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Status Update from the Expert Working Group on gTLD Directory Services

11 November 2013

In addition to the U.N. six languages, this content is also available in

ICANN has embarked on a journey to reinvent today's WHOIS system. Help the EWG envision a better system by joining the discussion at ICANN's Buenos Aires meeting and online.

The Expert Working Group on gTLD Directory Services (EWG) has been working to envision a clean-slate approach to better meet global Internet community needs for domain name registration data with greater privacy, accuracy, and accountability. In its Initial Report [PDF, 1.70 MB] published in June, the EWG recommended a series of principles and proposed a model for the next-generation Registration Directory Service (RDS) to replace today's WHOIS system.

In advance of the ICANN-48 Meeting in Buenos Aires, the EWG has published a Status Update Report [PDF, 2.26 MB] that provides further insight into the EWG's analysis and highlights its current thoughts on key issues, after more extensive exploration of open areas and careful consideration of all Community comments received on its Initial Report. As the EWG's deliberations are on-going, it is hoped that this report will provide insight into the team's recommendations, answer questions, and stimulate lively Community dialogue in Buenos Aires and online input.

Key issues highlighted in this Status Update Report [PDF, 2.26 MB] include:

  • Identifying the data elements to be freely available on an anonymous basis, and those that might require authenticated, gated access through accreditation for permissible purposes
  • Details on the principles for better privacy or proxy services and a proposal for secured protected credentials for use by at-risk individuals
  • Suggestions to improve data quality through standardization validation, periodic checks, and prevalidated contacts
  • Consideration of jurisdictional and applicable law issues, notably data protection law
  • Suggestions for ensuring harmonized approaches to data protection and security measures, and a framework for binding corporate rules to meet data protection obligations.
  • Exploration of how existing technical protocols could be utilized by the EWG's recommended implementation model (such as EPP or the RDAP protocol under development by the IETF)
  • Comparison of the current WHOIS system (as improved in the 2013 RAA) to the EWG's recommended next-generation registration data directory service
  • Description of various implementation models examined by the EWG, including a detailed comparison of pro and cons.

The ideas presented in this Status Update Report are works-in progress, not consensus recommendations, and may be further updated by the EWG in Buenos Aires. The EWG hopes to use Community input and research into specific areas to reach fact-based recommendations to be delivered in its Final Report.

Join the discussion

There are several ways to participate in this journey to envision a better system:

What's Next?

Due to the complexity of the task at hand and the importance of basing any next-generation RDS on a solid understanding of the benefits and impacts that would likely result, the EWG has not yet completed its recommendations, but intends to do so in early 2014, informed by Community feedback and in-depth analysis of selected areas. The EWG expects to reconvene in March 2014 to derive fact-based recommendations, delivering its final report to the ICANN Board before June 2014.


In December, ICANN announced the creation of an Expert Working Group (EWG) on next-generation gTLD Registration Directory Services, as a first step in fulfilling the ICANN Board's directive to help redefine the purpose and provision of gTLD registration data. The EWG's findings are expected to serve as a foundation to help the GNSO create a new global policy for the provision of gTLD registration data.

A significant milestone was reached on 24 June 2013 with the publication of the Expert Working Group on gTLD Directory Services (EWG)'s Initial Report and FAQs, opening a consultation period with the ICANN community. The initial report [PDF, 1.70 MB] enumerated the users, purposes, data elements, recommended principles and features, and proposed model to guide the development of a next generation Registration Directory Service (RDS) to replace WHOIS.

The initial report was accompanied by a questionnaire soliciting community input on complex areas needing further analysis to draft consensus recommendations. While comments were received on the entire initial report, two topics received the most feedback: the EWG's recommendation to replace fully anonymous WHOIS with a gated access paradigm, and the suggested Aggregated RDS (ARDS) implementation model.

The EWG's Status Update Report [PDF, 2.26 MB] aims to highlight the EWG's current thinking on these and many other key issues, after careful consideration of all comments and feedback received to date. It also provides a great deal more detail on the analysis that lay behind the Initial Report [PDF, 1.70 MB], as requested by the community.

More Information

The EWG work stems from the Board's directive to redefine the purpose and provision of gTLD registration data, while balancing data accuracy and access issues with safeguards for protecting data. The EWG considered the important community work done over the last decade by the GNSO, the SSAC, the WHOIS Review Team, the GAC and others.

The EWG's Initial Report [PDF, 1.70 MB] reflects the EWG's consensus view of design principles and features needed in a new RDS, along with a proposed Model illustrating how these could be fulfilled in the ICANN domain ecosystem. For more information, please refer to the Frequently Asked Questions prepared by the EWG after its Initial Report.

Initial Report Executive Summary

Initial Report

Consultation Archives

Report of Public Comments

To view the Expert Working Group's activities, please refer to the EWG wiki.