Spokespeople for the organizations that run country-code top-level internet domains (ccTLDs) threatened this week that they could take their leave of ICANN, the international body that has been trying to woo them for four years,writes Kevin Murphy.
According to reports from the floor of ICANN's quarterly meeting in Shanghai this week, the ccTLDs formally folded the constituency of ICANN's Domain Name Supporting Organization that represented them, and said they are going to work on a proposal that could attempt to take over some of ICANN's powers.
It's the latest stage of a long complex standoff between the ccTLDs and ICANN. Signing stable agreements with the ccTLDs is the most Herculean of the tasks ICANN was given by the US Department of Commerce in 1998 as part of the plan to transition the management of the domain name system into private hands.
ICANN draws its powers and responsibilities mainly from two documents: the aforementioned memorandum of understanding (MoU) with the DoC, which specifies what ICANN must do to take over management of the DNS from the US government, and a separate contract to fulfill the so-called "IANA function",
The IANA function calls for ICANN to manage the delegation of ccTLDs to the organizations that manage them, such as Nominet Ltd in the UK and Neustar Inc in the US. When control of country domains changes hands, IANA is to be the organization that authorizes the DNS root servers to point to the new ccTLD managers.
But the ccTLDs say ICANN's execution of this function has been shoddy, and that the organization has used its IANA powers as a bargaining token when it tries to persuade ccTLDs to sign contracts with ICANN in fulfillment of its MoU obligations.
Some in the ccTLD constituency said this week that they will get together to bid for the IANA contract when it comes up for renewal in March. A communique circulated by a ccTLD constituency member yesterday said the ccTLDs agreed to look into an IANA bid, but ICANN said it does not represent the majority of the ccTLDs' views.
The communique said: "In view of the continuing failures by ICANN in conducting its stewardship of the IANA function, particularly in relation to ccTLD database updates, managers agreed to set up a Working Group to develop a plan to set up a system of independent management of the DNS root entries and database entries."
"The fact is that Canada, Belgium and Sweden stood up yesterday declaring that they do not support what is being promulgated by [the communique's proponents]," an ICANN spokesperson told ComputerWire yesterday, "and that the silent majority of [ccTLD managers] don't agree with them and are in support of ICANN."
ICANN appears to have the backing of its Governmental Advisory Committee, made up of international government representatives, which said in a statement yesterday: "The GAC calls on all parties concerned, including in particular ICANN, but also the [regional internet registries] and the ccTLD constituency, to co-operate in good faith..."
The ccTLDs are now working on forming their own ccSO (for country-code supporting organization) as part of ICANN's ongoing internal reform efforts. The language of the communique issued suggests that the IANA bid threat is part of its plan to get the ccSO proposal accepted.