Five months ago, ICANN launched the new WHOIS website, a one-stop shop for questions and information about everything WHOIS, the Internet’s record system of domain registration data. This new portal was just the first part of ICANN’s goal of implementing substantial improvements to the current system, based on the recommendations outlined in the Action Plan [PDF, 119 KB], a series of recommendations from the WHOIS Policy Review Team on how to move forward with improving WHOIS.

I am excited to announce that the new ICANN WHOIS Lookup tool, a key deliverable under the Action Plan, is now available on the WHOIS website in Beta format.  It features a centralized search tool where users can find WHOIS data about any top-level and second-level domains registered on any gTLD under contract with ICANN; even those that have been newly delegated into the root of the DNS.

This new system, which was created as a direct result of the community’s input, is designed to be a user-friendly, educational tool, above all else. Among its features are automatic translation of the data types into the user’s preferred language and a user-friendly, guided experience in performing WHOIS lookup to research domains. The information displayed to users through the search tool is not stored by ICANN, but retrieved by accessing the WHOIS services of registrars and registries through Port 43 in response to a user’s query.

ICANN is committed to continuing to improve the WHOIS Lookup tool and the WHOIS website in general. Your feedback is a critical part of the new lookup tool’s success, so please try it out and send us your feedback at http://whois.icann.org/en/submit-feedback. This is the first time ICANN has provided a comprehensive lookup tool to query WHOIS results, so any and all comments are encouraged.

The new WHOIS website and Lookup tool is just part of how ICANN is implementing the recommendations of the WHOIS Review Team. To find out more about the WHOIS Lookup tool or where other improvements stand, download the Draft Implementation Plan or the latest Implementation Status Chart.

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Our main role at ICANN is to coordinate and manage those unique identifiers that make the Domain Name System work. It’s probably fair to say most Internet users in Africa, like elsewhere, don’t really care about the IP addresses assigned to their machines or the domain names under which their website or email systems operate. There’s even less understanding of trademark protection issues and dispute resolution systems.

It is against this backdrop that ICANN has organized an all-Africa Workshop on Domain Names, Trademarks and Users Rights Protection to be held in Cotonou, Republic of Benin, on May 5-6. The workshop is part of the strategy designed by Africa Strategy Working Group in 2012. The strategy has now become a new tool of engagement of ICANN with the Continent. Read about it here.

Indeed, in Africa, companies that develop websites generally choose user’s domain names for them. Most users have little knowledge of WHOIS – a simple tool that provides basic information about domain names. This can affect a user’s activity online as a domain name owner, for example, might not be aware of basic renewal information.

Moreover, very few people on the Continent care about registration of trademarks. The new gTLD program offers registrants the opportunity to choose among more than a thousand domain name extensions. Those who already have domain names could consider the option of registering them under new domains, (ccTLDs or gTLDs). But they also should have an understanding of Registrant Protection Mechanisms (RPM) inter alia, the Sunrise period and the Trademark Clearinghouse.

With many countries now organizing their own intellectual property rights structures, it would benefit them to understand the linkages, or lack there of, among domain names, brands and trademarks as well as intellectual property right protections mechanisms.

Therefore we thought it important to provide a venue to explore trademark protection and dispute resolution mechanisms at both the country code (ccTLD) and generic levels so that best practices could be shared with those developing such mechanisms.

That’s what the Cotonou Workshop will do – address the trademarks and rights protection issues that ccTLD registry managers, registrars and registrants in Africa are facing by providing a platform for experienced intellectual property practitioners to share their ideas. We believe it will empower African ccTLD managers and registrars to implement more quickly effective measures for their ccTLD security, management and promotion.

So let me invite you to join the Cotonou Workshop on May 5-6, 2014. More information is available at http://cot14.africanncommunity.org. See you there!

