ICANN’s 38th International Meeting

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This week, I’m in Brussels at the 38th international meeting of ICANN. If you’re a regular reader of my blog, you’ll know that CIRA is an active participant at these meetings.

I am the chairperson of the Strategic and Operational Planning Working Group (SOP WG) of the Country Code Names Supporting Organisation (ccNSO). The ccNSO is responsible for developing and recommending policies to ICANN’s Board of Directors on issues related to country code top-level domains (ccTLDs), and the SOP WG facilitates the participation of ccTLD managers in ICANN’s strategic, operational planning and budgetary processes.

On Wednesday, the SOP WG hosted a fascinating debate on ICANN’s strategic objectives with a panel of experts, including Lesley Cowley, Chief Executive of Nominet; Alexa Raad, CEO of PIR; Fahd Batayneh from NITC; Rob Hall, President and CEO, Momentous.ca; and, Sabine Dolderer, CEO of DENIC. Certainly a panel of heavy hitters!

I was particularly interested when the panel took a look at what the drivers of change and the Internet will be for the next five years (an eternity in Internet years). New technologies are changing users’ browsing experiences, something that will affect how we conduct business in the near future.

Sparks flew, however, when the discussion turned to the political factors that will affect ccTLDs. Some passionate statements were made about the importance of maintaining an open and unregulated Internet.  Last year’s events in Iran were cited as an example as to how important an Internet free from government tinkering is when we develop policies and take actions. I agree with this, but not everybody does. Governments around the world are increasingly waking up and wanting to control the Internet, and there are other international agencies that are attempting to adopt more Internet governance related activities.

Apart from the important role the Internet can play in democracy and human rights, it’s my opinion that it makes economic sense for governments to use a light hand when attempting to regulate the Internet.  The organic, bottoms up nature of the Internet has allowed it to be an environment that stimulates creativity and self expression. Creativity is the foundation for innovation, which is the key driver for economic growth and stability. To put measures in place to regulate or control the Internet, either at the national or international level will affect the very characteristics that have allowed it to be the central driver of the economy of the last decade of the 20th century and the first decade of the 21st century.

On the topic of the future drivers of change in the DNS and the Internet, Rob Hall made an interesting comment about how search and the advent of the Chrome Web browser are fundamentally changing the domain space.   Chrome has a search function built right into the address bar, which is directly changing the way in which people navigate to websites. This seems to be a reoccurring theme; I’ve blogged about how the ways in which we both access and use the Web are changing.

In my opinion, we have had a “stable” industry for more than 10 years ( at least the basics of addressing); now a separate, disruptive technology from another industry may completely change our business and the need and/or use for domain names as we currently think about them.

If a transcript or podcast of the debate is posted online, I will be sure to share the link on this blog.

By the way, I’d like to take the opportunity to congratulate Heather Dryden, a Policy Advisor with Industry Canada, on being appointed as the Interim Chairperson of ICANN’s Government Advisory Committee (GAC). The GAC is responsible for providing input to ICANN from governments, specifically on issues of public policy.  Heather is a great champion of the Internet and the DNS in Canada. She is also an ex-officio member of CIRA’s Board of Directors.

In case you are interested, we’ve posted some photographs from the ccNSO and GAC meeting at ICANN 38 on our Picasa page and the CIRA Facebook fan page.

IABC Excel Awards

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Recently, one of our partners received an important award.

Ingenium Communications, led by Caroline Kealey, took home the International Association of Business Communicators’ (IABC) 2010 Excel Award for Crisis Communications for work with Francis Moran from inMedia Public Relations Inc. and CIRA on the Confickr C worm.

As many of you likely remember, the Confickr C worm was detected in November 2008 and showed the potential of being a significant threat to Internet security. Ingenium assisted CIRA in devising and executing a strategic crisis communications strategy, allowing us to concentrate on protecting Canadians against the Confickr C worm.

It is for this work on the crisis communications strategy that Ingenium has been awarded the 2010 IABC Excel Award for Crisis Communications.

Congratulations to Caroline, her team and Francis!

