Generic Names Supporting Organization

From ICANNWiki
(Redirected from GNSO)
Jump to navigation Jump to search

The Generic Names Supporting Organization (GNSO) is a policy-development body which is responsible for developing and recommending to the ICANN Board substantive policies relating to generic top-level domains (gTLDs). The GNSO is formed of Stakeholder Groups, themselves composed of Constituencies, which together form one Supporting Organization to form consensus, set policy, and make evidence-informed recommendations.[1] The GNSO was previously known as the Domain Name Supporting Organization (DNSO), which it replaced in 2003.

Policy development within the GNSO is governed by the GNSO Council. The Council meets 12 times per year; four times face-to-face (three times at ICANN public meetings, and once at the Council Strategic Planning Session), and eight times via webinar.


The main objective of the GNSO is to ensure that gTLDs operate in a fair and orderly manner across the global Internet, without hindering innovation or competition. As ICANN sets policy by contract, the GNSO develops policy with the involvement of both the contracted and non-contracted parties who hold equal influence and equal voting rights. In addition, two independent appointments to the Council of non-voting members are made by ICANN's Nominating Committee.

Non-Contracted Parties

Contracted Parties

GNSO Council at ICANN 69, meeting virtually due to COVID-19

GNSO Council

Organizational Structure of the GNSO Council(Image from

The GNSO Council consists of 21 members, 20 of whom are voting members, and the Council has two houses. Stakeholder Groups appoint 18 of their members to be involved in ICANN's multistakeholder model. Sebastien Ducos is the current Chair and will serve until AGM 2022. Greg DiBiase was elected as the Contracted Party House GNSO Council Vice-Chair. John McElwaine was elected as the Non-Contracted Party House GNSO Council Vice-Chair.

Members Include:


GNSO Council Liaisons & Observers

Contracted Party House

Registries Stakeholder Group

Registrars Stakeholder Group

Non-Contracted Party House

Commercial Stakeholder Group

Commercial and Business Users - Business Constituency

Intellectual Property Interests - Intellectual Property Constituency

ISP Interests - ISP Constituency

Non-Commercial Stakeholder Group

GNSO Policy Development Process

The GNSO is the primary engine within the ICANN community for developing, recommending changes, and making modifications to generic top-level domain policies. The process is as follows:

  1. The GNSO Council, ICANN Board, or an AC identifies an issue, and the GNSO Council considers whether the issue should result in a consensus policy.
  2. The GNSO Council requests a Preliminary Issue Report, which the Policy Development Support Team publishes for the Public Comment Period. The staff review and summarize the comments gathered and submit a Final Issue Report to the GNSO Council.
  3. The GNSO Council deliberates over the Final Issue Report and decides whether to initiate the PDP and adopt a charter for a PDP Working Group (WG).
  4. The WG develops an Initial Report for another Public Comment Period, reviews the comments, and submits a Final Report to the GNSO Council.
  5. The GNSO Council reviews the Final Report and decides whether to adopt it; if it does, then it sends the Final Report to the ICANN Board.
  6. The ICANN Board consults with the GAC and votes on the Final Report recommendations; if approved, the implementation process begins.[2]


The GNSO has sought to identify ways to improve the inclusiveness and representativeness of its work while increasing its effectiveness and efficiency, which has led to several updates to the process.

GNSO Improvements, 2007-2012

The First GNSO Organizational Review, initated in 2007, resulted in a set of recommendations for improving the effectiveness of the GNSO. These recommendations were related to GNSO activities, operations, and structure.

The main areas of GNSO improvements approved by the ICANN Board fell into five categories:

  1. Creating a Working Group Model
  2. Revising the Policy Development Process (PDP)
  3. Restructuring GNSO Council
  4. Improving communication and coordination among ICANN Bodies
  5. Advancing constituency procedures [3]

The reform to the GNSO's PDP procedures were inter-related with the shift to a working group model for GNSO Council policy-making. The GNSO1 working group argued that a working group model "can be a more constructive way of establishing areas of agreement than task forces, where membership is limited and discussion can become polarized along constituency lines.[3] Similarly, the PDP revision recommendations focused on improvements that provided scaffolding and structure for a working group to tackle policy considerations more effectively. The recommendations included more flexibility of the model, and stronger focus on preparation, including "public discussion, fact-finding, and expert research in order to define properly the scope, objective and schedule for a specific policy development goal..."[3] There were also recommendations to generate and maintain metrics for measuring the success of policy implementation, and compliance to those policies.[3]

