I had the opportunity to attend the 42nd meeting of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) in Dakar, Senegal last week, and what it may have lacked in fireworks, it more than made up in the kind of hard work and collaboration that will be needed to usher the Internet’s addressing system into the next stage of its evolution. Even now we are hearing the opening notes of what will become a symphony of new choices for individuals, businesses and communities around the world.
Just a few months ago in June, the eyes of the world were on Singapore, where ICANN voted to approve the implementation of the program that could potentially create a limitless number of new generic Top-Level Domains (gTLDs). For casual observers, that vote marked the end of a multi-year process, but for those of us involved with the development and upkeep of the Domain Name System, it was really just the beginning.
Last week in Senegal, entrepreneurs, brand owners and organizations from around the world came together with infrastructure operators and registry service providers to further refine the course for a wide range of new online identity choices in the form of gTLDs. The challenge for everyone is that the window for submitting applications is nearing and does not remain open for long .(the three-month application window opens on January 12). The process itself is unprecedented and lengthy, making the learning curve very steep – though not insurmountable.
For as long as we in the ICANN community have been working on the rollout of new and competitive gTLD offerings, one would think that most people around the globe would be more aware of what's happening. However, we sing to ourselves so frequently that we forget that many global Internet end-users today have no idea what ICANN is or does.
While the ICANN Board has authorized an additional $900,000 for the new gTLD communications plan and is exploring ways to implement some of the recommendations of the Joint Applicant Support Working Group (which works to find ways to support applicants from developing countries), it still may not be enough to reach a truly global audience, considering that the first application will be taken some time on January 12, 2012.
With prognosticators anticating as many as1500 applications, it may make sense for ICANN to ramp up its marketing and communications efforts even more. Outsourced service providers, turnkey software vendors and others like Verisign are doing their best to bring this tune to the masses, but more is still required..
If we aren’t able to substantially boost awareness of new gTLDs in the few remaining weeks before the launch, the other option for the ICANN community is to move quickly to plan and implement the second round of new gTLD applications. That way, when the next great idea comes in tune on April 2, 2012, its conductor can make plans to participate in the opening of the next great symphony.