IGF-USA Observations

Samantha Demetriou ⬥ 20 July

Yesterday I attended the Internet Governance Forum USA (IGF-USA), hosted at the Georgetown University Law Center here in Washington, DC. Specifically, I went to sit in on an afternoon workshop titled “Changing Landscape of the Domain Name System: New gTLDs and their Implications for Users: Opportunities and Risks.”


The IGF-USA is the U.S. branch of the broader IGF, a multi-stakeholder organization that was formed to support the United Nations Secretary-General in carrying out the mandate from the World Summit on the Information Society that it convene a forum for various parties to discuss policy. The IGF does not set policy, but provides discussion that can serve as fodder for policy makers, many of whom participate in IGF forums.

The IGF provides a summary of the Changing Landscape of the Domain Name System workshop, along with the list of panelists who led the discussion, here. In addition to those listed, Jamie Hedlund, ICANN’s Vice President, Government Affairs, also participated. As I mentioned before, the IGF cannot actually set policy, and in the case, the workshop dealt with a policy that is already in place. So at times, when audience members expressed trepidation or even disagreement with aspects of the new gTLD program, there was a sense that it was falling on deaf ears.

One audience member raised the question of whether the “rush” for new gTLDs could mirror the .COM bubble and its subsequent burst. Hedlund responded that whether new gTLDs survive is not the point, but that the point of the program is to increase competition. I then asked what will happen when a new, open-registry gTLD (like .MUSIC or .ECO) fails, as so many of the panelists had indicated will likely happen – some will inevitably fail. He answered by explaining that each new gTLD registry must demonstrate that it is financially stable enough to continue operations for three years in the event that it fails, during which time ICANN will find another party to take over the gTLD. However, the exchange ended there; Hedlund never broached the issue of what would happen when certain gTLD registries end up being a bad investment an no party wants to take them over. How long can gTLDs like .FOOD or .BOISE last if no one wants to run them?

I don’t doubt that the IGF has positively influenced policy since its establishment in 2006. However, in the case of new gTLDs, yesterday’s workshop seemed to only confirm what many have expected for some time: that ICANN followed its own agenda with the New gTLD Program, diverting only very briefly to listen to outside advice. 

Tags: .COM bubble, Domain Name System, Georgetown University Law Center, Government Affairs, gTLDs, ICANN, IGF, Internet Governance Forum USA [IGF-USA], Jamie Hedlund, multi-stakeholder organization, policy, United Nations, Washington D.C., World Summit on the Information Society

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