On Friday, the U.S. Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) announced it is giving up control of a system that directs Internet traffic and Web addresses. As a result, Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), the nonprofit organization charged with managing the Internet, is tasked to convene global stakeholders to develop a proposal to transition the current role played by NTIA in the coordination of the Internet’s domain name system (DNS). This announcement came as a surprise to many but a coalition of nations has been calling for the US to relinquish control of the Internet for at least the last nine months. Politically this takes the US out of the line of fire but practically what does this do for the culture of the Internet?
Why is this important to you? Because it may change the Internet as you know it….
What exactly was the US Doing?
NTIA is the Executive Branch agency that advises the President on telecommunications and information policy issues. NTIA’s programs and policymaking focus largely on expanding broadband Internet access and adoption in America. NTIA controls the DNS which essentially converts the web addresses (URLs) we type in to the search bar into the correct IP address to retrieve the website you requested. Whether you are accessing a Web site or sending e-mail, your computer uses DNS to look up the domain name you’re trying to access. This system is essential to the functionality and security of the Internet.
If not the US, then who?
This contract to control DNS has allowed the U.S. government to exert what some claim is too much influence over the Internet. technology that plays such a pivotal role in society and the economy. So if not the US, then who with the world feel comfortable wielding that power and influence?
There’s a meeting, ICANN 49, March 23 in Singapore and the future of the Internet is at the top of the agenda.
According to Lawrence Strickling, assistant secretary at the Commerce Department, “[The department] will not accept a proposal that replaces the NTIA’s role with a government-led or intergovernmental solution.” Does that leave ICANN or a similar organization to maintain the DNS?
Why should you care?
Because this could mean a very different Internet…
While companies like Verizon applaud the move, ITIF and other organizations have argued before that U.S. government oversight has played an essential role in maintaining the security, stability, and openness of the Internet and in ensuring that ICANN satisfies its responsibilities in effectively managing the Internet’s DNS. Without the U.S. government’s presence some lawmakers and members of the tech industry have expressed concern that relinquishing control of IANA will open up the Internet to threats from other governments that seek to censor it. This could mean a very different Internet.
Are their concerns justified? No one really knows right now but what we can surmise is that the Internet is in for some changes in the years to follow the change of control. Many countries have dealt with privacy and censorship in ways different from that of the US. How will ICANN deal with these conflicting views democratically and ensure Internet users from all economies and sovereign nations will be represented and heard? Will the standards of openness and free flow of information embraced today remain the baseline? Does the “global multistakeholder community” NTIA is referring to exist? What is the legal jurisdiction for both ICANN and this new multistakeholder body?
There are no answers to these questions because so little is known about whats to come. I look forward to the information and ideas that flow from the ICANN meeting next week. The questions need to be among those at the top of the list.
What is a gTLD? gTLD stands for generic top-level domain and is an Internet extension such as “.COM,” “.NET” or “.ORG.” Right now there are a little over two dozen gTLDs, but soon, there could be hundreds. The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) is responsible for the coordination of the global Internet’s systems of unique identifiers and, in particular, ensuring its stable and secure operation. According to ICANN the new gTLD program was developed to increase competition and choice in the domain name space. As the new gTLDs launch and threaten to change the Internet as we know it there are a lot of things you should know but here are five to start. For additional background information about new gTLDs, please visit some of my previous posts “What do you know about the new top level domains?” & “Will You Be Confused When The New Generic Top Level Domains (gTLDs) Launch?”
1. Be careful of services “guaranteeing” to get a domain name for you
2. The first non-Latin character new gTLDs were delegated
What does delegated mean? This means that the gTLDs or strings have successfully completed the new gTLD Program and has officially been selected as a new gTLD that will go live for use. This will be the first time non-Latin characters can be used in a TLD and not just in the second level domain. Click here for more information from ICANN.
One is شبكة, the Arabic word for “web” or “network”, while another is 游戏, which means “game” in Chinese.The other two – онлайн and сайт – are both Russian words, meaning “online” and “website” respectively
3. First nine LATIN new gTLDs were delegated
The first nine new gTLDs delegated last week were:
The “sunrise period” for registration of the first seven gTLDs is “.BIKE,” “.CLOTHING,” “.GURU,” “.HOLDINGS,” “.PLUMBING,” “.SINGLES,” “.VENTURES.” will begin November 26 and general availability to anyone will begin January 29, 2014. Keep any eye out for new gTLDs as they are delegated. Consider whether you or your company wants to purchase a domain. And monitor the official launch of these new gTLDs starting in January. Monitor how your brand and ineffectual property are being used on this new gTLDs. To keep up with delegated strings click here.
