Global expansion, internationalised domains and improved security measures are among the key achievements outlined in the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) Annual Report for 2010, published this month. But amid the accomplishments, the organisation’s president Rod Beckstrom warned: ‘Many challenges face us as the internet and ICANN evolve to address society’s increasingly complex communications needs.’
Of those challenges, the most pressing is undoubtedly the introduction of new generic Top-Level Domains (gTLDs) – a process that could lead to a more granular domain name system in which large-scale generics such as .org or .com would be joined by smaller ones for individual companies or even people. The implementation of these domains would rapidly increase the quantity and range of online destinations.
Unsurprisingly, the report reveals that after 13 resolutions by ICANN’s board – and a special meeting in Trondheim where a further 13 motions were agreed – many key policy points on the new domains are still outstanding.
However, ICANN indicates that it is aware of the need to complete its decision-making process: ‘New gTLDs will fundamentally change the internet as we know it,’ says the report. ‘The extent of their impact will depend upon which Top-Level Domains are approved, but they represent new ideas and information to be shared, new online communities and geographical identities to be formed, and new branding and trademark-protection practices to be undertaken.’
In addition to heralding those dramatic changes, the report weighs the impact of several recent schemes relevant to IP owners. Internationalisation and security are highlighted as particularly successful areas. As previously reported by NewLegal Review, the organisation made significant progress in 2010 with the delivery of country code Top-Level Domains (ccTLDs) in non-Latin scripts: an effort to ensure that more territories could access the internet by using characters from their own alphabets.
ICANN has also pushed for wider adoption of its specialist Domain Name System Security Extensions (DNSSEC) – a protocol that guards against abuses such as pharming (where users are redirected to rogue websites) and domain hijacking. In 2010, the protocol was rolled out across the entire .org landscape.
The report notes that those security measures and non-Latin domains were implemented ‘without adversely affecting global internet operability and, in fact, without most internet users even noticing’: a result, according to Beckstrom, of the body’s policy model, which ‘welcomes all voices and provides an arena for global collaboration’.
In addition, ICANN reinforced plans to work towards a trademark ‘clearinghouse’ (covered by NewLegal Review in February 2010) as a means of easing fears over web-based brand abuse. The proposed clearinghouse would ensure that trademark-related domain names are awarded only to the registered holders of those marks. At present, there is no centralised system to provide the required checks and matches.
To read ICANN’s Annual Report in full, download the PDF from here
Internet governance body warns that upcoming domains framework could be a leap into the unknown as it reflects on recent innovations