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

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IGF-USA 2012 Workshop: The Changing Landscape of the Domain Name System – New Generic Top Level Domains (gTLDs) and Their Implications for Users

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Brief session description:

Thursday, July 26, 2012 – Early in 2012, ICANN launched the process to introduce vast numbers of new generic top-level domains (gTLDs) — allowing, for the first time, the customization of Internet addresses to the right of the dot. Few people understand that there are already 22 existing gTLDs and 242 country code TLDs, with a total of 233 million registered second level names across all TLDs. In the coming years, these existing TLDs will be joined by numerous new gTLDs, likely resulting in the registration of millions of new second-level domains. Some will use scripts that are unfamiliar to English speakers or readers. How exactly these new gTLDs will impact the world of users and registrants is yet to be determined. Will they add significant new registration space, cause confusion, provide some unique innovations, or, most likely all of the above to some degree? ICANN received a wide range of applications – including brand names, generic terms, and geographic and regional terms. The workshop was organized to discuss Issues and questions including: changes to how domain name registrants and users may organize and search for information online; how defensive registrations may impact existing registrants; whether ICANN gave a sufficient focus to Internationalized Domain Names; how applications from potential registries from developing countries are supported; whether fraud and abuse that exists in the existing gTLD space will migrate easily into the new ‘spaces’ or even be compounded; and how conflicts between applicants from noncommercial sector will impact the users of the Internet.

Details of the session:

The session was moderated by Ron Andruff, president and CEO of DotSport, LLC. Panelists included:

  • Laura Covington, associate general counsel for global brand and trademarks, Yahoo!
  • Bobby Flaim, supervisory special agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigation
  • Suzanne Radell, senior policy adviser, NTIA, and US Government Advisory Council representative at ICANN
  • Elisa Cooper, director of product marketing, MarkMonitor (remote participant)
  • Alan Drewsen, executive director of the International Trademark Association
  • Andrew Mack, principal and founder of AMGlobal Consulting
  • Krista Papac, chief strategy officer for ARI Registry Services

Respondents were Dan Jaffe, executive vice president for government relations of the Association of National Advertisers, and Jeff Neuman, vice president for business affairs of Neustar and Generic Names Supporting Organization councilor at ICANN.

Suzanne Radell participates as a panelist about the changing landscape of the Domain Name System at IGF-USA in Washington, D.C. on July 26, 2012.

There is a mix of concern and optimism for how the new generic top-level domains (gTLDs) will change the landscape of the Internet, but it’s certain that a new era of the Internet is coming.

A diverse panel at IGF-USA Thursday at Georgetown Law Center offering perspectives ranging from the side of brands to trademark security agreed on one thing: The introduction of new gTLDs will open the Internet up to more users, but also to more actors and cyber squatters. The panel agreed that the gTLD program will result in a tremendous amount of change, but how it will affect the landscape and whether that change is good, sparked the most discussion.

This year, there are 2.3 billion users of the Internet and 555 million websites. The numbers are staggering, considering the Internet is only about 14 years old, said moderator Ron Andruff, president and CEO of RNA Partners Inc.

There are 22 existing gTLDs – including .com, .net, .org and .edu – and 242 country code TLDs.

Elisa Cooper, director of product marketing at MarkMonitor, joined the panel remotely to give an analysis and breakdown of new gTLD application statistics.

Of 1,930 applications for a new gTLD, 652 were .Brand applications. Cooper divides the applications into three categories: brand names, community based and generic. The two flavors of generic are closed and open – the latter makes registries available to the general public with little eligibility requirements. Cooper also revealed:

  • There is a relatively low number of Internationalized Domain Names – only 116.
  • Geographically, the majority of the applications have come from North America and Europe.
  • Of the .Brand applications – which go through the standard application process – technology,
    media and financial sectors led the way.
  • The most highly contested strings were .APP, .INC, .HOME and .ART
  • The top three applicants were Donuts, Google and Amazon.

Laura Covington, who serves as chief trademark and brand counsel for Yahoo!, joined the panel from a .brand applicant company and offered a brand owner perspective. Yahoo! applied for .yahoo and .flickr

“I think there are a lot of exciting opportunities from a marketing perspective, even from a security perspective with the new gTLDs and the new .brands in particular,” Covington said. “And I also think that it’s going to have to change the face of how trademark owners, brand owners deal with their enforcement issues, how they approach protecting their marks going forward.”

Yahoo! is viewing the new gTLDs as an amazing new world and new way to reach customers, though Covington admits uncertainty toward what search engines will do once gTLDs are added to the mix of search algorithms. As a brand owner, she has concerns with how to deal with the second-level names because there will be an exponential increase in opportunity for cyber squatters.