Yaovi Atohoun is ICANN’s Stakeholder Engagement and Operations Manager for Africa

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The Heartbleed Bug: Are you at risk?

by Dave Piscitello on April 9, 2014

Researchers have uncovered a vulnerability in OpenSSL, a software that provides secure (encrypted) communications for electronic commerce, banking, and secure remote access (SSL VPN). This vulnerability has been termed the Heartbleed Bug. An attacker who successfully exploits this vulnerability can read data from the memory of an attacked server. If the attacker is able to obtain the server’s private encryption keys from server memory, the vulnerability would allow attackers to decrypt and eavesdrop secure transactions or communications.

OpenSSL is extremely popular and used by an estimated 1/2 million web sites to encrypt their data.

ICANN is aware of the Heartbleed Bug. While the vulnerability does not affect the DNS, ICANN’s Security Team is urging top level domain registries, registrars (and their resellers) who provide e-merchant services for domain registration and other online services who use OpenSSL to upgrade to OpenSSL 1.0.1g, a version of OpenSSL that mitigates the threat from the Heartbleed Bug.

Organizations that use SSL-based Virtual Private Networks for secure application access should also take measures to mitigate this threat.

If you are looking for additional information on the Heartbleed Bug I would recommend the following three pieces:

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IANA in Transition: Update

by Theresa Swinehart on April 7, 2014

We received an overwhelming response to our call for feedback in the design of a community-driven process toward achieving transition of NTIA’s Stewardship of the IANA Functions. From the launch of the public comment process in Singapore two weeks ago through last Thursday, we received numerous ideas on principles and mechanisms and are now incorporating them into our consultation materials. We also are taking into account feedback received from our I* partners.

As a result, we need a little longer than the anticipated 7 April deadline for finalizing and posting the scoping, draft process proposal and timeline documents for further public dialogue. We will now be posting COB on 8 April (UTC). Thanks for your understanding and stay tuned!

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Recognizing Our Community Leaders

by David Olive on April 2, 2014

by David Olive, Vice President of Policy Development Support

A group photo of ICANN's Volunteer Leaders

ICANN Celebrates Volunteer Leaders: (Left to right) Dr. Steve Crocker, José Arce, Sylvia Herlein Leite, Holly Raiche, Avri Doria, Rafik Dammak, Chris Chaplow, Marie-Laure Lemineur, Roelof Meijer, and Fadi Chehadé.


ICANN’s growth and evolution as a multistakeholder organization depends on the sustained engagement of our community. Indeed, our greatest asset is community member time and commitment to the work of ICANN.

During ICANN 49 in Singapore, the ICANN community recognized ten leaders for their service. These leaders included David Archbold, Geographic Regions Review Working Group chair, and Rafik Dammak, Non-Commercial Users constituency voting delegate on the Nominating Committee.

From the At-Large community, we thanked Avri Doria, New gTLD Working Group chair; Holly Raiche, APRALO chair; José Arce, LACRALO chair; and Sylvia Herlein Leite, LACRALO secretariat. Roelof Meijer was honored for his service as ccNSO councilor, and Chris Chaplow was acknowledged for his service as Commercial Business Users constituency vice chair in the GNSO.

Our community also paid tribute to the lives and careers of two past leaders. Marie-Laure Lemineur, chair of the Not-for-Profit Operational Concerns constituency, remembered Alain Berranger for his service as the inaugural chair of NPOC. Bruce Tonkin, vice chair of the Board of Directors, gave remarks about Jon Bing and his tenure on the GNSO Council. Both Alain and Jon leave lasting legacies at ICANN and continue to inspire their colleagues and our community.

Dr. Steve Crocker, Chair of the Board of Directors, concluded the program by formally thanking our community participants on behalf of the Board of Directors. The Board of Directors also approved a resolution at its public meeting on 27 March recognizing the leadership and contributions of our community members.

The Policy Development Support team is committed to recognizing our community members for their efforts. They are critical to the success of policy development work at ICANN. We are deeply grateful for their dedication and for their leadership in our bottom-up community.

