At ICANN 53, which we previewed last week, the scope of discussions at the meeting was far-ranging. However, as anticipated, significant attention was paid to the IANA stewardship transition, ICANN accountability reform processes, and the first round of the New gTLD Program.

Here’s a recap the major outcomes of the week:

IANA stewardship transition and ICANN accountability reforms

Months after the numbers and protocol communities finished their proposals for the IANA transition, the names community agreed to put forward a plan to the ICG, the entity charged with taking input from the ICANN community and sending a single proposal to the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) for its review.

While last week’s efforts represent important progress, there remain many intervening steps—and months—before the completion of the transition.

Once the ICG develops a combined proposal and submits it to the NTIA, that agency will take 60 to 90 days to review it. After that, the U.S. Congress will take 30 legislative days to conduct its own review the plan, which could amount to between 45 and 60 calendar days (presuming that the DOTCOM Act, which sets up this process and has already passed in the House of Representatives, passes the Senate and is signed into law). In total, it is expected that the NTIA’s and Congress’ reviews will take four to five months.

However, the final approval and implementation of the new IANA stewardship model is “expressly conditioned upon the implementation of ICANN-level accountability mechanisms by the Cross Community Working Group on Enhancing ICANN Accountability.” ICANN accountability reforms are still a work in progress. The group charged with developing accountability reforms will meet next month in Paris and is expected to deliver final recommendations by the next ICANN meeting this October in Dublin. Taking these reviews into consideration, ICANN CEO Fadi Chehadé has predicted that the transition could be complete by this time next year.

The New gTLD Program

With the New gTLD Program well under way and hundreds of new extensions delegated, discussions in Buenos Aires touched on a slew of issues related to Round 1 and an eventual Round 2. As far as brands are concerned, here’s a quick rundown of some of the many issues debated at ICANN 53:

Domain Name Pricing

Business representatives were keen to discuss the pricing of new gTLDs, which many of them consider to be discriminatory. Reflecting on the case of .SUCKS, where registrants were charged different prices according to their corporate affiliation, brands noted their interest in being more involved in the lead-up discussions to the second round so as to ensure their interests are better protected.

gTLD Auction Proceeds

The use of auction funds from contention sets was also debated and, though no clear use was determined, ICANN Staff noted that the funds would not be used to refund the application costs for Round 1 applicants.

Generic gTLDs

The 2-year hold on closed generics issue was temporarily resolved with a New gTLD Program Committee action to require exclusive registry applicants to either defer until the second round, before which policy will be developed around the issue, or else forgo the exclusive registry model and open up the TLDs for public registration.

Whois Privacy Protections

As brands consider their involvement in ICANN, they will also have to keep in mind evolving privacy policies regarding domain name registration. One of last week’s debates related to how ICANN is considering a proposal that would prevent private registration of any domain affiliated with commercial activity. Although the proposal is still in its formative stages and it’s still too early to see what policies might come of it, news of the proposal sparked a major letter writing campaign.

In spite of progress made at last week’s meeting, much work remains to be done to finalize the IANA transition, ICANN accountability reforms, and reviews of the New gTLD Program. We expect these issues to remain the focus at the next Public Meeting in Dublin this October and, in the intervening months, look forward to movement on privacy and pricing issues.

Josh Bourne
Wrap-Up from ICANN 53

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