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Creating Content Governance and Rebuilding the Infrastructure of ICANN’s Public Sites

26 September 2017
By Duncan Burns and David Conrad

It probably comes as no surprise to many of you who use www.icann.org that our content can be difficult to find. It's an issue we have grappled with for a long time that needs a permanent fix. On 23 September 2017, at the ICANN Board meeting in Montevideo, Uruguay, the Board approved the Information Transparency Initiative to address this and other problems related to our content governance. One of the primary objectives of this initiative is to improve the findability of ICANN's public content in all six U.N. languages. This objective is in service of ICANN's Mission and Bylaws, will help you, the community, do your work, and will help us meet our commitments to accountability and transparency.

How will improving content findability benefit the community?

Finding relevant content in all six U.N. languages shouldn't be a chore. It should be easy for you to find content in Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian, and Spanish, on whichever device you are using. The Information Transparency Initiative's effect on improving findability will help ICANN's Supporting Organizations (SO), Advisory Committees (AC), and all of our stakeholders do the important policy work you do each and every day, and will help newcomers navigate ICANN by:

  • Providing better search capabilities in the six U.N. languages by applying a consistent taxonomy to all www.icann.org content.
  • Enabling ICANN ecosystem wide search by using the www.icann.org taxonomy as a foundation for all SO/AC sites.
  • Allowing you to find content more easily by enhancing site navigation.
  • Providing links to relevant content based on what you are searching for or looking at.
  • Making better use of databases to simplify search of specific content types like correspondence, registry reports, and glossaries.
  • Creating a new, intuitive user experience, which has been based on your input, feedback, and user journeys. This experience will include improved features like Public Comment, and Public and other ICANN meeting registration.
  • Ensuring you can access content on your mobile phone, tablet, laptop, or desktop by adhering to mobile-first standards.
  • Improving content accessibility for people with disabilities by following Web Content Accessibility Guidelines.

The Information Transparency Initiative also:

  • Strengthens the security and stability of our external platforms.
  • Increases the efficiency and scalability of our technical architecture, by using the www.icann.org infrastructure as the foundation for the entire ecosystem of ICANN sites, including the SO/AC sites. This platform consolidation will decrease the cost of maintaining ICANN's public sites.
  • Improves content management by imposing clear processes and automation to ensure all documents and other materials are tagged, stored, and administered using best practices.

How will the community provide input and gain insight into the project?

We need your feedback to get this right. We'll be conducting open sessions at ICANN Public Meetings (beginning with ICANN60), hosting webinars, and posting monthly blogs to update the community on our progress. More importantly, we'll be launching a test site, which will allow stakeholders to see, use, and test features as they are developed. Through this online tool, you will be able to provide direct feedback on what works and what can be improved.

How will we implement the Information Transparency Initiative?

The Information Transparency Initiative is an operational activity to improve ICANN's content governance and infrastructure. This two-year initiative has two goals – rebuilding ICANN's technical infrastructure and improving content findability through the implementation of a new information architecture with concrete content governance. We will begin this work with a thorough audit and tagging of all www.icann.org content. This will form the basis of our content strategy and the ICANN ecosystem-wide taxonomy. This tagged content will be stored in a new document management system (DMS), which will enable and enforce content governance. The DMS will be married to a new content management system (CMS) which will surface this newly tagged and improved content on www.icann.org.

Why is the Information Transparency Initiative important now?

We take our commitments to our accountability and transparency very seriously. We have built up a sizable debt in both content and technology that we need to address. Unless we pay back this debt, it will only worsen each year. ICANN's public content is growing at 25% each year, so the lack of governance and metadata on our content means the findability of ICANN content worsens each year. Further, the technical infrastructure of ICANN's public sites is increasingly creaky, costly to maintain, and needs to be replaced. It is crucial that we begin to resolve our content governance and technical infrastructure problems now, to help us meet our accountability and transparency commitments, and allow us to deliver results for the ICANN community.

What's next?

We'll be posting information about the date, time, and agenda for the upcoming Information Transparency Initiative session at ICANN60. We encourage you to join us, and share your thoughts and feedback. We look forward to seeing you at this session, and engaging with you throughout this project.

This project will take time, as we will be focused on building improved foundational elements – our technical infrastructure and content governance. This work is not a simple website refresh. We are aware of the challenges of undertaking this initiative, but we are confident that with your feedback, and our focus on a narrow set of goals to improve content governance, search, and our technical infrastructure, that we will deliver an improved experience for our stakeholders.


Duncan Burns

David Conrad

David Conrad