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Paving the Way for a Next-Generation gTLD Registration Directory Service

I am pleased to provide you with an update about ICANN's progress on establishing a policy framework for a next-generation gTLD Registration Directory Service (RDS) to replace WHOIS.

On 19 November, 2015, the GNSO Council approved a charter for the Next-Generation gTLD Registration Directory Service (RDS) to replace WHOIS (Next-Gen RDS) Policy Development Process (PDP) Working Group. This motion culminates a three-year effort to address concerns with WHOIS by creating a new policy framework capable of balancing diverse interests to meet today's needs for gTLD registration data.

What's Next

The GNSO Council is now proceeding with the Board-requested PDP, using the approved charter's [PDF, 628 KB] 3-phase process to (1) establish gTLD registration data requirements to determine if and why a next-generation RDS is needed, (2) design policies that detail functions that must be provided by a next-generation RDS to support those requirements, and (3) provide guidance for how a next-generation RDS should implement those policies, coexisting with and eventually replacing WHOIS.

In its motion, the GNSO Council directed that the call for volunteers for the PDP WG be circulated as widely as possible in order to ensure broad representation and participation in the Working Group. This call will be initiated by 4 January 2016 and will remain open until the WG convenes for the first time. At this juncture, it is anticipated that the WG may convene late January to lay the groundwork for an initial face-to-face meeting at ICANN 55.

All parties interested in a new policy framework for a next-generation RDS to replace WHOIS are invited to visit the RDS Wiki for background information, including the PDP WG's approved charter, inputs already provided by all SG/Cs during the public comment period, and an extensive library of foundational materials to inform the PDP WG's deliberations. In addition, the PDP WG will reach out to all SG/Cs for feedback on any items that they believe should be considered that may not have been specifically called out in the approved charter.

As this will be a complex multi-phase PDP, all those interested in helping to shape the policy framework for a next-generation gTLD RDS are encouraged to volunteer for this PDP WG. Only with the help of the entire community can this PDP WG achieve its goal of formally defining an appropriate purpose of gTLD registration data and establishing a new policy framework to enable permissible access to that data with improved privacy and accuracy.

Background and Recent Progress

Created in the 1980s, WHOIS began as a service to identify and contact entities responsible for the operation of a network resource on the Internet. Over the years, ICANN's requirements for gTLD domain name registration data collection, access and accuracy have undergone some important changes. Yet, after nearly 15 years of task forces, review teams, and studies, comprehensive WHOIS policy reform remains the source of long-running discussion and debate.

In 2012, the ICANN Board launched the Expert Working Group on gTLD Registration Directory Services (EWG) to help redefine the purpose of gTLD registration data and consider how to safeguard the data, and to propose a model for gTLD registration directory services (RDS) to address accuracy, privacy, and access issues.

Upon publication of the EWG's Final Report in June, 2014, an informal group of GNSO Councilors and ICANN Board Members collaborated to propose a Process Framework for structuring a GNSO PDP to successfully address these challenging issues. This Process Framework was adopted by the Board in 2015, along with a reaffirmation of its 2012 request for a PDP to be convened to define the purpose of collecting, maintaining and providing access to gTLD registration data. The Board also asked that the PDP consider safeguards for protecting data, using the recommendations in the EWG's Final Report as an input to, and, if appropriate, as the foundation for a new gTLD policy.

In preparation for this PDP, a new Preliminary Issue Report [PDF, 1.4 MB] was published for public comment on 13 July 2015. A Final Issue Report [PDF, 1.2 MB] was subsequently published on 7 October 2015, including links to all public comments received, along with a draft charter for the PDP WG. This draft charter was approved by the GNSO Council on 19 November 2015, enabling the formation of a GNSO working group of community volunteers to progress this PDP.

Comments

    Domain Name System
    Internationalized Domain Name ,IDN,"IDNs are domain names that include characters used in the local representation of languages that are not written with the twenty-six letters of the basic Latin alphabet ""a-z"". An IDN can contain Latin letters with diacritical marks, as required by many European languages, or may consist of characters from non-Latin scripts such as Arabic or Chinese. Many languages also use other types of digits than the European ""0-9"". The basic Latin alphabet together with the European-Arabic digits are, for the purpose of domain names, termed ""ASCII characters"" (ASCII = American Standard Code for Information Interchange). These are also included in the broader range of ""Unicode characters"" that provides the basis for IDNs. The ""hostname rule"" requires that all domain names of the type under consideration here are stored in the DNS using only the ASCII characters listed above, with the one further addition of the hyphen ""-"". The Unicode form of an IDN therefore requires special encoding before it is entered into the DNS. The following terminology is used when distinguishing between these forms: A domain name consists of a series of ""labels"" (separated by ""dots""). The ASCII form of an IDN label is termed an ""A-label"". All operations defined in the DNS protocol use A-labels exclusively. The Unicode form, which a user expects to be displayed, is termed a ""U-label"". The difference may be illustrated with the Hindi word for ""test"" — परीका — appearing here as a U-label would (in the Devanagari script). A special form of ""ASCII compatible encoding"" (abbreviated ACE) is applied to this to produce the corresponding A-label: xn--11b5bs1di. A domain name that only includes ASCII letters, digits, and hyphens is termed an ""LDH label"". Although the definitions of A-labels and LDH-labels overlap, a name consisting exclusively of LDH labels, such as""icann.org"" is not an IDN."