The chief operating officer at the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers outlines his view of generic top-level domains (TLDs), and the organisation's controversial relationship with the US government.
V3.co.uk: Can you bring us up to speed on the timetable for
the rollout of the new generic top-level domains (gTLDs)?
Doug Brent: Well, new domains are not like a product launch. Icann processes are very noisy with lots of people participating and it's our job to respond. We think the programme is on track, but in the end we'll factor in all the comments and see where we are, and of course we'll accommodate any concerns before moving ahead. The reality is that it takes a new registry anything from eight months to two years to get going. I would expect that this is a process which rolls out over a decade or more in terms of seeing full adoption of new TLDs, and seeing what its destiny will be.
What is the level of interest at the moment?
A lot of what we know is anecdotal. We estimate that there'll be hundreds of applications, although there may actually be more or there may be less. Some people have specifically declared their interest: chef Wolfgang Puck said that he wants .food, and there has been interest from cities such as Berlin and New York. These are some examples, then, and we can expect more to follow; the most exciting ideas are when you hear about communities, be they linguistic or cultural, using the web as a place for identity.
How much work has gone into the plans for new gTLDs thus
Introducing new TLDs is a 10 year old idea which then went through a three-year policy process. Policy in Icann is not a board but a community-based effort involving end users, registries, registrars and others working long hours every week. We've spent over $10m [£6.1m] in resources working on the plans and processes to come up with an orderly and fair system.
Is there a danger that it will devalue current domains like .com and
No. There is a place for them all on the internet. Countries that were early adopters such as the UK have a well developed infrastructure, and the country code will be part of their future forever.
How do you see the internet developing in the next 10 years?
In 10 years we'll see a lot more non-English language on the internet, a real explosion of Arabic, Chinese, Indian and so on. Icann is going to have to change too. Not in terms of its fundamental governance, though. It's different to a lot of organisations; its key strength is that the people who complain are already part of the system. Our headquarters is in the US but we'll have to be ever more global.
So are there any plans to distance yourself from the US
A lot of people complain about Icann, but it's still the best solution. We have nothing specific to announce regarding our Memorandum of Understanding with the Department of Commerce (DoC). We've always thought of ourselves as independent but with a close working relationship with the DoC. Everyone at Icann aspires to be representative of the global internet.
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