ICANN, in Rio, works on going global

Against the breezy background of Rio de Janeiro, members of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) gave an equally sweeping array of views on their work on Internet-related issues during a conference taking place in the Brazilian city this week.

The meeting, which runs through Thursday, is the last for outgoing ICANN President Stuart Lynn, who has headed the organization since March 2001. Lynn officially steps down Thursday, passing his mantle to new ICANN President Paul Twomey, an Australian national and the first non-U.S. citizen to head up the oft-maligned group.

ICANN, which oversees technical issues related to the Internet address system, has been criticized almost since its inception in 1998 for inefficiency. Responding to these accusations, Lynn laid out his vision for the organization’s reform last year, seeking to create what he has called “ICANN 2.0” – a more responsive and agile agency.

Speaking from the conference Wednesday, Twomey said that his short-term priority will be making sure that the reforms headed by Lynn take place.

“I think Stuart led an important and courageous initiative over the last few months … and I will make sure we do the necessary changes,” Twomey said.

Other priorities cited by the incoming president included creating top level domains (TLDs) in other languages, improving the Whois database and consulting the Internet community about the adoption of standards.

“We are entering a period where we are focused on the fact that the Net is truly global,” Tromey said.

In fact, the group was set to discuss the adoption of incorporating other languages into the domain name system Wednesday afternoon.

Vinton Cerf, chairman of the group’s board of directors, said that while the Internet is already able to handle scripts from all over the world in its content pages, work needs to be done on supporting these scripts in the address field.

ICANN is also slated to continue to discuss the possibility of creating new TLDs, but Lynn downplayed assertions that there is a widespread demand for them.

“I don’t want you to think that it’s a given that everyone believes there should be more TLDs. That’s a controversial and interesting question,” Lynn said, noting that there were a “considerable number of problems” the last time the group introduced new TLDs.

Few other details on the organization’s work at the Brazil meeting were given during the press conference Wednesday, as reporters both in Rio and listening in on the phone spent much of the time peppering the members’ with questions about their views on the war in Iraq.

While the members tried to keep focused on the issues at hand, Cerf did speak to the possible effects the war could have on the Net.

“It’s an extremely resilient network,” he said.

More details on ICANN’s meeting in Brazil can be found on the group’s Web site at http://www.icann.org.