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Briefing Note: Overall Summary of the Cairo Meeting

17 December 2008
By Kieren McCarthy

This Briefing Note for the Cairo meeting was first published on the Cairo meeting site on 13 November (see: http://cai.icann.org/en/briefing-note). It was reprinted the following day in the November edition of the ICANN magazine (see: http://icann.org/en/magazine/archive/magazine-200811-en.html).

What was it?

ICANN's 33nd international public meeting was the third held this year to conduct policy development and outreach. It was hosted by ICANN (the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) and the Government of Egypt.

The meeting was opened by Dr. Tarek Mohamed Kamel, Egypt's Minister of Communications and Information Technology. There were 1,702 attendees from 144 different countries. The participants engaged in a wide range of discussions about the Internet's domain name system and related issues.

Further information about the meeting, including presentations and transcripts, is available at http://cai.icann.org/. A number of videos summarizing the key parts of the meeting can be found at: http://cai.icann.org/en/video.

ICANN's next international public meeting will take place in Mexico City, Mexico, beginning on 1st March, 2009.

What happened and what are the next steps?

Many meetings, workshops, public forums and informal discussions were held over eight days by the different stakeholders of the ICANN model:

  • Business interests
  • Civil society
  • Governments and government agencies
  • Internet service providers
  • Registrants
  • Registrars
  • Registries
  • The technical community

Several key issues and themes evolved over the course of the meeting. They are summarized below and are:

New gTLDs

A draft Applicant Guidebook was released a week before the meeting for those wishing to apply for a new generic top-level domain. A number of meetings and workshops were dedicated to explaining the guidebook and receiving input and feedback from the community on its contents.

The first were two introductory sessions on the Sunday before the meeting's official opening, held in English and Arabic. That was followed by a dedicated hour-and-forty-five minute workshop in the main room on the opening day, Monday (http://cai.icann.org/en/video#tue). Further discussion on the subject took place at a joint session of the chairs of the Supporting Organizations and Advisory Committees in the afternoon.

Discussion and updates were then presented to different parts of the community, including the GNSO and its constituencies, ccNSO and GAC over the course of the following two days. A community-led discussion on "Additional Solutions for a Successful gTLD Launch" took place on the Wednesday afternoon.

Much of the two-part public forum on Thursday was taken up with comments and questions on the guidebook specifically and the new gTLD process generally, and an update on the process was given to the Board during its public meeting on Friday morning. Transcripts from most of these sessions are available on the Cairo meeting site (http://cai.icann.org/en/transcripts).

More information is available on ICANN's new gTLDs page (http://www.icann.org/en/topics/new-gtld-program.htm), including the draft Applicant Guidebook and accompanying explanatory memoranda, as well as an FAQ, and additional resources.

The new gTLD update provided to the Board can be found at: http://cai.icann.org/files/meetings/cairo2008/new-gtlds-06nov08.pdf

Next steps:

The draft Guidebook will be published in five additional languages. A public comment period on the guidebook will run until 8 December (http://www.icann.org/en/topics/new‐gtld‐comments‐
), after which public comment will be analysed and used to revise the implementation model.

In 2009, ICANN will procure evaluation services for certain aspects of the process, embark on a global communications plan to make as many people as possible aware of the new process and then launch the introduction of new gTLDs.

More information:

See the new gTLD webpage at http://www.icann.org/en/topics/new-gtld-program.htm
An overview video of the Monday session can be found online at http://cai.icann.org/en/video#tue

IDNs and IDN Fast Track

Just prior to the meeting, the draft implementation plan for the IDN Fast Track was published. The Fast Track would allow a limited number of IDN ccTLDs to be introduced before the formal policy development process is finalized (IDN ccTLDs are country code, as opposed to generic, internationalized domain names at the top level of the Internet).

Public comments on the draft document are being received until 8 December (see http://www.icann.org/en/public-comment/public-comment-200812.html#plan-idn-cctlds).

In Cairo, the Fast Track document was the focus of much of the discussion related to IDNs. The issue of internationalized domain names that may be applied for through the new gTLD process (as opposed to the Fast Track or the subsequent ccTLD policy development process) was also a main topic of conversation. There was also some discussion about the timing and possible overlap of the two different tracks for IDN top-level domain applications.

There were also two introductory sessions (one in English and one in Arabic) on the subject of IDNs.

The Fast Track and the introduction of IDNs was also discussed in two joint sessions of the chairs of the Supporting Organizations and Advisory Committees on Monday afternoon and Thursday morning. Updates on both, as well as progress being made by the IETF on the IDNA protocol revision (an important step for the process) were provided to ICANN's different bodies and constituencies over the course of the week.

