gTLDs: 6000 Comments and Nobody Liked Digital Archery: Outgoing Interim ICANN CEO Speaks To WSJ

Akram Atallah image Before he handed over the reins to Fadi Chehadé, the then interim CEO of ICANN, Akram Atallah, gave the Wall Street Journal an update on how the generic Top Level Domain (gTLD) process was going.

In the interview, Atallah speaks about the difficulty in choosing a system to process new gTLD applications. To process applications, Atallah says ICANN needed “to have a ranking system for applications. The reason we need this is that we are committed to add no more than 1,000 names to the root system [of the Internet] in the year. That does not mean 1,000 in the first day — it means roughly about 40 applications a week.

“So in order to do that we need some kind of ranking. We could not do random selection due to lottery laws in California. So we had to have some kind of test of skill. That was this digital archery test.

“The only problem was, everyone hated it. So the decision was instead of trying to fix it, just stop it — no one liked it in the first place — and go back to the community to see if there is a better solution.”

So now ICANN is going through suggestions, summarising them and will go back to the ICANN community to see if there is a better solution.

On comments on applications, Atallah says there have been 6000, and on the three pages of comments on .GAY, for example, “That is the beauty of the process — it is not ICANN that is deciding the outcome. ICANN is implementing the process that the community developed. Our job is to make sure it happens in a transparent and efficient way. We are using world-renowned firms to do the resolution such as the International Center for Dispute Resolution, the WIPO [World Intellectual Property Organisation], the International Chamber of Commerce — these are well known arbitration organizations, they will deal with the comments.

“The religious differences have been going on for centuries. ICANN does not think it can resolve these problems overnight.”

And on the future of internet governance, the WSJ asks about ICANN’s view of moves to take some of their functions and assign them to the ITU.

Atallah says the organisation has not made any comment on it, but notes the “internet has been progressing at a fast pace, the current governance model has been very effective, it has successfully balanced the need for security and innovation, and allows for competition and innovation. The balancing act has worked very well. The growth of the net is a demonstration of the effectiveness. I don’t see a need for a change in the model. There are driving forces that are pushing for change, but I hope that we will all continue to work for the best interests of the public and the best model possible.”