Capacity development, communications, and outreach with a focus on global inclusivity will be critical to fostering diverse participation in the next round of new generic top-level domains (gTLDs). It is for this reason that the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) organization (org) created a specific work track dedicated to this effort in the new gTLD Subsequent Procedures (SubPro) Operational Design Phase (ODP). Let me introduce you to Work Track 6.
The Generic Names Supporting Organization Council's Final Report on the New gTLD SubPro Policy Development Process included an Affirmation (1.3) that "the primary purposes of new gTLDs are to foster diversity, encourage competition, and enhance the utility of the Domain Name System (DNS)." The execution of future gTLD rounds must be designed to be accessible for diverse types of applicants, with special attention paid to underserved communities. The report specifically addresses the importance of creating early awareness for applicants considering all geographies, in areas such as the Applicant Support Program, supporting Internationalized Domain Names (IDNs), and promoting Universal Acceptance (UA) adoption.
Billions of people in the world face challenges accessing the Internet in their own scripts, using their own keyboards. This work track will raise awareness of the need for UA and the importance of facilitating a multilingual Internet. ICANN will continue supporting the community's efforts to encourage software developers and back-end providers to reach UA-readiness so that all domain names, regardless of length, language, or script, will work in all Internet-enabled applications, devices, and systems.
This work track brings together expertise from across the ICANN organization to identify the specific regions, communities, and audiences that are important to fostering diversity; increase understanding of the need for UA; and raise awareness of the opportunities that gTLDs in local scripts may provide. This work track is also exploring ways to encourage diverse business models and innovative uses of the DNS, and to better prepare potential applicants for the evaluation process.
Fundamental to this effort is the development of a robust and comprehensive global communications strategy to raise awareness of ICANN, the DNS, and the next round of new gTLDs. In addition, the work in this track includes generating awareness and understanding of the Applicant Support Program, UA, and IDNs.
Considering the magnitude of the capacity-development work already being carried out by ICANN, the org hopes to engage diverse expertise to supplement existing activities with other actors in the Internet ecosystem. This may include conducting trainings with local technical institutions and universities by leveraging existing in-country relationships; working with other organizations to build technical capacity among potential applicants; further developing industry connections to help build local networks and localizing information tailored to those audiences; and working with those that are interested in hosting new IDN gTLDs, either through back-end registry services, financial infrastructure, technical capacity development, or all of the above.
Looking ahead, the success of this work track will rely on the ICANN org, the community, and the broader Internet ecosystem, and collaborating effectively.