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by Christopher Mondini and Riccardo Ruffolo, ICANN Global Stakeholder Engagement

Fadi Chehadé sharing some words in an opening video he sent to the RightsCon - Silicon Valley

“…the key questions of human rights and accessibility of the Internet for all, and inclusivity of all interests [have] become very important…”


These were some of the words Fadi Chehadé shared in an opening video he sent to the RightsCon – Silicon Valley conference that took place in San Francisco March 3-5 2014 to express ICANN’s support. ICANN joined ISOC, the Internet Society, as one of the many sponsors of the event.

RightsCon is convened by Access Now and brings together human rights activists and Silicon Valley business in support of the dual mission of the organizers: to defend and extend the digital rights of users at risk around the world and to fight for open and secure communications for all.

This year more than 700 attendees from 65 countries and 375 institutions attended. Some of the world’s leading human rights experts, investors, corporate leaders, engineers and activists came together to tackle human rights challenges in tech. Government leaders from Estonia, Sweden, the U.S. and other countries were also on hand, making RightsCon a good multistakeholder venue to engage on Internet governance issues with a healthy dose of input from civil society organizations.

RightsCon 2014 was also a great place to be inspired by how organizations are using access to the open, global Internet for admirable aims: to document war zone atrocities, monitor environmental degradation and report on human rights abuses. On the business side, it was extremely informative to see how global tech companies are examining their own responsibility and capabilities to address thorny issues they navigate in relations with users, governments and shareholders.

A room with an array of distinguished panelists: Bertrand De La Chapelle, Anja Kovacs, Nnenna Nwakanma, Chris Riley and Carlos Affonso Souza

In the ICANN session, “Internet Governance 101: what’s at stake in 2014.” The room was packed, and we were fortunate to lead a conversation with an array of distinguished panelists:

  • Bertrand De La Chapelle – Director of Internet & Jurisdiction Project
  • Anja Kovacs – Director of the Internet Democracy Project
  • Nnenna Nwakanma – Regional Coordinator , World Wide Web Foundation
  • Chris Riley – Senior Policy Engineer at Mozilla
  • Carlos Affonso Souza – Director of the Instituto de Tecnologia e Sociedade (ITS) at the Getulio Vargas Foundation

The panel offered diverse perspectives on Internet governance, covering the views of different stakeholders from Europe, India, Brazil and West Africa. The same diversity of views was showcased during a separate session on the NETMundial meeting in Brazil “Sao Paulo and Beyond: the Future of Internet Governance.”

A couple of the shared conclusions of both panels: Internet governance is complicated, and it is not always easy for the newly informed to get involved. A tweet from the CEO of Spiegel Online captured the sentiment nicely:

A tweet from the CEO of Spiegel Online Katharina Borchert 'In case you we're wondering what internet governance processes look like. A scray flow chart #rightscon pic.twitter.com/33pzfO21tD'

Panelists committed to continue work to make organizations like ICANN and forums like the IGF and NetMundial better known and to create more platforms, like learn.icann.org to make participation by newcomers easier. If attendance at the RightsCon sessions is any indication, a cohort of knowledgeable and passionate stakeholders is eager to get involved.

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Do you know IANA?

by Elise Gerich on March 26, 2014

If you ask people what IANA is, you could get a range of answers. Some would say the IANA is Jon Postel, a pioneer of the early Internet.. Others might ask, “Could you spell that for me?” We hear “IANA” thrown around a lot these days and it’s clear most people aren’t clear at all.

IANA is an acronym: Internet Assigned Numbers Authority. Internet pioneer Jon Postel led IANA until 1998, the year he died, out of the University of Southern California. Today IANA is a 10-person department within ICANN.

So what does the IANA department do?

The day-to-day job of the IANA staff includes:

  • maintaining a central repository for the Internet’s standards
  • verifying and updating changes to Top Level Domain (TLD) information
  • distributing Internet numbers to regions for Internet use
Fadi Chehadé with the IANA staff

The IANA staff does this by receiving and executing a range of requests. Many of the registries maintained by IANA are described in a contract ICANN has with the United States government. Some of the most well known registries are the DNS Root Zone, which is the official register for which top-level domains have been created; and the IP address registries, which lists which unique numbers have been allocated to which region.

