Skip to main content

Update: Enhancing ICANN Accountability

On March 14th 2014, the U.S. National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) announced its intent to transition its stewardship over key Internet domain name functions to the global multistakeholder community. During introductory discussions around the transition, a broader topic of the impact of the transition on ICANN accountability was raised. The result was the launch by ICANN of a parallel, interrelated process to determine whether and how ICANN's accountability mechanisms should be strengthened once its historical contractual relationship with the U.S. Government expires.

The public comment period on the draft process began on May 6th and concluded on June 27th. In total, 49 comments were submitted. The majority of them focused on substantive areas of accountability, including suggestions of topics for discussion as well as potential solutions. Additionally, some of the comments addressed the process and proposed approaches. We want to thank all who provided comments and engaged in the respective dialogues, including at the recent ICANN 50 meeting in London.

Our staff is reviewing the comments and preparing the next steps for the process, reflecting community feedback and incorporating the dialogues at the ICANN 50 meeting in London and of the IANA Stewardship Transition Coordination Group (ICG) meeting held earlier this month. We expect the next steps for implementing the process to be posted late next week.

While independent of the IANA stewardship transition process, the process on enhancing ICANN's accountability is a key component to the success of the IANA stewardship transition. At the first face-to-face meeting of the ICG, the members acknowledged that while the ICG's scope does not include looking at ICANN accountability, the two processes are linked and inform each other. It was reflected in their draft charter [PDF, 44 KB] that there should be coordination between the work of the two processes, and we are looking at incorporating this into the accountability process.

The most critical element of this process is trust and alignment. To ensure success on this accountability track, we must as a community work closely together to make sure that the final process is meaningful.  The transition from the U.S. Government is an opportunity to showcase the strength of a bottom-up, community-led multistakeholder model in Internet governance policy making. However, with that opportunity comes significant responsibility.

There is plenty of work to be done in an ambitious period of time. I'd like to encourage all individuals in the community, as the real drivers and owners of this process, to reach out to their communities in the coming weeks and months and engage in the ongoing dialogues to ensure that everyone's voice is heard and taken into account. We will provide an update as the revised process is finalized.


    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."