The Working Group on Council Restructuring developed a compromise position to gain consensus among the many diverse interests within the GNSO. The proposed bicameral council structure would divide contracted parties (registries and registrars) and non-contracted parties into two houses, much as the U.S. Congress is divided into two houses.[4]

At ICANN 70, Bertrand de la Chapelle participated in an ALAC session on "Reimagining ICANN’s Role; Responding to National Pressures."[5] During a conversation about silos and their impact on the multistakeholder model, de la Chapelle recalled the introduction of the two houses approach and offered this critique of the mindset of the working group participants:

...I participated in one of the calls that led to the restructuring of the GNSO and the creation of the two houses. If I can give a very frank assessment from the outside, I immediately felt that the main objective of the different entities and the different soon-to-become houses was to make sure one thing: that the other halves could not impose anything on them, period. Nothing was about how can we make it better so that we can solve problems together? I’m caricaturing a little bit, but I can tell you this was the feeling that I had exactly at the moment the proposal was made on the call. And I feel that it has remained a little bit in this way.[6]

PDP 3.0

February 2020 saw the culmination of a GNSO initiative called "PDP 3.0," when the GNSO released the "Final Report on the Implementation of GNSO Policy Development Process 3.0." PDP 3.0 refers to the GNSO Council initiative to enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of the process. During a GNSO Council’s Strategic Planning Session (SPS) in January 2018, a staff paper on GNSO PDP was shared, which led the GNSO Council to deliberate over the issues raised and identify challenges and improvements, especially concerning Working Groups. Then, the GNSO Council organize a session with PDP working group leadership and the broader community, which resulted in an updated version of the paper in May 2018. On October 24, 2018, the GNSO Council adopted 14 of the 17 recommendations listed in PDP 3.0.[7]

The 14 Accepted Recommendations included:

  1. Terms of participation
  2. Consider alternatives to open working group model
  3. Criteria for joining of new members after a PDP working group is formed or re-chartered
  4. Consensus playbook
  5. Active role for and clear description of Council liaison to PDP working groups
  6. Document expectations for working group leaders that outline role & responsibilities as well as minimum skills/expertise required
  7. Provide further guidance for section 3.6 (Standard Methodology for Decision Making) and clarification of section 3.7 in the GNSO Working Group Guidelines
  8. Enforce deadlines and ensure bite-size pieces
  9. Notification to Council of changes in the work plan
  10. Review of working group leadership
  11. Make better use of existing flexibility in PDP to allow for data gathering, chartering, and termination when it is clear that no consensus can be achieved
  12. Independent conflict resolution
  13. Criteria for PDP working group updates
  14. Resource reporting for PDP working groups

A small team of GNSO Councilors led the implementation of PDP 3.0:

This team recognized that the 14 incremental improvements aimed to tackle four overarching challenges:

  1. Working Group Dynamics
    The WGs have too many members, and there is little balance between input and decisions
  2. Working Group Leadership
    The expectations and reviews of WG leaders need to be clarified, and co-chairs need to coordinate
  3. Project Management
    There is no project oversight nor adherence to a timeline
  4. Consensus Building
    There is no guidance on how to reach a consensus

The implementation of PDP 3.0 has resulted in a series of work products that were first tested among GNSO EPDP WGs. They include:

  1. Statement of Participation
  2. Alternatives to the open WG model
  3. Active role for and clear description of Council liaison
  4. Expectations for WG leaders
  5. Enforce deadlines & ensure bite-size pieces
  6. Notification to Council of change in work plan
  7. Criteria for PDP WG updates
  8. Consensus Playbook
Overlap with MSM Evolution

PDP 3.0 was also found to overlap significantly with ICANN's overarching aim to update its execution of the Multistakeholder Model (MSM).

Implementation of the Uniform Rapid Suspension System

In September 2012, ICANN senior executive Kurt Pritz sent a public email to GNSO Council Chairman Stephane Van Gelder advising him that URS implementation could begin after a year of delay. Implementing URS included a pair of open meetings in Fall 2012, including one at ICANN 45 in Toronto. ICANN acknowledged the role played by the GNSO Council in developing and approving the model and said they were willing to "work in whichever way the GNSO wishes to proceed".[8]


  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 Archive - GNSO Improvements Overview, last updated January 9, 2013
  4. Report to the Board from the WG-GCR, July 25, 2008 (Word)
  5. ICANN 70 Archive: Reimagining ICANN's Role, March 23, 2021 (registration/login required)
  6. Transcript of "Reimagining ICANN's Role", March 23, 2021 (registration/login required)
  7. PDP 3.0 Final Report p.3
  8. URS Implementation Finally to Commence Under GNSO Direction. Internet Commerce Association. Published 2012 September 20.