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ICANN Makes Peace, Forms ccNSO

After four years of debate and negotiation, the global organization that regulates domain names Thursday said it has reached an agreement to let more groups participate in decisions affecting how the Internet is run.

Marina del Rey, Calif.-based Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) Thursday created the Country-Code Names Supporting Organization (ccNSO) through a partnership with the worldwide community of registries. The goal is to allow local, regional and global groups have more of a say. Critics previously complained that ICANN was a clandestine organization that was poorly operated and too closely aligned with government interests.

"Today's agreement represents both a historic achievement for the ICANN process, and a powerful vote of confidence in the newly reformed ICANN 2.0," said Paul Twomey, ICANN's President and CEO.

The expanded group was met with the approval by the domain registry organizations, which oversee country-code top-level domains . They and individual managers representing every region and populated continent endorsed the structure and rules for ICANN's new ccNSO.

The board also approved a resolution that effectively launches organizing of the individual Internet user community (At-Large) for informed participation and representation in ICANN. The reform was begun by outgoing president, Stuart Lynn. If the general assembly approves, the Interim At-Large Advisory Committee (ALAC) will begin accepting applications from groups to be designated as "At-Large Structures" -- the first step in building a global framework for structured involvement of At-Large in ICANN. The ALAC was appointed by ICANN to inform, involve, and represent At-Large in ICANN issues that can affect them, and to provide ICANN with advice on these issues and activities.

ICANN also held a two-day workshop on the future of the domain name system's Whois databases. The personal data collected by registrars from their customers for technical and administrative needs has been under scrutiny because of its issues with privacy, law enforcement, technical stability, and intellectual property rights.

The burning question with Whois for many concerned groups is how much information should be publicly available.

"Although no definitive policy was formed - a lot of healthy dialogue took place paving the way for future policy development," said Twomey.

The work program for solving some of the issues discussed will be completed over the next several weeks.

ICANN also installed seven new Board members who will join seven continuing Board members.

In addition to representation, many efforts are underway in the Internet community to make domain names available in character sets other than ASCII with the main issue being interoperability. Trade taking place in the Asia Pacific region, as one example, could be in jeopardy if DNS systems operating in different languages are technically incompatible.

ICANN is currently pushing for an open standard that makes domain names available in character sets other than ASCII. The organization made steps in that direction recently by approving a resolution enabling many registries to incorporate Internationalized Domain Names (IDN) into their offerings.

ICANN says domain names written in Chinese characters or Arabic alphabets will soon be introduced in ways that conform across different registries and communities.