Documentary coverage of IGF-USA by the Imagining the Internet Center

Internet Governance Forum-USA 2011 The Changing Landscape of the Domain Name System

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Brief description:

The Internet and the Web are continuing to expand at exponential rates. When the board of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers opened up a whole new world of names for Internet addresses with its historic vote in June 2011, new gTLDs and their implications for users became extremely important. This session explored the Internet users’ experiences that might be expected as the Domain Name System (DNS) is prepared to under a massive expansion, adding hundreds or even a thousand new gTLDs to “allow for a greater degree of innovation and choice.”

Details of the session:

Every time an individual pulls up a webpage the Domain Name System is used. Moderators and industry leaders who met at an IGF-USA 2011 workshop say changes announced by ICANN this summer will bring new challenges and opportunities. Generic top-level domains, also known as gTLDs were previously quite limited. They included .com, .info, .net and .org. On June 20, 2011, the board of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) voted to allow companies and organizations to choose any fitting suffix for their domain names. The new gTLDs will be operational in 2013. Among the likely names are .sport, .bank and .app.

The moderator of the event was Frederick Felman, chief marketing officer for Mark Monitor, a major domain management company based in the United States. Panelists included:

  • Suzanne Radell, senior policy adviser in the office of international affairs at the U.S. National Telecommunications and Information Administration
  • Amber Sterling, senior intellectual property specialist for the Association of American Medical Colleges
  • Pat Kane, senior vice president for naming services for Verisign
  • Jon Nevett, co-founder and executive vice president of Donuts Inc. and president of Domain Dimensions, LLC, a consultancy on domain name issues
  • Brian Winterfeldt, partner at the Washington, D.C., law firm Steptoe & Johnson, where he is a member of the intellectual property group
  • Ron Andruff, president and CEO of DotSport, managing the new top-level domain .sport – http://www.dotsportllc.com/about

Details of the Session

The panelists speculated that as few as 500 and as many as 2,000 domain names could be added in the near future as ICANN opens its application pool up in January 2012. These new names can range from generic names like .pizza, brand names like .apple or geographic names like .London.

Andruff said that the most important things from any applicants’ point of view is to serve users and connect them across languages and countries.

“Sports is one of those unique things,” he said. “Like music, [it] transcends borders, transcends languages, transcends cultures. It is relevant.”

It is important that we allow multiscript applications so we can reach all people of all languages, he said.

ICANN’s decision to open up the applicant pool is still relevantly new to the general public, which could lead to confusion, said Felman.

But the general population is beginning to join in the conversations, Kane explained. But Radell cautioned that the government is very concerned about the potential for fraud and general user confusion. When something goes wrong, people are going to turn to their government to ask why this was allowed to happen, she said.

Members of the Governmental Advisory Committee (GAC) worked very closely with ICANN to make sure safeguards were put into place to protect the users, Radell added.

One audience member asked how something like .bank would affect his ability to access his bank’s website. He questioned how the URL would be structured, and how Google Chrome users, who don’t use a URL at all, only a search bar, would access the sites. The panelists agreed that expectations for end users are still being developed.

Non-profits are another group that could have some trouble with the new domain names, said Sterling. In the past 15 years, non-profits have seen more donations through the use of the Internet, but it has also seen the Internet abused in the process.

Just a week after the 8.9 magnitude earthquake that rocked Japan, the Red Cross had to combat phishing attacks from people trying to steal donations, she added.

Brand owners are concerned about the fraud that could occur in the future with increased domain names and if multiple groups apply for the same domain name, said Winterfeldt. There is mediation through ICANN and brand owners will be notified if their domain is being sought by another company.

Another concern is whether the increase in domain names would lead to another .com bubble and fizzle out. “In essence, whether they survived was not the point, said Hedlund. “It’s about adding competition and how the market responds.”

- Anna Johnson

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