Flaim (FBI) and Papac (ARI) participate as panelists about the changing landscape of the Domain Name System at IGF-USA in Washington, D.C. on July 26, 2012.

Bobby Flaim, FBI special agent, is primarily concerned with the pre-existing problems with domestic and international law enforcement of the Internet and how the problems may worsen as bad actors become more prevalent.

The existing system has some major problems with cyber squatting, said Jaffe, group executive vice president of ANA. He said he didn’t want to be the panel’s doomsayer, but he added that no one should assume the new gTLD program will roll out in a smooth or timely manner.

One hugely positive impact of the new gTLDs Covington sees is an influx of new voices and new participants in the multistakeholder process.

Krista Papac, general manager of ARI Registry Services, agreed.

“I do have faith in the multistakeholder model and hope that we continue to find our way through it and deal with the different issues,” Papac said.

Papac is running some of the registries for the new gTLDs and sees a lot of opportunity to create more secure environments and more opportunities from brands.

Suzanne Radell, senior policy adviser in the Office of International Affairs at NTIA and US GAC Representative, said that more people and more interest in the program will be crucial to ICANN’s evolution.

“We’ve got our fingers crossed that the benefits to consumers, to users are not outweighed by risks and costs,” Radell said. “So we’re looking very much forward to a review of the new gTLD program.”

Alan Drewsen, executive director of INTA, said he expects that the introduction of the new gTLDs will go more slowly and be less successful than hoped.

“ICANN will continue to exist, though I think it’s done everything possible to put its life in jeopardy,” Drewsen said, making the audience and panel laugh.

Andrew Mack, AMGlobal, speaks at a workshop about the changing landscape of the Domain Name System at IGF-USA in Washington, D.C. on July 26, 2012.

INTA has been critical of the process that ICANN has led over the last several years in introducing the new gTLDs.

“Given the amount of time and money that the members have invested in this process and the potential consequences that can flow from its failure, INTA will continue to work collaboratively with a lot of these constituencies to get the best possible results,” Drewsen said.

Andrew Mack, principal of AMGlobal Consulting, sees a large concentration in the global North and the English-speaking world. People in the global South won’t be able to participate in a program they don’t know exists. Seventeen gTLD applications are better than none, he said, but the number of applicants from other parts of the globa total to a paltry amount compared to highly connected regions already experiencing huge economic shifts due to the Internet. Mack said his pessimism is rooted in the fact that Africa and Asia are missing out when they could really benefit.

“And we want them to be part of our Internet,” Mack said.

There is an influx of new participants from existing participants, Neuman of Neustar noted.

The new gTLDs open up a lot of opportunities for business and marketing folks, but each person on the panel defined success in different ways.

“It’s definitely going to be an exciting time,” said Brian Winterfeldt, a partner with Steptoe & Johnson LLP. “I think we really are moving into sort of a new era of the Internet with this expansion and I think it’s going to be very exciting to see how it evolves.”

— Ashley Barnas

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Internet Governance Forum-USA, 2011 Review: Implications of Internet 2025 Scenarios

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Brief description:

Earlier in the day at IGF-USA, participants divided into three groups to discuss potential-future scenarios for the Internet in 2020. At this session, moderators briefed the plenary crowd on the discussions and they and other IGF-USA participants in the audience weighed in with their observations.

Details of the session:

Building upon an experiment that had succeeded at the previous year’s meeting, the Internet Governance Forum-USA presented a set of hypothetical situations, ranging between idyllic or dystopic depending on the preferences of those in attendance. Splitting off into three groups, panelists and members of the audience discussed the pros and cons of the end results of an imagined timeline, then moved on to figure out how best either to ensure or prevent said timeline.

As a part of the concluding ceremony of the IGF-USA, the lead moderators of every respective group presented their scenario to those caught unaware by a possible destiny and pointed out what the Internet community, along with governmental and business leaders, can do to in response to the potential future.

The first, Regionalization of the Internet, revolved around a prospective world in which individuals are either in or out on the Web, blocked off from those deemed to be outside of their own government’s sphere of influence. (You can find details from the earlier session that fed into this session here: http://www.elon.edu/e-web/predictions/igf_usa/igf_usa_2011_scenario_Internet_islands.xhtml.)

Andrew Mack, of AMGlobal Consulting and the session’s lead moderator, described it as, “interesting, but a bit depressing. We took the Angel of Death view on this.”

