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ICANN Board sticks .xxx on public agenda

Category : Domain names, ICANN, Internet, Internet governance · by Mar 1st, 2010

The ICANN Board has stuck discussion of the dot-xxx Internet extension on the agenda for its public meeting on 12 March – a good but brave move.

As covered last week, ICANN came off pretty badly following an independent review of the Board’s decision to reject dot-xxx back in 2007. A three-judge panel decided that the decision wasn’t justified and that the decision was “not consistent with the application of neutral, objective, and fair documented policy”.

This has lead the company behind dot-xxx, ICM Registry, to call on ICANN to sign the contract it had negotiated over the course of two years (2005-2007) and add dot-xxx to the Internet’s “root”. The Board agenda lists “Consideration of the Independent Review Panel Declaration ICM Registry v. ICANN” as one of its 11 topics for the public Board meeting.

This is a good move, and it’s the right move. But it is also a brave move because the dot-xxx controversy still creates a lot of heat and light in the ICANN community. The Board will effectively be deciding whether it agrees that an earlier incarnation of the Board got things wrong while sitting in exactly the same position, on the same stage, three years earlier. The community will want blood or some kind. And the Board will have to balance how to adequately deal with the criticism, while also appeasing both those who were strongly against dot-xxx (including governments) and those who feel that the Board did a major disservice to the organisation by ruling against dot-xxx.

As to the logistics of how the decision will be made: the Board meets for the afternoon (and sometimes the evening) on the Thursday before the Friday morning Board meeting to thrash out the issues in front of it. Usually this results in a unanimous or near-unanimous decision during the public meeting (sometimes criticised as producing a public meeting that is theatre).

However, when private Board discussion hits an impasse, it can sometimes spill over in the public meeting – the best example of which, ironically, was the dot-xxx decision made in March 2007.

It will be impossible to know whether the Board will be able to come to agreement on Thursday (although I suspect there are dozens of emails flying about right now between Board members trying to pin down specific aspects to discuss). If the Board doesn’t agree – and if the chairman and CEO keep to their promise to not keep the Board up until the early hours talking – then we could see the issue blow up on stage.

My prediction for what it’s worth: I think the Board will agree to move forward with the dot-xxx agreement but request a last round of contract negotiations. This would be the right, strong and brave thing to do.

Just as likely however is that the Board will refer to a GAC communique provided on Wednesday night requesting that more time be given to review dot-xxx, or some such diplomatic language, and so find a way of avoiding making a decision. Some will argue for caution (the world won’t end if the Board does not move forward on dot-xxx); and some will argue that the Board should act decisively.

It should be much easier to discern what will happen after the joint GAC/Board meeting late Tuesday afternoon.

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(2) comments

Paul Walsh
5 years ago ·

Do you know if the dotxxx application still includes the mandatory use of Content Labels as a means for Web site owners to classify their content?

Stuart Lawley
5 years ago ·

Yes it does and I amaware of and in touch with Paul about his labeling initiative.

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