However, there are hundreds of registries that are used behind the scenes that you may not be familiar with; registries such as port numbers and media types are not immediately obvious to users of the Internet but are important to ensure interoperability of the Internet. These registries ensure that vendors and software developers who want to build products for the Internet can work reliably with other devices on the Internet.

In short, the IANA team is keeper of the records of unique identifiers of the Internet. We are one small group of people just doing our share for the good of the Internet.

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Laying the Groundwork for the IANA Transition

by Theresa Swinehart on March 26, 2014

We started dialogue this week at ICANN’s 49th meeting in Singapore on the next steps to take following the United States government’s announcement on 14 March that it would transition key Internet domain name functions to the global multistakeholder community.

I’ve heard some people call it "a process to begin a process": yes, it is important to be cautious and deliberate in determining our next steps. The work we do now is an important step for how we proceed. While it is tempting to want to jump straight to the heart of the matter, we must first be sure that we all agree on the initial process.

You can join the conversation by reviewing the transcripts of discussions and related presentations at http://singapore49.icann.org/en/schedule/mon-iana-accountability. Share your thoughts and comments via email to ianatransition@icann.org.

We are collecting various inputs from the ICANN 49 meeting, including the public forum on Thursday, and will circulate a summary document to the community on 7 April so that further comments can be made. The summary will focus on a multistakeholder designed process, proposed timeline, and specific next steps, and will be posted for public input and discussion to ensure that the global communities inside and outside ICANN can participate in the planning for the process. Anything received on the mail list will be included. The ianatransition@icann.org list will remain open for the discussions. 

‪Additional information on the transition can be found at: http://www.icann.org/en/about/agreements/iana/transition 

Additional information about the IANA functions can be found at:
http://www.icann.org/en/about/agreements/iana/transition/iana-factsheet-24mar14-en.pdf

The Internet Technical Community Response
In relation to the process, the Internet technical community welcomed this announcement. As a contribution to the dialogue on how the role of the USG can be transitioned, the leaders of organizations including the IETF, the Internet Society (ISOC), and W3C discussed what this could mean in practice, and the text below is a contribution to the dialogue.

Status of the text below: This is something that some leaders of technical Internet organizations have agreed is a reasonable starting point for discussing how the role of the U.S. government can be transitioned to the Internet community. It is a starting point only, and not something that has been agreed by our respective communities.

In order to ensure global acceptance and affirmation of ICANN’s role as administrator of the IANA functions, we are now pursuing the transition of USG’s stewardship of the IANA functions from the USG to ICANN. The roles of all Internet registry policy bodies (such as the RIRs, IAB, IETF, ASO, ccNSO, ccTLD ROs, and gNSO) stay unchanged. These bodies continue to hold policy authority for the protocol parameter, number, and name spaces, including responsibility to ensure the faithful registry implementation according to those policies.

This transition from the USG has been envisaged since the early days of ICANN. It is now feasible due to the growing maturity of ICANN and other organisations in the Internet ecosystem. ICANN’s structures and accountability mechanisms continue to evolve and advance guided by the AoC community reviews, including ATRT. In addition, ICANN will continue to embrace its aggressive roadmap to truly globalize its structures.

In order to operationalize the transition from USG, ICANN will engage with the Internet community in a bottom-up public consultation process to ensure appropriate accountability mechanisms. In addition, ICANN will work with the names, numbers, and protocol communities to formalize relationships, commitments, and mutual responsibilities.

When community stakeholders have input about the policies emanating from the names, numbers, and protocol communities, they would be directed to pursue their interests through the relevant Internet communities (such as the gNSO, ccNSO, ccTLD ROs, ASO, IAB, IETF, or the RIRs) and their mechanisms for consideration and potential redress.

The IETF, IAB, and RIRs are committed to open and transparent processes. They also are committed to the role of ICANN as the IANA protocol parameter and IP address registry operator. The accountability mechanisms for ICANN’s administration of these core Internet functions will provide escalation routes that assure the names, numbers, and protocol communities that if IANA’s performance is lacking, those communities can pursue defined processes for improving performance, including pre-agreed independent 3rd party arbitration processes.

