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Things you didn’t realize were on the ICANN site: Part 5

There are two big issues that ICANN is constantly questioned about and judged by, and they are:

  • Security and stability
  • Accountability and Transparency

Last week, ICANN announced a whole security and stability plan [pdf] and opened up a public comment period on it. But that’s not what this blog post is about.

The thing that you didn’t realize was on the ICANN site (part 5) is actually the organization’s extensive response to the accountability and transparency question.

It is ICANN’s “Accountability and Transparency Frameworks and Principles” and they were approved well over a year ago by the Board, following no less than 16 months of community consultation (you can see the first public comment period back in October 2006 here).

This document was created in order to answer the simple question: how is ICANN held accountable and to whom? And the answer cames in three parts:

  1. Accountability in the Public Sphere
  2. Legal and Corporate accountability
  3. Accountability to the participating community

The document then gives a full rundown of the organization’s status, its legal obligations, its bylaws, its promises to the community, its principles, where all the information it produces can be found and pretty much everything you could want to know about transparency and accountability at ICANN.

The result, nearly 16 months later, has been much less discussion – and so, presumably, concern – about transparency and accountability and ICANN. But there are two reasons why it is worth flagging the frameworks and principles again (and most likely reminding a few of you of their existence).

For one, as new participants arrive and try to understand ICANN, sooner or later they arrive at an inevitable question: who is in charge of ICANN? And who holds it accountable to its decisions?

It’s not a simple answer because ICANN is not a traditional organization; it is as unique as the domain name system it coordinates. But if you read through the document you can see how ICANN has been structured and what the various systems are that have been put in place to make sure that it remains accountable to the wider Net community.

Improving Institutional Confidence

The second reason to review the frameworks and principles is because of the Improving Institutional Confidence (IIC) consultation that is going on at the moment and which aims to adjust or expand on what is there already so that people can feel comfortable with the conclusion of the Joint Project Agreement (JPA) that ICANN has with the US government.

The IIC will have a special session in a month’s time in Sydney, and the JPA will conclude at the end of September. So it is worth reviewing where ICANN currently is, and think ahead to where it can and should be.

You can find the full Accountability and Transparency Frameworks and Principles online and can also download them as a pdf document. Enjoy.

Previous things you didn’t realize

Part 4: Community translation requests
Part 3: Scorecard
Part 2: IDN Glossary
Part 1: Virtual Bookshelf


    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"""" is not an IDN."