Generic Names Supporting Organization

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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.

Overview

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 ICANN.org)
The GNSO Council consists of 21 members, 20 of whom are voting members, and the Council has two houses. Stakeholder Groups appoint 18 of its members to be involved in ICANN's multistakeholder model. Philippe Fouquart is the current Chair and will serve until AGM 2022. Pam Little, Registrar Stakeholder Group Council representative, was re-elected as the Contracted Party House GNSO Council Vice-Chair. Tatiana Tropina, Non-Commercial Stakeholder Group representative, was elected as the Non-Contracted Party House GNSO Council Vice-Chair.

Members Include:

NCAs

  • Tom Dale, Contracted Party House, Asia Pacific (AGM 2021)
  • Olga Cavalli, non-voting member, Latin America Caribbean (AGM 2022)
  • Carlton Samuels Non-Contracted Party House, Latin America Caribbean (AGM 2021)

GNSO Council Liaisons & Observers

Contracted Party House

  • Pam Little, Vice-Chair, Asia Pacific, term ends AGM 2021

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]

History

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.

In June 2008, the ICANN Board launched a set of recommendations for improving the effectiveness of the GNSO. These recommendations were related to GNSO activities, operations, and structure.

2008 Recommendations

The GNSO Standing Committee on Improvements Implementation (SCI) is responsible for reviewing and assessing the effective functioning of recommendations provided by the Operational Steering Committee (OSC) and Policy Process Steering Committee (PPSC) and approved by the GNSO Council. 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]

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.[4]

PDP 3.0

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
Implementation

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".[5]

ICANN Supporting Organizations and Advisory Committees

Apart from the GNSO, there are other Supporting Organizations and Advisory Committees which help ICANN to fulfill its objectives. They include:

References