ICANN reaffirms its commitment to implement all IANA registry functions in accordance with the respective policies. ICANN will also provide affirmations to all stakeholders (including governments) from all Internet registry policy bodies and itself that all of us will use open and transparent processes.

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Walk Through New ICANN.org with Anil Podduturi

by Anil Podduturi on March 25, 2014

Welcome to the new.icann.org demonstration, I am Anil Podduturi from Neo. I will walk you through the new ICANN.org site. My team and I worked closely with the ICANN team and community to develop a site that is the product of your feedback. Hope you enjoy the demonstration!

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Introducing a New ICANN.org Site

by Chris Gift on March 25, 2014

A screenshot of new.icann.org

Every now and again, an organisation relaunches its website. There’s often nothing dramatic about it, it’s to make minor adjustments and make everything look fresh again. And now ICANN is about to do the same. We’re due to migrate to the new site in April – but for us it’s something more than just another website.

More than ever, ICANN is a global organisation, and these wider horizons, combined with its unchanging commitment to the multi-stakeholder, bottom-up model mean an increasing demand for a different toolset to drive policy and the conversations around it.

With our website, the challenge we’re facing is threefold:

  • Allow people to quickly understand ICANN’s work, and it’s place and role in the Internet governance ecosystem;
  • To broaden the range of stakeholders involved in Internet governance issues via ICANN’s supporting organizations and advisory committees and to find ways to move those newcomers along a continuum of engagement from a position of interest to a position of involvement;
  • To create a set of digital tools for the old and new stakeholders to better surface content of interest to them and to allow them to more easily engage with that content and each other.
A timeline showing the upcoming ICANN.org features

When we formally launch the site next month, we’ll pass the first two milestones in that process. At this stage, we’re trying to make ICANN and its processes and policies more visible to current and new people. We also hope we’ve made content more findable and the site more navigable. But there’s much to be done, on the work we’ve started, on the projects we’ll be looking to next, and on the priority list for the future.

The immediate next step on that priority list is the completion of the obvious tasks in the current iteration; there’s some ‘tidying up exercises to do as well and several sections of the site will continue to improve, notably Resources, Policy and the blog, and the way we deal with translation into different languages will be a major piece of work too.

At the same time, we want to return to where this process started – ICANNLabs. The Labs was where we tested out new ideas for the site – roadtesting them in public and getting feedback on which projects resonated and using that feedback loop to knock the rough edges off before we started the ‘real’ work. We want to continue with that agile process:  ideas lead to experiments which generate feedback and community validation, allowing us to create rapid updates and send the site back out for feedback and validation. We want to continue with this methodology so ICANNLabs will live again and we’re looking to address these areas with it:

  • Languages and testing different modes of translation. We’re looking to add new ways of translating content to include technological and crowd-sourced translation, while retaining the skill and quality of the technical translation that our current team provides.
  • The peer advisory network. Some work on this has already started, but it will undoubtedly change beyond all recognition. The problem we’re trying to address is that Internet governance is a complex world and, if we’re to get newcomers (and others) up to speed with the terminology and processes they will need help from others in the community. The peer advisory network is to try and solve the problem of how we connect those willing to share with those who need to know. Have a look at these early thoughts and let us know your ideas.
  • Accessibility improvements. The accessibility of the site is non-negotiable and we want to be a role model in this area. We’ll be seeking community input and participation in this work as well.
  • Pathways. One of the aims of this process is to make ICANN more attractive to newcomers, to get new people involved in the debates. And once we get these people to the ICANN site, we want to lead them into clear user journeys which direct them to the appropriate SO/AC/Constituency where they can find the work and the contacts most valuable to them.

But there will be more. Feel free to make suggestions in the comments box as to where we ought to be innovating and improving. This is now a continuous journey for us and we want you with us all the way. We’ve relied on you to tell us what we’re doing right and wrong in the website development process so far, and we won’t stop doing that. Everything we put in front of you is there to be critiqued and tweaked to make the site more useful for you, the community that is responsible for moving ICANN’s work forward. That dialog will never change.

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