ICANN in trouble! What's next? What about transparent decision making process?
ICANN is in a complex situation. The U.S. government has recently launched a tender for the management of domain names. This task is carried out today by ICANN. Behind the tender, the U.S. government wants to suggest that the competition is open and that other companies can manage this task. In fact, we know in advance that the choice will fall onto ICANN for political reasons but also practical ones. ICANN is now heavily criticised and is under attack.
Firstly it is criticised for its method of functioning. Several ex-managers are now working in the private sector and make use of their expertise advising private companies on the Internet and domain names. More often the activities of these companies are unethical for it involves cyber squatting. Some collaborators are also reproached having been too 'talkative' or having given advice to project developers. Thus ICANN has implemented regulations in order to moralize and to put an end to these practices.
Secondly ICANN is criticised for its close ties with the U.S. government, its lack of openness / acknowledging the needs of countries in Asia, especially China but also Africa. The BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa) threatened to create their own regulatory structure. But they will not do it. ICANN has announced its intention to support the project leaders who are in developing countries.
"The dotToday gTLD is a project of global and public interest and one opportunity for ICANN!"
Moreover Europe has issued a memo in September with specific criticisms. The US government has responded and promised that ICANN would change its methods and be more transparent. Europe is critical but dares not question the relationship between ICANN and the U.S. government, however, it has asked that the gTLDs projects be discussed with the ICANN Member States (GAC) having a consensus. For these reasons, ICANN, in the coming months will take care to show that they are open, transparent, impartial and especially more independent from the United States government and the business environment.
ICANN is under hard attack for the allocation of new gTLDs. At first some major companies specialized in pornography decided to attack ICANN in court for violation of the antitrust law (.xxx). Then a large lobbying campaign began to denounce the allocation of new gTLDs. A campaign led by marketing companies, advertisers and relayed by multinationals. Arguments: negative consequences for private individuals (misappropriation of names, cyber squatting, no interest for the business and Internet browsing). Other criticisms: conflict of interest for members of ICANN. The lobbying campaign will grow but will not stop the procedure and ICANN will continue to be concentrated about the gTLD.
ICANN must be very prudent in the allocation of new gTLDs. The projects of cities or well-known brands will have success. The others projects must demonstrate that they are useful and that they are for the entire world (global and public interest). Projects that are built with an evident objective to sell a lot of domain names probably will have no success, especially in the first phase. We also know that ICANN will require strong guarantees on the maintenance of the domain name (avoiding chaos associated with bankruptcy procedures or another event).
It is very important to see this situation from a political point of view to understand what will happen in the allocation of new gTLDs.
One thing is sure, the project dotToday is a unique opportunity for ICANN to show that the news gTLDs are useful for everybody. DotToday is a way that will facilitate navigation on Internet, will give consumers more choice and introduce more competition. It is a benefit for all countries including developing and BRICS countries.
Status report and strategic overview about ICANN's gTLD written by:
Director of CNAOC