An update on the process was provided to the ICANN Board at its public meeting on the Friday, complete with some discussion of the issues surrounding IDN implementation issues necessary for the Fast Track process to be implemented. Transcripts from most of these sessions are available on the Cairo meeting site (http://cai.icann.org/en/transcripts). See also: http://cai.icann.org/files/meetings/cairo2008/idn-pf-cairo-06nov08_0.pdf

A meeting of interested parties on the introduction of Arabic script at the top level of the Internet took place on the Saturday after the meeting.

Next steps:

The draft implementation plan for the Fast Track process is out for public comment until 8 December, when it will be evaluated with respect to the comments. At the same time, an IETF working group is finalizing an IDN protocol that ICANN hopes to see completed before the introduction of IDN top-level domains.

Outstanding issues remain including: the relationship between an IDN ccTLD operator and ICANN, both in the type of agreement or framework entered into and the provision of funds; the issue of contention between existing top-level domains and ones applied for through the new gTLD process; and a few technical requirements. Some of these issues will be addressed or resolved at the next ICANN meeting in Mexico in March 2009.

Staff will provide an updated version of the draft Fast Track implementation plan prior to the Mexico meeting, with a specific focus on these issues:

More information:
IDN index page: http://www.icann.org/en/topics/idn/
The Fast Track draft implementation plan: http://www.icann.org/en/topics/idn/fast-track/idn-cctld-implementation-plan-23oct08-en.pdf
An overview video of IDNs and new gTLDs can found online at: http://cai.icann.org/en/video#mon

Improving Institutional Confidence (IIC)

The IIC consultation was formally launched at ICANN's Paris meeting in June and has since been the subject of two public comment periods and a global outreach campaign. In Cairo, the meeting was used to give the community an update on the process and also to gather more feedback on the issues it has raised.

The IIC consultation is based on successive drafts of a set of three documents – an Improving Institutional Confidence in ICANN document; a Transition Action Plan; and a Frequently Asked Questions document. These documents have been updated to reflect community input from a special session in Paris,, the two public comment periods and a series of five public meetings in Montevideo, Christchurch, Geneva, Washington DC and Dakar between August and October 2008.

A special joint session of the chairs of the different Supporting Organizations and Advisory Committees considered the IIC documents on Monday afternoon. A session dedicated to the consultation was also held on Thursday afternoon. Transcripts from these sessions are available on the Cairo meeting site (http://cai.icann.org/en/transcripts). The consultation was also one of the main topics discussed by the Governmental Advisory Committee (GAC) over the course of the week.

The consultation's aim is for the community to discuss possible changes to ICANN in the lead-up to the completion of the JPA in September 2009. This work has been led by the President's Advisory Committee (PSC) whose role is to provide advice to the Board.

Next Steps:

Work will soon begin on an implementation plan with details about the issues identified by the community as needing attention. That plan will be published in early 2009 in time for review prior to the next ICANN meeting in Mexico City in March.

In the meantime, two further outreach meetings, at Afrinic in Mauritius later this month (November 2008) and at the Internet Governance Forum (IGF) in Hyderabad, India in December will take place to build more awareness and gather feedback.

More information:

Full information about the documents, the public comment periods, the regional meetings and the consultation itself can be found on dedicated IIC webpages in ten languages at: http://www.icann.org/en/jpa/iic/
The update on the process, as given at the special IIC session on Thursday can be found online at: http://cai.icann.org/files/meetings/cairo2008/iic-workshop-06nov08.pdf

Independent Reviews

The independent review process requires each of ICANN's Supporting Organizations and Advisory Committees to undergo review every few years to make sure that the organization as a whole continues to serves the needs of the global Internet community.

There are several independent reviews currently underway or soon to be launched. The Board of Directors is also undergoing an independent review. The Cairo meeting saw a number of updates and workshops on the current reviews, and an update on the various reviews was also provided to the Board at its public meeting on Friday. A new staff member dedicated to overseeing the reviews process was also publicly introduced.

The review effort to improve the structure, operations, communications and outreach of the GNSO has now moved into the implementation stage, but there are two outstanding issues still being considered by the ICANN Board: how the GNSO Council elects members of the Board; and the role of individual users within the GNSO.

Staff is actively soliciting input on the first issue, and the second has been put out to public comment until 28 November (see http://www.icann.org/en/public-comment/public-comment-200811.html#gnso-users).
In the meantime, charters and work plans are being developed for steering committees and operations work teams to enable the GNSO to move into its new two-house structure by June 2009, and to develop implementation proposals for a new policy development process as well as a new working group methodology for addressing policy issues.

Nominating Committee
Currently in "improvement stage". The Board Governance Committee (BGC) is reviewing a report from a special BGC working group formed to review the independent report produced earlier in the year.