The idea of the Internet as an open highway, in this world, is replaced by one replete with tolls, as cross-regional access is limited, or in the worst cases, cut off entirely. Because of national security concerns, economic weakness, pressure from climate change and the massive new adoption rates of the “next billion” Internet users found in emerging markets, the Internet becomes a series of castles.

Some in the session actually thought the scenario fit the present more than an illusory future, and the more dire of descriptions could become the status quo within five years. To prevent it, governments were urged to be flexible and practice their own advice, industries were urged to increase their focus on the next billion users, who as of yet have no champion to advance their causes, and IGF was urged to resist the advance of ITU, the United Nation’s mass communications arm.

The second session, lead by Pablo Molina of the Georgetown Law Center, presented a more positive picture. “Youth Rising and Reigning” (You can find details from the earlier session that fed into this session here: http://www.elon.edu/e-web/predictions/igf_usa/igf_usa_2011_scenario_youth_rise.xhtml.)projected a world with the youth-led revolutions in the Middle East spreading to Europe and other disaffected masses taking up the call to utilize new Internet-based technologies to assert their own independence in light of continued economic and civil strife. And though many agreed that there’s a strong plausibility of “Youth Rising …” a key distinction that strikes at its heart was made.

“The defining factor is digital literacy and mastery, not age,” Molina told the audience, bringing to earth the notion that everyone younger than 30 is an Internet messiah, and bringing to light the fact that with the right competencies and skill, even the most elderly can have an influence on the Web. And despite the positive outlook of the scenario, an important distinction was made: Bad actors will always find ways to capitalize on new advances, and inadvertently, some innocents will be inconvenienced or, at worst, suffer as a result of those ill intentions.

JULY 18, 2011 - During an afternoon session of the Internet Governance Forum USA 2011, Steve DelBianco, executive director of NetChoice, shares what was discussed during the morning "Government Prevails" scenario.

To encourage, if not the revolutionary subtext of the hypothetical situation, the political and societal awareness of the youth, all means to promote participation in political discourse were advocated, be they through industry continuing its innovative advances, governments empowering instead of reigning in their citizens, or IGF supporting the participation of more and more stakeholders to ensure all voices are accounted for. And, of course, education, coming in the form of digital literacy, is a must for the youth to have the tools to, at most, incite a just revolution, and at the least, fight for their own causes in an effective way once the Internet further integrates itself within society.

The talkback that was perhaps the most pessimistic and grimly reminiscent of the most bleak of science fiction was “Government Prevails,” led by Steven DelBianco of NetChoice. (You can find details from the earlier session that fed into this session here: http://www.elon.edu/e-web/predictions/igf_usa/igf_usa_2011_scenario_government_prev.xhtml.)It depicts not victorious and noble governments deservedly beloved by its populace, but ones that, through a series of calamities, find themselves with the responsibility and power over maintaining surveillance over their entire citizenry.

Natural disasters of unimaginable magnitude and hacking sprees running rampant across the globe, in this scenario, coupled with rapid advancements in mobile and surveillance technologies, give the world’s governments both the mandates (since its presumed that they win the public trust after being the only entities capable of responding to such horrendous occurrences) and means to fulfill a vision reminiscent, albeit not quite as menacing, as that of George Orwell’s “1984.”

“I woke up this morning feeling fine, and now I’m afraid,” one member of the session said after hearing about the timeline.

Each of the elements of the prevailing government could be, as separate entities, taken as positives. Many responded warmly to the possibility of a more advanced version of London’s CCTV, scanning entire cities in the hopes of preventing crime, or smartphones that were not only mandated to keep tabs on your location at all times, but which could be used to turn in violators of strict anti-pollution legislation. But at the end of the day, it’s still a world in which the government is given the sole proprietorship of its people, with a seemingly omniscient awareness of their every little move.

To keep it from happening, the workshop decided, industries should obey the laws to avoid losing public trust, and they work together with the government to avoid the current philosophy of “government vs. private business interests.” Governments, obviously, shouldn’t grab the chance at such power and instead opt for a more open and decentralized Internet.

As for IGF? It should stick to its current duties and engage with all stakeholders, though such a future, while seemingly horrendous to Western minds, DelBianco mused, could be equally as appealing to those in countries such as Iran and China. This, in the end, illustrated one of the most evocative elements of the hypothetical exercise. Just as one man’s trash can be another man’s treasure, one man’s dystopia can be another man’s utopia.

