Out of the gate, ICANN’s first meeting of the year saw the deeper integration of .BRAND registries into the ICANN community.
Two takeaways to consider for .BRAND registries:
Contracted Parties will have more opportunity to engage ICANN
ICANN’s Global Domains Division (GDD) Staff is now considering the idea of holding up to three inter-sessional meetings in between ICANN’s usual Public Meetings. The idea is for ICANN’s Public Meetings to focus on policy development, while these new inter-sessional meetings will focus more on the operational and business issues that contracted parties face, while also providing more chances for Registries and Registrars to collaborate. The first inter-sessional ICANN meeting will be in LA, and ICANN will reach out to Registries and Registrars for input to develop the agenda of the meeting.
It’s a new, concrete way that ICANN is fostering a working relationship with its contracted party stakeholders. Since brands with .BRANDs and .GENERICs become “contracted parties” once they sign the contract for their new gTLD, brands comprise a larger demographic in ICANN’s contracted party stakeholder group than ever before.
The inter-sessional meetings will likely dedicate a sizable amount of time to work on new gTLD contractual compliance issues, which are a major concern for new gTLD operators.
ICANN seems to be making an effort to improve communications to make compliance issues easier to deal with: Staff is making themselves more available, Engagement Managers are a big help, and the inter-sessional meetings will provide additional opportunities for progress in this area.
Two-Character Issues Between Two Groups
Despite being thrown for a loop when the Governmental Advisory Committee decided to re-open the issue of releasing two-letter domain names in new gTLDs, ICANN attempted to strike a balance during this Public Meeting between moving forward with the release of two-character domains (desired by registries and brands) and addressing outstanding concerns coming from the GAC.
ICANN staff took up the mantle of making tactical adjustments to the process for releasing these domains at the GAC’s urging – for example, it has been established that ICANN staff will be in charge of notifying both the members of the GAC and “relevant governments” about release requests, and all registries will have to post requests for a 60-day public comment period. Those who have already posted their requests for comments but did so for fewer than 60 days, will have to reopen their comment periods to achieve a total of 60 days (without having to restarted the count).
However, some outstanding details on the process are still being ironed out, and in the meantime, hundreds of requests from registries to release two-character domain names await approval. For a refresher on why brands may want two-character domains for their digital strategies, check out this post.
The two-character issue is an example of how the evolving multistakeholder ecosystem in ICANN continues to impact the speed with which the organization is able to make decisions. Just as brands are navigating their new position in the policy process, governments continue to navigate their own position in ICANN with the GAC. The growing influence of the GAC has been happening for years, and with the debate about ICANN’s accountability and the impending IANA stewardship transition, the way ICANN responds to governments carries even higher stakes now than ever before. ICANN will have to continue to carefully weigh business, government, and other stakeholders’ input with each decision it makes.
Before the public meeting, ICANN President and CEO Fadi Chehadé tweeted that he was “heading to Singapore for a pivotal ICANN meeting to continue strengthening our community bonds ahead of the stewardship transition.”
With the future of the IANA stewardship still unknown and the New gTLD Program well underway, 2015 is likely to be a pivotal year for ICANN, and its work to strengthen the bonds of the ICANN community. The challenge for corporate registries will be to engage with ICANN and help shape its future – which, as contracted parties, is their future as well.
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