ICANN To Revamp WHOIS Policy


ICANN says it will rework its policy around collecting and providing access to data on domain registrants

ICANN is to launch a review of its policies governing registration data for generic top-level domains (gTLDs), the organisation’s latest move to revamp the core workings of the Internet.

TLDs include the most widely used “generic” domains, such as .com, .org and .net, as well as “restricted” TLDs such as .biz, .name and .pro. ICANN is currently in the midst of the controversial process of expanding TLDs to include essentially any domain, allowing individuals and organisations to apply to create the gTLD of their choice.

Policy revision

In the wake of the rollout of the new gTLDs, ICANN said it is looking to revamp the way it handles collecting, maintaining and providing access to the registration data for these domains, which includes name and contact data for domain registrants. Access to registration data is currently provided via WHOIS, a protocol standardised in the early 1980s.

ICANN said its board of directors has instructed chief executive Fadi Chehadé (pictured) to launch the revamp effort following the recommendations of a review team that examined the current implementation of WHOIS data policy.

The move is intended to go beyond the current WHOIS protocol and create a new initiative focused on directory services. This will begin with the formation of an expert working group to lay the foundation for new policy development work, ICANN said.

“WHOIS began more than 25 years ago, before there was even a World Wide Web and its purpose was far more technical than it is today,” stated ICANN board chair Dr. Stephen D. Crocker. “It’s clear that we have to take a thorough look at WHOIS from the ground up, and that’s what we’re asking the chief executive to do – what should WHOIS be and how can we best improve its accuracy?”

Reinforcing existing rules

While ICANN looks at reworking directory services, it will also look for ways of improving the implementation of the current rules, including fully enforcing the contractual conditions that relate to the collection, access and accuracy of gTLD registration data.

ICANN will move to increase its efforts to communicate and conduct outreach ensuring compliance with existing WHOIS policy and conditions, the organisation said.

“In addition to a full examination of WHOIS, the Board wants to make certain that enforcement of existing WHOIS reporting requirements is strengthened in conformance with the Affirmation of Commitments (AoC) and the recommendations of the WHOIS Review Team,” Crocker stated.

The AoC is a 2009 agreement between ICANN and the US Department of Commerce committing ICANN to enforcing existing WHOIS policies.

gTLD rollout hitches

The rollout of new gTLDs has met with considerable difficulties, beginning with opposition by those who argued it will force companies to defensively buy domains in order to protect their brands.

The application process has hit technical difficulties, forcing ICANN to take the registration system offline at certain points and to push back application deadlines.

Last week ICANN’s chief strategy officer, Kurt Pritz, stepped down as a result of what the company called a “conflict of interest” in overseeing the rollout of new gTLDs.

In June ICANN said Google had applied for 101 gTLDs, whilst Amazon applied for 76, with both competing over names such as .cloud, .shop, .store, .search, .play, .mail, .music, .movie and .game, as well as .talk, .spot and .show.

The new gTLDs are expected to start going live in 2013.

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