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Where have you gone? Public participation conundrum

4 October 2007
By Kieren McCarthy

There is a letter [pdf] from the Universal Postal Union (UPU) to ICANN concerning the use of their sTLD .post that may well have important implications for the future evolution of the domain name system.

This letter was received on 5 September and immediately posted on ICANN’s website. The letter specifically expressed the wish to have the Internet community’s feedback on its proposals, and so the next day, ICANN purposefully opened up a public comment period on it.

That comment period was officially announced and posted on ICANN’s front page. It was sent out in an RSS feed and a news alert. And the comment period was noted and posted on the public comment webpage.

The comment period closes in one day (6 October) and so far there have so far been no comments at all from the community.

It is not unusual for there to be very few comments during an ICANN public comment period – although we have recently been trying to improve on that – but it is surprising that there are no comments at all since the letter contains several significant proposals and both the UPU and ICANN have specifically requested feedback.

Among the proposals are, that:

  • The UPU be granted 1,000 initial domain names which it would then provide to its member countries (which it calls Designated Operators, or DOs)
  • The UPU and DOs be allowed to become ICANN-accredited registrars
  • The DOs be allowed to supply domains (it refers to them as “sub-delegations”) for no fee and without going through ICANN-accredited registrars

Although .post is one of the sponsored top-level domains and as such its suggestions would not have an immediate impact on other TLDs, I find it odd that no one would have a view on the proposals. And so, as general manager of public participation, I feel concerned that despite ICANN’s efforts, people are not fully aware of the matter- and so also may be missing out on responding to other areas where they may have a useful perspective or valuable input to provide.

Is this the case? Are people genuinely not interested in commenting on the proposals? Or are you not aware of them? Did people see the announcement but not understand its significance? Is the format clear, or not clear enough? Is there more or better ways of flagging up ICANN’s work to people?

A frequent complaint of ICANN is that it does not make it known clearly enough what it is doing, but from ICANN’s perspective, if we put out an official announcement, news alert and add the issue to a clear public comment webpage – in each case linking to the required resources – then that it a pretty significant effort to draw attention to the issue.

I may be wrong and no one except the UPU is interested in .post. But if there is some interest, please do provide us with some feedback by commenting below.


Kieren McCarthy