Theresa Swinehart

Full IANA control will soon be awarded to ICANN, after a long period of public ownership. Theresa Swinehart, senior advisor to the president on global strategy at the corporation, explains how this changing of the guard will affect the DNS

What will be the differences between ICANN’s role right now and after 1 October?

Our role won’t actually change—we will take on some additional responsibilities and have additional accountability mechanisms in place, in light of the changing relationship with the US.

But the users won’t feel a thing through this transition.

There are some areas that we’ll adjust based on the community proposal. On the technical side of things, the US will not be a part of any of check in the process for the changes to zone files—we’ve already done parallel checking around that so that system is ready to go.

On the improvements or additions and enhancements to the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) accountability processes, in light of the perceived role that the US plays in the backstop in the context of the contract, those new mechanisms will provide new checks and balances whereby the community will have some additional powers that it did not have in the past.

Those will be specifically focused in on the ability—if need be—to reject ICANN’s budget, strategic plans or operating plans, as well as any changes to the bylaws through a community process.

We will also have the power to approve changes to the bylaws that are housing key elements around accountability, reflectively bring about requests for an independent review or reconsideration, and remove individual board members, or recall the entire board.

So, nothing really changes in the context of ICANN overall, aside from some adjustments in the clerical functions and the role we play in accommodating the community proposal, and in enhancing some of the accountability processes we have in place.

It’s not changes to what we do, it’s taking on additional areas and areas of additional balances on the accountability side.

Do you think privatisation is necessary for the domain name system?

Yes, for a couple of reasons. It’s been a longstanding commitment since ICANN’s inception, through both the republican and democratic sides, to privatise the internet’s domain name system fully. As a result, there has been anticipation and work by the global community towards this and it’s important to have it concluded in order to also continue to maintain the trust and confidence, and to bring in a multi-stakeholder approach.

It’s going to be an important part of the future direction of the internet’s domain name system and it is important that we see this through.

What is the future direction of the domain name system?

It’s a little hard to predict. Like anything to do with the internet, we can’t predict where the future is going to take us.

We’ve had one new round of gTLDs and in the process of many of those applications that have gone into the system, there are the beginning of discussions and negotiations for the beginning of a new round.

But, where the future of the domain name system eventually goes, I would not want to venture to guess, as I would not want to venture to guess on anything related to the internet.

The internet is complicated. Who would have thought 20 years ago that we would have smartphones with apps, or IP addresses assigned to cars, or have an of these aspects that we currently have and that users are demanding and relying on?

How will ICANN full control of the DNS system affect the new gTLD programme—or are those issues entirely separate?

There won’t be any changes to the gTLD programme. ICANN’s role in coordinating the domain name system and the community’s role will stay the same.

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