I am the chairperson of the Strategic and Operational Planning Working Group (SOP WG) of the Country Code Names Supporting Organisation (ccNSO). The ccNSO is responsible for developing and recommending policies to ICANN’s Board of Directors on issues related to country code top-level domains (ccTLDs), and the SOP WG facilitates the participation of ccTLD managers in ICANN’s strategic, operational planning and budgetary processes.
On Wednesday, the SOP WG hosted a fascinating debate on ICANN’s strategic objectives with a panel of experts, including Lesley Cowley, Chief Executive of Nominet; Alexa Raad, CEO of PIR; Fahd Batayneh from NITC; Rob Hall, President and CEO, Momentous.ca; and, Sabine Dolderer, CEO of DENIC. Certainly a panel of heavy hitters!
I was particularly interested when the panel took a look at what the drivers of change and the Internet will be for the next five years (an eternity in Internet years). New technologies are changing users’ browsing experiences, something that will affect how we conduct business in the near future.
Sparks flew, however, when the discussion turned to the political factors that will affect ccTLDs. Some passionate statements were made about the importance of maintaining an open and unregulated Internet. Last year’s events in Iran were cited as an example as to how important an Internet free from government tinkering is when we develop policies and take actions. I agree with this, but not everybody does. Governments around the world are increasingly waking up and wanting to control the Internet, and there are other international agencies that are attempting to adopt more Internet governance related activities.
Apart from the important role the Internet can play in democracy and human rights, it’s my opinion that it makes economic sense for governments to use a light hand when attempting to regulate the Internet. The organic, bottoms up nature of the Internet has allowed it to be an environment that stimulates creativity and self expression. Creativity is the foundation for innovation, which is the key driver for economic growth and stability. To put measures in place to regulate or control the Internet, either at the national or international level will affect the very characteristics that have allowed it to be the central driver of the economy of the last decade of the 20th century and the first decade of the 21st century.
On the topic of the future drivers of change in the DNS and the Internet, Rob Hall made an interesting comment about how search and the advent of the Chrome Web browser are fundamentally changing the domain space. Chrome has a search function built right into the address bar, which is directly changing the way in which people navigate to websites. This seems to be a reoccurring theme; I’ve blogged about how the ways in which we both access and use the Web are changing.
In my opinion, we have had a “stable” industry for more than 10 years ( at least the basics of addressing); now a separate, disruptive technology from another industry may completely change our business and the need and/or use for domain names as we currently think about them.
If a transcript or podcast of the debate is posted online, I will be sure to share the link on this blog.
By the way, I’d like to take the opportunity to congratulate Heather Dryden, a Policy Advisor with Industry Canada, on being appointed as the Interim Chairperson of ICANN’s Government Advisory Committee (GAC). The GAC is responsible for providing input to ICANN from governments, specifically on issues of public policy. Heather is a great champion of the Internet and the DNS in Canada. She is also an ex-officio member of CIRA’s Board of Directors.