Operating Standards for Specific Reviews

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The Operating Standards for Specific Reviews were produced by ICANN org through public consultation between 2016 and 2019.[1] The ICANN Board approved the final version of the operating standards in June 2019[2]


Specific Reviews were introduced as a result of the Affirmation of Commitments (AoC) between ICANN and the United States Department of Commerce. The "specific commitments" of the AoC each became the subject of a review:

  • Accountability and Transparency (ATRT) - focused on ICANN operations[3]
  • Security, Stability, & Resiliency (SSR) - focused on the DNS[4]
  • Registration Directory Service (RDS/WHOIS) - focused on registration data and public access to registration information[5]
  • Competition, Consumer Trust, and Consumer Choice (CCT) - ushered in as part of the New gTLD Program, this review is focused on the domain marketplace and the experience of registrants and other consumers[6]

In October 2016, the ICANN Board approved an amendment to the ICANN Bylaws that codified Specific Reviews in Article 4.6.[7] Article 4.6 requires that the operating standards for specific reviews "shall be developed through community consultation, including public comment opportunities as necessary that comply with the designated practice for public comment periods within ICANN."[7] It also provides some foundational guidelines for the review process, selection of SO/AC representatives, diversity and representation of all interests, and other baseline operating standards.[7] The Operating Standards for Reviews (OSFR) project was launched by ICANN org shortly after the addition of Article 4.6 to the Bylaws.[1]

Community Consultation and Drafting Process


Lars Hoffmann hosted an open session at ICANN 57 in Hyderabad to "...contin[ue]...a dialogue that started during the drafting of the new Bylaws."[8] His presentation included a skeleton draft of an operating standards document.[9] The draft proposed a number of questions for the workshop to consider:

  • How should the SO/AC Chairs’ selection process work in detail, to assure efficient proceedings, while adhering to all Bylaw requirements?
  • How to assure diversity in Review Teams?
  • How to integrate newcomers into reviews?
  • How to assure that subparts of SO/ACs (AT-Large regions, GNSO SG/Cs, etc.) are all adequately represented across different reviews?
  • How do we ensure institutional experience between different reviews whilst assuring to recruit new members to future Review Teams?
  • How to include non-affiliated subject matter experts in the selection process for Review Teams?
  • Who should be allowed to propose changes to the operating procedures once they are in place?
  • What procedure should be in place to amend the operating procedures once they are in place?

There were limited comments in the session itself, with Hoffman suggesting that attendees might need to take some time to fully read and absorb the contents of the skeleton draft.[10] Feedback from the session included a recommendation to generate a more substantive draft compiling best practices already in place (for example, within the GNSO's guidelines for policy development processes). The particulars of specific reviews - notably, the nomination and selection of review team members from the SOs and ACs - could then be developed and refined against that backdrop.[11]

The MSSI hosted two webinars on February 21, 2017, to update the community on recent developments in the OSFR project and discuss next steps.[12] As proposed, the MSSI team had created a draft with content folded in from various sources regarding current best practices around reviews. Because of a number of novel issues raised by the new language in Article 4.6, there were still many open questions regarding specific reviews.[11] At the first webinar, Katrina Sataki expressed concern that the draft document to date did not include more content around standards for specific reviews: first, because the only provision in the Bylaws around operating standards was specifically housed in Article 4.6; and second, because the SSR2 and ATRT3 reviews were due to kick off in a short period of time, and it seemed unlikely that the operating standards would not be in place before then.[11] Hoffmann and Larisa Gurnick acknowledged the concerns but noted that because Article 4.6 specifically required a consultative process, there was no way for staff to expedite the creation of the operating standards, and that it would be inappropriate for staff to tell the SOs and ACs what the policy should be.[11]


Following the February webinars, MSSI held a session on review operating standards at ICANN 58 in Copenhagen.[13] The session was much shorter than its scheduled time, consisting largely of the presentation of material that echoed the themes of the February webinars. There was only one question, from Lito Ibarra, regarding if or how the operating standards would discuss the scope of each of the specific reviews. Hoffman responded that Article 4.6 had provisions defining the scope of each of the specific reviews, so that the operating standards would likely not address that detail, and instead focus on processes where all reviews could benefit from a standard approach.[14]

Following the ICANN 58 session, the MSSI team developed a first draft that incorporated the community feedback, as well as offering "strawman" proposals for specific review processes. There was an informational display at ICANN 59 regarding drafting progress, but no session was held at that meeting.[15] In addition, the Organizational Effectiveness Committee discussed both the first draft operating standards, and issues surrounding specific reviews that had been identified in conversation with leaders of the SOs and ACs. It was determined that the draft should be circulated first to SO/AC leadership prior to publication for public comment, and that the OEC meet with the SO/AC leadership at ICANN 60 to further discuss the draft and the issues identified to date.[16] In a webinar, Lars Hoffman presented the state of the draft and provided some specific examples of the proposed processes for specific reviews. There were no comments or questions.[15]

First Draft

The first draft was published for public comment on October 17, 2017.[17] The public comment period was initially scheduled to end on January 15, 2018, but it was extended for an additional three weeks.[18] At the time that the public comment period was extended, no public comments had been received.[19]


In Abu Dhabi, the cross community session[20] on the draft Operating Standards was chaired by Cheryl Langdon-Orr.[21] Thomas Rickert provided some background on the origins of the project, and discussed the activities of the Cross Community Working Group on Accountability in the aftermath of the IANA Transition.


  1. 1.0 1.1 Operating Standards for Reviews Workspace
  2. Operating Standards for Specific Reviews, June 23, 2019
  3. ICANN.org - Accountability & Transparency Review
  4. ICANN.org - Security, Stability, & Resiliency Review
  5. ICANN.org - Registration Directory Service Review
  6. ICANN.org - Competition, Consumer Trust, and Consumer Choice
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 ICANN Bylaws - Article 4, Section 4.6 - Specific Reviews, as amended July 2021
  8. ICANN 57 Archive - Operating Standards Workshop to Socialize with the Community, November 5, 2016
  9. Operating Standards for Reviews Workspace - Operating Standards Skeleton, October 27, 2016
  10. ICANN 57 Archive - Transcript, Operating Standards Workshop, November 5, 2016
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 11.3 OSFR Workspace - Transcript of First Webinar, February 21, 2017
  12. OSFR Workspace - February 21, 2017 Webinar Archive, last updated September 1, 2017
  13. ICANN 58 Archive - ICANN Review Operating Standards: Next Steps, March 13, 2017
  14. ICANN 58 Archive - Transcript, ICANN Review Operating Standards, March 13, 2017
  15. 15.0 15.1 Video Replay - Draft Operating Standards Webinar, October 19, 2017
  16. OEC Meeting Minutes, September 21, 2017
  17. ICANN.org Public Comment Archive - Draft Operating Standards for Specific Reviews, October 17, 2017 - February 16, 2018
  18. [https://www.icann.org/en/announcements/details/public-comment-period-extended-operating-standards-for-icanns-specific-reviews-7-1-2018-en ICANN.org Announcement - Public Comment Period Extended, OSFR Draft, January 7, 2018
  19. ICANN.org Listserv Archive - Public Comments, Draft Operating Standards for Specific Reviews
  20. ICANN 60 Archive - Cross Community Session on Operating Standards for Specific Reviews, October 30, 2017
  21. ICANN 60 Archive - Transcript, Cross Community Session on OSFR, October 30, 2017