether the Registry Operator for .SUCKS is in violation of any laws or illegal activities. Later in the year, both organizations responded taking no stand on the specific gTLD.

.FEEDBACK is the next gTLD to garner large-scale (negative) attention from the brand-owner community, and it is possible that more gTLDs in this and subsequent rounds will garner similar attention. For these current and potential future issues, the current status quo is that the Registry Agreement and compliance to it prevail over any conflict.

Looking Ahead to 2016

As the work related to the IANA transition and corresponding accountability reforms that consumed many in the ICANN community begins to wind down, more attention and work will be dedicated to business as usual within ICANN. Here are some topics to pay attention to in 2016:

  • IANA Transition: By the conclusion of 2016, the United States’ Department of Commerce may no longer have any contractual relationship – or any of the oversight that comes with it – over ICANN.
  • New ICANN CEO: Fadi Chehadé’s replacement should be announced early in the year and will step into his or her new role as CEO in March.
  • New ICANN Meeting Structure & GDD Summit: Plans are already in the works for ICANN’s second GDD Summit to take place in Europe in May. Additionally, 2016 will be the first year that ICANN implements its new meeting structure, where meetings will have varying lengths of duration.
  • Subsequent gTLD Rounds: While the second gTLD round will not launch in 2016, the majority of the required reviews will be nearing completion or completed by the end of the year. Additionally, the GNSO’s recently initiated PDP will begin to determine what policy or implementation changes, if any, are necessary to initiate subsequent gTLD rounds.
  • New gTLDs: By the conclusion of 2016, the great majority of gTLDs will be delegated and out of their required 90-day Controlled interruption hold period, meaning their operators will have the ability to register second-level domains in their respective gTLDs. However, there will still be a handful of inactive gTLDs as they are still held up due to outstanding issues like contention, accountability reviews, and the like at the end of 2016.
Lillian Fosteris

Lillian Fosteris

Director, Consulting & Strategy at FairWinds Partners
Lillian's intricate knowledge of the ins-and-outs of ICANN helps her translate Internet policies for businesses.
Lillian Fosteris
ICANN: A Year in Review and a Look Ahead

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