– Morgan Little

Internet Governance Forum-USA 2011 Potential-future scenario discussion: Regionalization of the Internet

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Brief description:

IGF participants broke into three different rooms to discuss three different, possible potential-future scenarios for the Internet in 2025. In this session, the brief description given to the discussants asked them to respond to the idea of the “Regionalization of the Internet”- a future in which the mostly global Internet we know today becomes more divided, with certain aspects isolated from others based on their geographic or economic similarities. The description noted that, “natural and man-made disasters could easily accelerate this process, leading to an alternate future where the differences between these islands is more pronounced and e-conflict between regions becomes a significant national security and economic development issue.”

Details of the session:

Garland McCoy of the Technology Education Institute and Andrew Mack and Alessandra Carozza of AMGlobal were at the front of the room to facilitate a wide-ranging discussion of the Regionalization of the Internet potential-future scenario at the Internet Governance Forum-USA 2011 at Georgetown University Law Center July 18.

This scenario sets up a divisive future for the Internet. You can read the full description used to launch this discussion in PDF format at the following link: http://www.elon.edu/docs/e-web/predictions/igf_usa/Regionalization_Internet_Scenario.pdf

The key drivers were to consider as causes for regionalization of the Internet:

  • National and corporate security concerns and increased pressure from non-state actors based in “failed state” regions of the world.
  • Global economic weakness, budget crises and significant, systemic unemployment.
  • Shortages of food and raw materials leading to rises in the prices for commodities, food and energy and supply chain/trade disruptions.
  • A rising “black market” dominated by narco/political/religious groups with increasing technical sophistication.
  • Expansion of IPv6 and the “Internet of things” creates an environment where citizens can be easily tracked within a region and where a market in false identities flourishes.

While it was considered a “bleak scenario” by its participants and moderators, the majority of the discussants in this possible potential-future scenario session indicated that the majority of the outcomes that were outlined are not only plausible, but that some are already occurring, and occurring at a faster rate than maybe previously anticipated.

JULY 18, 2011 - Members of the audience participated in Regionalization of the Internet, a session held during the Internet Governance Forum USA 2011. Conference attendees were encouraged to enter into discussion during the day's events.

Scenario facilitator Andrew Mack described the regionalization scenario as unique among the other scenarios presented today in that it is “the only scenario that is actually coming to pass.”

“A good chunk is plausible, said Leslie Martinkovics, an IGF participant from Verizon Communications. “When we’re looking at what’s happening today, there are a series of pressures, some economic, some security related. These are all real. There is a growing feeling that change is coming.”

Security is seen as the paramount concern for many areas of the world, prompting some regions to block certain domains, like the “Great Firewall of China.” The problem is that this blocking process is easily circumvented. George Ou of Digital Society maintained that the “Great Wall” is often considered “porous.” China was mentioned as a key player in the rising challenges facing the argument against regionalization. Other country governments listed as key “players” in the conversation included Brazil, Iran and India.

“Any attempts to isolate, to protect, fail,” said Bill Smith, a participant from PayPal. Attempts at blocking, he said, “are doomed to fail as well.”

The proliferation of the hacking group Anonymous in the Arab Spring was a catalyst for discussion surrounding the viability of regulating such isolated Webs, or “islands,” or whether a more unitary Internet is more desirable.

“In order to dissuade users from building up isolated Webs, it’s important to build up the single, unitary net and make it better,” Smith said.

“The Internet,” said Sally Wentworth of the Internet Society, “is a tool. It is not the cause, it’s an enabler. People want to communicate, people want to create. It’s very difficult to put that genie back in the bottle and carve it up.”

Because there is a fundamental need for communication across islands, it was asserted by a number of participants that regionalization may not even be possible. The Arab Spring, Wentworth and others explained, is an example of an inability to maintain separate communities within the greater Web.

The existence of dark nets was referenced as a refutation of the inherent nature of a unitary Web. Scott McCormick explained that dark nets, which are essentially intranets, have existed for quite some time. North Korea, he contended, is a dark net and has been for a while, with very few people who have access to it. Governments like North Korea’s have opted out of a global, unitary Web, but the moderators and panelists questioned whether that action is truly possible.

JULY 18, 2011 - Members of the audience participated in Regionalization of the Internet, a session held during the Internet Governance Forum USA 2011. Conference attendees were encouraged to enter into discussion during the day's events.

“Can you really opt out?” Mack asked. He noted that existing within the metaphorical “castle,” or within the isolated intranet, does not necessarily mean that there is still isolation within the castle itself. And living in the castle does not necessarily guarantee protection.

“If all your people don’t live in the castle, you can’t protect them,” Mack said.

There are technical hindrances to fragmenting the Web. When countries try, they are doing so at the DNS level, not at the IP level, according to McCormick. This is what makes it easy for users with means and motivation to work around the blockages. The introduction of IPv6 will greatly affect the nature of users to navigate those blockades because it will make it much harder to memorize IP addresses, which is the way most users avoid the blockages, McCormick said.