Following discussion of the independent reviewer's report at the Paris meeting in July, a working group on the ALAC review has produced a mid-point report on its findings so far and held several sessions in Cairo seeking input from the community. A final report is expected for the Mexico City meeting in March 2009.

Board of Directors
The independent reviewer's report was published at the Cairo meeting and a special session held on the Monday evening. A special working group will seek input from the community and produce an initial report for the Mexico City meeting.

The independent reviewers started gathering information at a special session on the Wednesday morning. A draft report is expected for the Mexico City meeting in March 2009.

The independent reviewers started gathering information at a special session on the Wednesday morning. A draft report is expected for the Mexico City meeting in March 2009.

The ccNSO and ASO reviews are in their preparatory stages, with the terms of reference for the ccNSO to be published for public comment before the end of the year, and the terms of reference for the ASO expected in early 2009.

Next Steps:
The progress of each review can be followed online, with further details on each given in the staff update provided to the Board on Friday.

More information:
The independent reviews webpage can be found at: http://www.icann.org/en/reviews/
The presentation provided to the Board can be found online at: https://cai.icann.org/files/meetings/cairo2008/organizational-reviews-06nov08.pdf
Transcripts from most of these sessions are available on the Cairo meeting site at http://cai.icann.org/en/transcripts.

DNSSEC and Security

Following the issue of an exploit in the domain name system discovered by security researcher Dan Kaminsky, a number of security briefings on this issue and other related issues were given to ICANN's various supporting organizations and advisory committees.

In particular, the DNSSEC protocol – long promoted by ICANN's Security and Stability Advisory Committee (SSAC) – was explained and its use in closing down the Kaminsky hole outlined, alongside other short-term measures.

A special workshop on DNSSEC was held on the Wednesday, and an open meeting of the SSAC on Monday also covered the issue.

The SSAC meeting was also used for an experiment in improving remote participation. Through Adobe's Connect software, participants were able to see and hear the meeting in progress (as well as view the live scribe feed), see the presentation slides as the presenters went through them, and ask questions in a dedicated chatroom.

More information:
DNSSEC Workshop full details and presentations: http://cai.icann.org/en/5nov08/dnssec-workshop

Business Access Agenda

For the second time, a specific agenda and series of targeted meetings and discussions were held for business leaders in an effort to engage business more effectively within ICANN's processes.

The agenda included briefings on the most significant topics facing ICANN at the moment, including new gTLDs and IDNs, and a meeting with board directors, including the Chair.

Special guests: Dr Hamadoun Touré and Meredith Atwell Baker

Two special guests visited the Cairo meeting on the Thursday.

Dr. Hamadoun Touré is Secretary-General of the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), and Meredith Atwell Baker is Acting Assistant Secretary for Communications and Information at the US Department of Commerce and responsible for the relationship ICANN shares with the US government.

Both gave speeches and Dr. Touré answered questions from the audience. Dr Touré stressed the importance of collaboration between the ITU and ICANN and Acting Assistant Secretary Attwell Baker acknowledged ICANN's institutional progress in the 10 years since its creation and stressed that proactive contribution from the community is vital to the organization as the Internet continues to evolve.

Both Touré and Atwell Baker then held a number of separate sessions with various members of the ICANN community.

More information:
Transcripts of both speeches can be found online at:
https://cai.icann.org/files/meetings/cairo2008/toure-speech-06nov08.txt and https://cai.icann.org/files/meetings/cairo2008/baker-speech-06nov08.txt respectively.

Other matters
  • ICANN signed an Exchange of Letters with the managers of .eg, Egypt's country-code top-level domain (see a video of the occasion at http://cai.icann.org/en/video#sun.
  • The .mobi and .coop registries were authorized to make single-letter domains available e.g. www.c.mobi.
  • A new working group will study and review the issues related to the definition of the ICANN Geographic Regions, and submit proposals for community and Board consideration. The Board asked all interested Supporting Organizations and Advisory Committees to nominate two individuals to serve on the working group.
  • Sydney was chosen as the location for the June 2009 meeting and the Board asked Staff to review the possibility of Seoul as the host for the October 2009 meeting, with the European meeting deferred until a later date.
  • Since it was ICANN's annual meeting, the Board was reformed with new members Katim Touray (NomCom appointee), Thomas Roessler (TLG liaison) and Ram Mohan (SSAC liaison). Previous SSAC chair Steve Crocker became a voting member of the Board following his selection by the Nominating Committee.
  • Peter Dengate Thrush was re-elected as chairman; Roberto Gaetano was re-elected as vice-chairman.


Kieren McCarthy