New ICANN head promises greater openness

The Internet addressing authority has been criticised as secretive, but new president Paul Twomey says the organisation is to turn over a new leaf

Paul Twomey, the recently elected president of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), believes the organisation's next step is to look beyond OECD nations to accommodate the interests of the Internet community worldwide.

Twomey said ICANN has three main objectives in the near future, the first being to "be very open and consultative with all the stakeholders". ICANN has been criticised for ending the practise of online voting to elect board members.

"Formerly there was a process of online voting, but in the view of the committee it probably hadn't worked as well as it could have," said Twomey. He said the voting process was very vulnerable to "branch stacking", and pointed out that in North America and Europe the number of people who voted was in the thousands, while in South East Asia the number of votes was in the millions.

ICANN will now rely more heavily on the At-Large Advisory Committee, which is charged with talking to other Internet organisations and individual users about how ICANN interacts with them.

The other objectives are to fulfil obligations set out in a memorandum of understanding with the US Department of Commerce, and extend the outreach of ICANN to global Internet communities, according to Twomey. He added the Internet has moved from being an OECD community to a truly global community.

Twomey denied recent reports that he is in favour of governments taking control of the domain name system, saying the system is "an area of public/private partnership".

"There are certain overlaps in public policy, and that's where government plays a role, and where dialogue should be the strongest," said Twomey.

Perhaps the biggest problem facing ICANN is the interoperability of internationalised domain names -- particularly domain names with non-Roman characters, according to Twomey. "This is a very complex issue, technically, in a business sense and in a linguistic sense," he said.

"For example, the amount of trade that takes place across Asia Pacific is... at the trillion US dollar level, and the primary languages are Chinese, Korean, Japanese and English," said Twomey. If the DNS systems in different languages can't talk to each other, then some of that trade will be jeopardised. Twomey said that two-thirds of Australian trade goes to South-East Asia.

ICANN is also concerned about the introduction of IPv6, which will increase the number of Internet addresses available, and new sponsored top-level domain names such as dot-health. "It's important to implement [these] in such a way it maintains the stability of the Internet," said Twomey.

The whois database, which administers the administration and contact details for domain names is also under review as ICANN attempts to juggle accuracy and consistency with privacy concerns.

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