ICANN79 was held in beautiful Puerto Rico, where the windowless, extremely air-conditioned conference center provided sometimes-welcome relief from the bright sun, heat, and humidity of San Juan. The sessions covered a broad variety of policy and operational topics, and we’ll look at a few of these below.

DNS Abuse Amendments

The Amendments to the Registrar Accreditation Agreement and Registry Agreement passed earlier this year and will come into full effect in early April. Tucows has been a strong supporter of this work and helped to draft these updates. We are excited for the welcome changes they will bring:

  • Creating a shared definition of DNS Abuse, 
  • Permitting reports of DNS Abuse to be submitted via webforms as well as by email, and 
  • Requiring registrars to confirm receipt of reports and then mitigate, stop, or otherwise disrupt the DNS Abuse.

Now that we have a common baseline and clearly outlined responsibilities for contracted parties, some members of the ICANN community are pushing to draft additional policy relating to how registration service providers should address DNS Abuse mitigation. We believe policy decisions must be grounded in data, which in this case will not be available until the Amendments go into effect and we can observe the new compliance landscape. It’s important to first give ICANN’s Contractual Compliance team a chance to hold registrars accountable to these new obligations and to track the effects on DNS Abuse across the gTLD space. Only once there has been enforcement of the updated contractual requirements can the effects truly be understood, and additional policy work may not be necessary.

Sessions to watch: CPH Community Outreach on DNS Abuse; GAC & GNSO Joint Session

Registration data

There were a lot of good sessions relating to gTLD registration data at ICANN79, although this could have been simply selective attention on my part, as I have a strong interest in the subject.

The updated gTLD Registration Data Policy, which was finalized just after ICANN78, has now been formally published! This begins the 18-month-long implementation buffer window, during which registrars and registries are expected to make all the necessary changes to comply with the new Policy requirements.

The implementation period is divided into two sections: we’re currently in a six-month “quiet period,” where registries and registrars can coordinate with each other and plan our updates. In August 2024 we move into a year-long live implementation period, in which we can make changes in the public systems; during this phase, compliance with either the old or the new policy requirements is acceptable. We’re very excited to see this work coming into reality and we will, of course, ensure that we communicate well in advance of any changes you’ll need to make as a reseller, which will be minimal. 

ICANN’s Registration Data Request Service (RDRS) pilot project is up and running, gathering disclosure request volume information to help the ICANN Board decide whether to build a permanent, more robust system to manage data access and disclosure requests. There were several discussions focused on how the RDRS works, whether the data it’s gathering is useful, and what the experiences have been for both requestors and participating registrars. Just before ICANN79, we wrote about how the requests we get through RDRS compare to those that come directly to our TACO platform. Tucows continues to participate in the Standing Committee which manages the RDRS pilot project; we’re looking forward to RDRS improvements to make the platform easier for registrars to use, and we’re watching trends in the data as they develop. 

The Registrar Stakeholder Group (RrSG) hosted a session where we discussed the validation and verification processes that registrars follow to maintain the accuracy of registration data, reviewed our policy and legal obligations, and shared the results of an RrSG survey on how registrars meet those requirements. The group also provided a reference document published by the RrSG that details our approach (PDF). This session provided foundational information about existing requirements that registrars already have to meet so that any future discussions about registration data accuracy begin from a shared baseline understanding of those obligations. There was quite a robust discussion, especially about the survey results, so if any of this piques your interest I highly recommend watching the recording. 

Sessions to watch: Registration Data Policy collaborative planning for transition; GAC & CPH joint session; GAC Discussion: WHOIS and Data Protection Policy and Accuracy; Registrars and ICANN: Validation, Verification, and Accuracy – Oh My!

New gTLD Program

Tucows continues to track the new gTLD program, and we are excited at the prospect of opening up new gTLDs in early 2026. For now, we are following a few streams of work relating to new gTLDs.

We discussed the problems with Closed Generic TLDs in our ICANN77 recap: these are gTLDs “where the “string” (the letters that make up the TLD) is a word that could refer to both a general object (like an apple) or to a specific trademarked term (like Apple) and where access to register domains in that TLD is restricted to a specific entity. Since the term is broadly applicable but is being artificially limited by the supporting organization, these Closed gTLDs unfairly restrict people and businesses that could benefit from registering a domain in the TLD.”

The ICANN Board has now decided not to accept applications to create closed generics until the Community establishes a process to evaluate whether such a restricted TLD would be in the public interest. This will likely be difficult to achieve; the demonstration that a TLD represents the relevant industry or group is already not easy for existing gTLDs. We support the Board’s decision and will continue to track this topic as we move closer to the delegation of new gTLDs. 

The Applicant Support Guidebook has been partially released for public comment. This Applicant Support program would assist entities that want to operate a TLD but do not have all the necessary resources; the Guidebook sections out for feedback now include Code of Conduct and Conflict of Interest Guidelines, Applicant Freedom of Expression, and how applications that include geographic names are handled. ICANN has also posted a draft of the Registry Service Provider (RSP) Handbook for public comment. We’re looking at this one quite closely and preparing our input, which will focus on maintaining operational best practices and ensuring a fair process for registry service providers to be evaluated.

Tucows maintains our commitment to the Free and Open Internet, so we’ll continue to track the new gTLD delegation process and offer our services as a backend registry operator and consultant for new gTLDs.

Sessions to watch: New gTLD Program: Next Round – Implementation Status Update; GNSO SubPro Supplemental Recommendations Community Consultation

Transfer Policy

This topic is near and dear to our hearts. We know how important it is for domain owners to be able to choose their provider and freely transfer domains between providers; we also know how important it is to ensure this can happen while at the same time protecting against domain hijacking.

Members of the Transfer PDP Working Group reviewed the work in progress relating to the Change of Registrant process (now called Change of Registrant Data, or CORD). This involved taking a look at what it means for a registrar to have an “Established Relationship” with a registrant (for the purposes of allowing exceptions to the domain’s transfer lock) and the circumstances under which a registrant can opt out of CORD-related notifications. Currently, we’re required to send these to both the prior and new registrants every time there is a CORD. 

This Policy Development Working Group is highly collaborative, working hard to ensure that the transfer process is straightforward, accessible, and also secure. This is a long-term project and we have several months of policy discussions ahead of us, but the Working Group is making good progress and should be ready to publish the Initial Report with Recommendations for both the Registrar Transfer process and the Change of Registrant Data process in August of this year.

Sessions to watch: GNSO: Transfer Policy Review PDP Working Group (1 of 2); GNSO: Transfer Policy Review PDP Working Group (2 of 2)

It was, as it always is at ICANN, a very full week. We have accomplished a great deal as a community, and we know there is work yet to be done. We’re excited for the next steps—both the work we need to do and the data we get to gather—and we’re looking forward to crunching that data and sharing our insights with you. See you at ICANN80!