CIRA’s Corporate Plan for 2011

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On Tuesday, CIRA’s Board of Directors gave the final nod to our Corporate Plan for 2010-2011 (.pdf). This document will guide CIRA’s work for years to come and provides specific activities for the next year.   The plan is the result of many months of hard work on the part of CIRA’s staff and Board of Directors.

Here are our high level strategic objectives which are highlighted in the Corporate Plan:

1. Enhance Corporate Reputation

2. Increase .CA Brand Value

3. Achieve Operational Excellence

4. Champion Effective .CA Stewardship

These are pretty high level objectives. Like all corporate plans, it’s the specific activities which achieve the strategic objectives that are the compelling part, and we have numerous interesting activities planned for the next year. The ones I think are of particular interest include the following:

- You may know that CIRA is engaged in a rewrite of its registry management system. I’ve blogged about this in the past, but this activity represents a lot of work for CIRA. It is, likely, the largest single project undertaken by CIRA in its 10-year history. Once we cut over to the new registry management system, it will be much more efficient and easier to register .CA domain names. The new system will be live in October 2010.

- Over the next year, we will be hosting a Canadian Internet Governance Forum, or CIGF. The CIGF will be a cross-country consultation to “take the temperature” of Canadians’ views on the topics of Internet governance and digital literacy. CIRA will develop a policy paper from the findings of the CIGF to be presented to the global Internet Governance Forum, a UN-sponsored, global multi-stakeholder meeting.

- We have also committed to a Community Investment Program (CIP) to support social and economic Internet-related activities in Canada.  Our focus for the CIP will be on governance, internet technology infrastructure (of the soft, rather than “hard” variety), internet education and knowledge, and excellence in the use of .CA. We are going to do some very worthy as well as fun projects and I will most definitely blog about it in the future.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, we do pretty important work at CIRA – as well as some pretty cool stuff. These aren’t just words. As CIRA staff, we will live and breathe this over the next year and we are excited to really get going on the work articulated in this plan. I encourage you to take the time to read it.

The Future of Web Browsers

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Last week, I attended the Mesh Conference with a few of my colleagues. Mesh is billed as Canada’s Web Conference and CIRA has been a proud sponsor for two years in a row now.

Aside for the usual conference goodies (interesting swag, some valuable takeaways, interesting sessions, and great networking), there was a workshop that stood out from the rest in terms of meaning for the domain registry business.  It was a presentation by Aza Raskin (@azaaza) on the future of Web-browsing at a related event called MeshU. Raskin is the Creative Lead of Firefox at Mozilla, the most popular browser in the world.

According to Raskin, the way we browse the Web is going to change dramatically in the next three to five years. Raskin spoke in terms of Web browsers becoming “you-centric.”  What does this mean?

To surf the Web, you login to your browser – your browser knows all of your passwords, knows your contacts, and even knows how you like to interact with those contacts (Facebook vs. email vs. Twitter, and so on). With all of this information, your browser becomes your online identity, your Sherpa, your personal shopper, and even your security advisor. Forget about remembering your passwords, your browser stores them. Looking for a new vacuum? Your browser knows what your friends purchased and will recommend it for you. Want to find a great source for local news? Your browser knows what your contacts read (and, with location-based technology, knows where you are), and will take you there. In essence, the Web now revolves around you. It’s your Web.

Putting aside privacy and security issues for the time being (a topic that warrants its own post), there’s something really interesting going on here. Technology is getting to be more intuitive. As that happens more and more, the Web truly becomes a public space, not a communications medium. It’s a place where people interact, not just on social media platforms, but through day-to-day Web-browsing. Until very recently, we’ve considered the Web a medium for information exchange. No longer – it’s a place where we interact with each other.

It may also signify some changes that will affect the domain name registry business. I can see the future of this radically altering the way we surf the Internet. Instead of finding http://www.cira.ca, our browser will take us to that .CA registry that hopefully all of our friends are members of. If one of our unique selling points as the registry for .CA domain names extensions is the ‘Canadian-ness’ of .CA, what happens to that unique selling point when the likelihood that you’ll type in the website address is greatly reduced?

I look forward to this new generation of intuitive Web browsers. It will certainly enhance our online lives. At the same time, however, it is something that we, as a registry, and the privacy folks need to stay on top of.