4. The launch of new gTLDs multiplies the size of the Internet and presents increased security and intellectual property infringement risks.
- Pay attention to the gTLD in the address bar. New gTLDs give malicious actors more platforms to attack the unsuspecting. Pay attention to the address you are trying to get to and make sure all parts of the address are correct. Also if you search for a website make sure the site that comes up is the legitimate website.
- Companies must monitor the use of their intellectual property on new gTLDs. Companies should currently have a plan in place to protect their IP investments through motoring, preemptive registrations, the Trademark Clearinghouse and other rights protection mechanisms provided by ICANN. Be proactive!
5. Launch of new gTLDs presents a number of opportunities to market your brand or yourself. This will present business and consumers with a new and unique user experience and online footprint. There will be a lot more room for customization online and opportunities for marketers to be creative with how to reach consumers. I am excited to see the innovative means of reaching the public that are birthed from the new gTLD launch.Please ask any questions you have about new gTLDs, protecting yourself, rights mechanisms, IP protection, security concerns etc. Start the discussion!
The launch of these new gTLDs will have a lasting and significant effect on the way we use and operate the Internet. This fact is why new gTLDs have yet to launch. The industry is a buzz with the pros and cons of every aspect of this change. The confusion of consumers, protecting intellectual property, domain name approvals, potential monopolies, privacy, and other business concerns are on the forefront. No interest group wants things to remain the same but with competing interests and priorities carving out new policy has been slower than anticipated.
I encourage consumers to remain aware of this development. This will develop the way we consume online information. I will continue to write about the developments. Also visit some of my previous posts such as Will You Be Confused When the New gTLDs Launch? Visit ICANN’s site on new gTLDs for developments.
What are you concerned about? Are you interested in hearing more about the effect this will have on businesses and families?
There are currently a total of only 22 top level domains, including the three most well-known: .com, .net, and org. In June 2012, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN)—the quasi-governmental body responsible for administration of the domain name space—revealed applications for 1930 new ones. Six hundred fifty of these 1930 applications are for brand names. Many recognizable brands applied for their company names to become a domain that appears as “.brand”. For example, “.kodak”, and “.apple”. The new top-level domains (TLDs) are going to change the landscape of the internet, the question is how much and for who?
Right now, companies and countries are the only ones dealing with the consequences of this new space on the internet. The main issue being that companies who applied for these applications are facing a little bit of competition because not only did companies apply for their brand names companies applied to own the rights to generic terms. For example, among the 1900+ top level domain name applications are four competing applications to register the generic top level domain “.auto”. The applicants for .auto are Uniregistry, Donuts Inc., Fegistry and Dot Auto Inc., all non-endemic to the automotive industry. Donuts and Uniregistry—along with another company, DerCars LLC—also plan to battle it out for .cars.
Another conflict in the new TLD space if over “.africa”. DotConnectAfrica mistakenly applied for “.dotafrica” instead of “.africa” in its application during the new TLD process. DotConnectAfrica trust is Kenya-based with headquarters in Mauritius. They are competing against UniForum SA (NPC), trading as Registry Africa, which is officially supported by the African Union.This endorsement and the errors in DotConnectAfrica’s original application leave their chances slim at best of secure the TLD. Additionally, according to its new TLD guidebook, ICANN is obliged to look for the official endorsement for geographic TLDs – for regions at least 60 percent of the respective governments have to be supportive – the DotConnectAfrica’s bid can hardly win. The resolution of conflicting applications will be interesting.
Companies who did not enter the race for ownership of TLD are also facing increased challenges. They have to prepare to protect their brands from increased cybersquatting and other malicious attacks. Brand owners in all industries are rightfully concerned about potential misuse of the new top-level domains. ICANN has put procedures in place to ensure companies can object to the issuance of new top-level domains but nothing is foolproof.
How does this effect you? Well if you’re worried about getting scammed by a fake website or getting scammed the hundreds of other ways hackers have developed online, the risk has increased. On the other hand, this could make for a great consumer experience. Consumers will be able to find things easier and have more choice in how and where they search. Companies will be able better tailor a users experience by creating sites like “JohnDoe.kodak”. Users will have an easier and more personalized experience.
Keep an eye out as these TLDs launch. The .xxx TLD already launched and hasn’t made too many waves but with the potential for a large influx of new TLDs we will see noticeable changes in the way we use the internet.