.XXX Closer, Chinese IDNs Approved Amid Cybersecurity Concerns and gTLD Delays at Brussels ICANN Meeting

ICANN logoIn a week where domain name security, the possibility of blocking certain domain name character strings due to their use in cybercrime and no set date for the taking of applications for new Generic Top Level Domains, there was some good news at the 38th ICANN meeting held in Brussels this week that concluded Friday. ICANN’s board voted to enter negotiations with a view to approving the controversial .XXX Top Level Domain while Chinese internationalised domain names approved for China, Taiwan and Hong Kong in the usual board meeting that concludes each meeting.

The .XXX resolution has been previously been rejected by the ICANN board, but after an independent review that was critical of ICANN’s processes, the ICANN board has been reconsidering its stance. And on Friday the board passed a resolution that called for the expedited reconsideration for ICM Registry to run .XXX as a sponsored Top Level Domain. The vote was unanimous with the exception of two abstentions.

However it appears the decision did not make the board happy, with Kieren McCarthy noting the board approved .XXX “almost unanimously (two abstentions) but rather grumpily, however, with several members saying they were ‘uncomfortable’ with the decision and appearing the blame the ‘process’ for forcing them to make a decision. The approving resolutions also stuck in several approval steps, which more members grumpily pointed to.”

The resolution also called for the ICANN board to check ICM Registry is suitably qualified to operate such a registry and for “ICANN staff to proceed into draft contract negotiations with ICM, taking into account the GAC advice received to date”. The Board has approved a detailed set of next steps for the application, including expedited due diligence, negotiations on a draft registry agreement, and consultation with ICANN’s Governmental Advisory Committee.

“The board reached a carefully considered decision, paying close attention to the findings of the Independent Review Panel, and to the extensive public comment on our proposed action,” said ICANN Chairman Peter Dengate Thrush.

“Today’s decision is a validation of ICANN’s transparency and accountability,” said Rod Beckstrom, President and Chief Executive Officer.

The .XXX TLD is viewed as a potential community site for the adult entertainment industry. The application has been controversial for several reasons with governments, adult and Christian groups all voicing criticism.

Chairman Stuart Lawley said of the decision: “It’s been a long time coming, but I’m excited about the fact that .xxx will soon become a reality. This is great news.”

ICM Registry said in a statement that their expectations are “that this step will proceed smoothly and will not impede the roll-out of .XXX and we expect to go live with .XXX domains at the start of 2011, if not sooner. We have 110,000 pre-reservations and expect that number to increase now that ICANN has formally approved our application.”

The approval of Chinese internationalised domain names (IDNs) for China, Taiwan and Hong Kong was a welcome addition to those already approved and is likely to see more Chinese-language internet users online, and easier access for those already online.

“This approval is a significant change for Chinese language users worldwide,” said Rod Beckstrom, President and Chief Executive Officer of ICANN. “One fifth of the world speaks Chinese and that means we just increased the potential online accessibility for roughly a billion people.”

The new IDN country code top-level domains (ccTLDs) and the associated organizations approved by the Board are:

  • CNNIC (China Internet Network Information Center)
  • HKIRC (Hong Kong Internet Registration Corporation Limited)
  • TWNIC (Taiwan Network Information Center).

Meanwhile the new generic Top Level Domain process continues to move forward at a glacial rate, continually thwarted by trademark holder groups who seem never to be happy. While ICANN have not given dates as to when they expect to take applications for new gTLDs such as .BERLIN and .CANON, it is expected there will be a board retreat around September to finalise the application process.

And there were also controversial and disappointing concerns expressed by the Governmental Advisory Committee about censoring domain names that could or are used in cybercrime.

The next ICANN meeting will take place in Cartagena, Colombia, 5-10 December 2010.

For Kieren McCarthy’s excellent coverage of the ICANN meeting, see:
kierenmccarthy.com.