Those in the group in favor of regionalization felt that isolation might make security more plausible and more manageable. Tom Lowenhaupt, who advocates for the development of a .nyc TLD, explained that top-level domains (TLDs) are the way to enable regionalization. Applying security to those TLDs enables a more private, more secure and more manageable, intuitive Internet. Those against regionalization offered that it may open doors to a host of other more problematic issues—the goal is the minimum amount of regulation for the most effectiveness, Smith said.

The future governance of the Internet will be determined by three major players: general users who may not feel a personal stake in Internet governance; the criminal element, like Anonymous, which has a major stake in Internet governance, but that may be undesirable; and a disaffected group that may not feel it has a stake until circumstances start to change. What will come to pass remains to be seen, but the timeline, everyone agreed, is moving far faster than originally anticipated.

– Bethany Swanson

IGF-USA Scenario Discussion: Internet Islands – The Rise of Digital Fortresses and the End of the Digital Republic

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Panelists discuss the scenario of Internet Islands as a possibility for the future of Government control over the Internet.(From Left: Iren Borissova, Andrew Mack and Garland McCoy.)

Brief description:

IGF participants broke into three different rooms to discuss three different, possible potential-future scenarios for the Internet in 2020. In this session, the brief description given to the discussants was: By 2020 the Internet as we know it in 2010 is no more. Concerns over national security and cybercrime led to calls for “safe zones” on the Net. Governments taxed e-commerce as a way to address budget deficits and trade barriers were constructed, closing off markets for goods and information. Mega-companies constructed their own walls to keep criminals out and customers in. At the same time the digital divide grew quickly as poorer nations and smaller companies could not afford to keep up with new security requirements and the entry fees needed to access the secure parts of the Web. Large parts of the world have found themselves “outside the wall” and left to fend for themselves, facing a combination of rapacious criminals, radical groups and bottom-feeding enterprises. For those on an Internet Island, life goes on, but in a more limited way than before.

Details of the session:

A small group of telecommunications leaders and advocates of human rights and privacy met to discuss the Internet Islands potential-future scenario at the Internet Governance Forum-USA 2010 at Georgetown University Law Center. They were led by Garland McCoy, founder of the Technology Policy Institute, Andrew Mack, founder and principal of AMGlobal Consulting, and Iren Borissova, senior manager for international public policy at VeriSign.

This scenario sets up a closed-off future for the Internet. Metaphorical islands have crept in, developed by businesses and governments to limit the flow of outside information while keeping users on the islands secure. You can read the one-page PDF used to launch this discussion here: http://api.ning.com:80/files/OVKwetXFSDRrq4nfkx0duSjNpXJLGlyyKV0S4i2A1FVDA4WwNCN3fHRTtQr5eq7L286HdzHWVJjsf0uynsER71dCuDBn4G8M/InternetIslands.pdf

Scenario facilitators McCoy, Mack and Borissova and other discussants described the Internet of 2010 as a mainland with some islands and more continuing to bubble to the surface. They proposed that having multistakeholder conversations is the way to avoid a more fragmented future and prevent future islands from cutting off the rest of the digital world.

“One of the major antidotes we could take to fight against it is having multistakeholder dialogues like those that we are engaged in now,” said Leslie Martinkovics, director of international public policy and regulatory affairs for Verizon.

The group imagined four island types: totalitarian, culture, liberal and corporate. The totalitarian islands are the governments who limit access and regulate what users are viewing. In some cases government officials require users to identify themselves in order to oversee what is being viewed.

On the liberal islands, while there are good intentions, countries or groups set up virtual trade barriers to gain revenue. Some participants likened this to the fees on rental cars at airports, where visitors are taxed instead of the voters.

A corporate island is one where companies provide a safe haven for their customers while providing additional security measures to prevent criminal breaches. And the cultural islands are created by countries and groups who wish to preserve their culture. The French mandate to resist the incursion of other cultures and focus on local content was used as an example of a cultural island.

But are these really islands, asked McCoy, or are they peninsulas with chokeholds to the mainland’s information. And Courtney Radsch, senior program officer at Freedom House working on the Global Freedom of Expression Campaign and the Southeast Asia Human Rights Defender Initiative, reminded the group that increased access does not always mean increased information.

The scenario participants agreed that international groups like the IGF must continue to meet and bring experts and interested individuals together to discuss the future of the Internet to prevent these islands from continuing to surface.

-Anna Johnson, http://www.imaginingtheinternet.org