The past several months have seen a renewed, passionate and energetic debate about the importance of the multi-stakeholder model of Internet governance and how vital it is to the incredible success of the Internet to date. Having been involved in that model since the mid-1990’s, I can’t agree more. Based on recent research from the International Intellectual Property Alliance (IIPA), content creators and producers, which include the six major movie studios that the MPAA represents, added over $1 trillion in value to the US economy in 2012. This is an amazing figure and underscores the notion that we are significant stakeholders in this debate. Because of this, it is apparent to me, and the MPAA members, that we can and should be engaging and collaborating at a higher level in many of the multi-stakeholder organizations responsible for defining how the Internet works. Let me describe two ways we have started to do just this.
Several weeks ago I attended the 48th meeting of the International Cooperation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) in Buenos Aires. ICANN is the organization responsible for managing the names (DNS) and numbers (IP Addresses) that make the Internet work. While I’ve spent much of my career at both VeriSign and Neustar (both deeply involved in all things ICANN) this was my first time attending an ICANN meeting in person. For the past 15 years, ICANN has been effectively using the multi-stakeholder process to keep up with the amazing pace of change in the Internet over the same period of time.
A key focus for me at ICANN is the work centered around the accuracy of data associated with the WHOIS system – the protocol used to access information on who owns or has been assigned a domain name or IP Address block. Ensuring this data is accurate is important not only to the MPAA and our members, but also to everyone who uses the Internet every day. Without accurate WHOIS data, there can be no accountability, and without accountability it can be difficult to investigate and remedy issues when individuals or organizations use the Internet in illegal or inappropriate ways. Within ICANN, the WHOIS Expert Working Group (EWG) has been tasked to draft recommendations for a next generation service to replace the current WHOIS system – one that ensures both accuracy and accountability.
In addition, a working group has been formed to address issues around the use and accreditation of Privacy and Proxy services. These services enable users to register for a domain name without having to disclose personal information (such as address, email, phone number) to the Internet at large – a valuable service to many. Ensuring these services also provide accurate and accountable information is equally important.
At the beginning of November, I attended the 88th meeting of the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) – the organization responsible for developing and promoting Internet standards. There is much important working happening in the IETF. However, as it relates to the WHOIS system, the important work is happening in the IETF WEIRDS working group. Over the years there have been several attempts to “fix” WHOIS (whois++, crisp/iris) none of which managed to get much (if any) uptake. Despite this, I believe the work now happening in the IETF WEIRDS working group has a good chance of being impactful and successful based on its use of existing web technologies that are already well supported in all web-enabled clients. It is the WEIRDS protocol that will be used to support and implement the next generation WHOIS system being discussed in ICANN.
Accurate WHOIS information makes the Internet a better place for all of us and I look forward to being a part of the process, in both ICANN and the IETF, which ensures this happens.
For more from Alex Deacon follow him on Twitter @_AlexDeacon.