ICANN’s Small Step Toward .Asia

Anyone expecting a lot of progress at last week’s International Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) meeting in Vancouver, Canada, last week likely came away disappointed.

But that doesn’t mean ICANN didn’t accomplish something at its third of three meetings in 2005.

The ICANN board of directors gave a provisional thumbs-up for .asia during a week dominated by debate around a proposed .com agreement and a domain for porn.

DotAsia Organisation, Ltd., the owners of the .asia-sponsored top-level domain (sTLD) bid, will now enter commercial and technical negotiations with the ICANN staff before the ICANN board of directors gives its final approval.

While the .asia bid garnered support from a number of organizations, it likely means Web site and copyright owners in the region will have to shell out more money to protect their online identities.

Sites with an established presence using country code TLDs (ccTLDs), such as .cn (China) or .au (Australia), will need to pay for both extensions to keep their regional presence intact.

Though ICANN resolved the .asia issue, it delayed a matter that has become a focal point for contention in recent times: .xxx.

The fate of the domain extension for the Internet’s red-light district likely won’t be looked at again until the first quarter of 2006, said Paul Twomey, ICANN president and CEO.

The delay has nothing to do with conservatives within the U.S. government or family-issue interest groups, he said, but rather because the Governmental Advisory Committee (GAC) hasn’t been able to give its thoughts on the subject in time.

ICANN’s board of directors gave the go-ahead to begin technical and commercial negotiations with the ICM Registry in June for the controversial domain extension.

Shortly after, though, Michael Gallagher, the Department of Commerce (DoC) assistant secretary for communications and information, sent an open letter to the organization requesting the organization “provide proper process” and “adequate additional time” for concerns to be voiced regarding .xxx approval.

ICANN, a sub-contractor of the DoC, delayed its final approval for the sTLD in September, citing concerns about draft compliance and process terms.

Process terms continue to delay .xxx, Twomey said at a press conference Monday, as it waits for advice from the GAC.

“We’re trying to keep to our principles, which are to have full consultation and to listen fully to all the stakeholders of ICANN when we have this opportunity,” he said.

The schedule of activities for ICANN this week also includes a discussion of the proposed agreement it has with VeriSign . The ICANN board of directors will take written comments on the subject until Wednesday.

On Dec. 11, ICANN staffers will then summarize and publish the comments made on the subject. They will also present the comments to VeriSign, according to the minutes of the ICANN board meeting Sunday. Additional rulings on the matter will take place next year.

ICANN also delayed any substantial discussion about the United Nations and its recent World Summit on the Information Society meeting. The U.N. backed off calls for taking over control of Internet governance issues.

Twomey said a strategy committee of GAC members and ICANN staff will provide recommendations and proposals by the end of 2006 to work on the issues facing the organization.

ICANN will also work, Twomey said, to gain some momentum for internationalized domain names, which would allow for Web site domain names in language sets other than ASCII characters. The challenge, he said, is getting the different timetables in place — from the browser level to the DNS level to the language level — so all have a common place to start from

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