Working Group

A Working Group (WG) is defined as a group of individuals or experts in a particular field who came together to achieve specific objectives. Different organizations like the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers and the Internet Engineering Task Force created different working groups to accomplish specific purposes. Based on RFC 2418, Working Groups are created to address specific problem or to produce one or more specific deliverables such as guidelines, standards or specifications. Working groups operate for a short period of time, generally until the completion of its goal. Its term may also be terminated for any other reason.[1]

Organizations like IETF or ICANN determine if it is necessary or appropriate to create a working group to resolve certain issues. Organizations first provide guidelines and define the criteria for establishing a working group. Every working group has a charter, which serves as an agreement between the working group and the organization. It contains the specific assignments of the working group that need to be fulfilled.

ICANN Working Groups

ICANN has many working groups tasked with resolving issues or developing policies and practices. Membership in ICANN working groups is open to individuals within the ICANN community who are willing to volunteer their expertise on certain issues. The decision over whether it is necessary to form a working group for policy development is decided by ICANN's Supporting Organizations or Advisory Councils. Discussions and meeting of working groups are properly documented and translated using the 5 United Nations languages so that non-English speaking members of the Internet community may participate. Any decision or recommendation made by a working group are evaluated by the SO and the ICANN Board.[2]

The First ICANN Working Group

Historically, the first working group was created on June 12, 1999, during the transition period of the management of the domain name system from the US government to ICANN. The interim DNSO Names Council of ICANN formed Working Group A to examine Chapter 3 of the WIPO's recommendations regarding the Uniform Dispute Resolution Policy. Amadeu Abril i Abril of Nominalia and Jonathan Cohen of Federation International des Conseils en Propriete Industrielle were appointed co-chairs of Working Group A. Its initial members include: [3]

Working Group A was criticized by University of Miami Law Professor Michael Froomkin, he described the working group as a failure and that it was not properly constituted based on ICANN rules. He cited that working group A was not properly representative of each of the constituencies within the DNSO, which is a requirement under ICANN rules. According to him, the working group was further manipulated and railroaded by the chairman, by creating sub-groups, and minimizing and disenfranchising input.[4]

Despite criticisms, subsequent Working Groups were also created by the DNSO Names Council on June 25, 1999, to perform specific tasks such as:

  • WG B - Protection on famous trade-marks
  • WG C - Creation of new gTLDs
  • WG D - DNSO business plan and internal procedures
  • WG E - Global awareness and Outreach

WG Models and Guidelines


On March 31, 2010, the DNSO's successor, the Generic Names Supporting Organization, proposed the creation of guidelines for working groups as part of its objective to improve its structure and operations. The main purpose of the GNSO Working Group Guidelines is to help the members of working groups/working teams to be able to deliver productive and effective results.[5] On January 18, 2011, the proposed GNSO Working Group Guidelines were published, and subsequently were approved by the Policy Process Steering Committee. The public comment period lasted until February 8, 2011.[6]

Based on the GNSO Working Group Guidelines, once a decision is made to form a working group, a call for volunteers should be announced and published within the internet community worldwide and through ICANN's websites, stakeholder groups, supporting organizations, and advisory committees, etc. to call for volunteers to ensure that its members will be properly represented. Stakeholder groups and constituencies must have representatives within the WG. These WG Guidelines may be also be adopted by other Chartering Organizations.

The membership application is received by the Chartering Organization Secretariat or their representatives. Applicants are required to submit expressions of interest, which will be verified by the secretariat. Upon verification, a confirmation of receipt will be sent accompanied by a request for Statement of Interest (SOI) as mandated by the GNSO Operating Procedures Chapter 5.0. Further instruction will be sent to the applicant regarding Disclosure of Interest (DOI) and other matters.

The ICANN Staff is responsible for coordinating and planning the first meeting with the Chair, Interim Chair, or Chartering Organization and providing the members of the working group with relevant background information, historical data before the first meeting.

During the first meeting of the WG, members will be introduced for team building and will be informed that they are expected to operate under the principles of transparency and openness. Members of the WG will also elect their leaders unless a chairman has been appointed by the Chartering Organization. The WG is required to review documents such as the Charter, Working Group Guidelines, Policy Development Process Guidebook, Issues Paper, etc.

The GNSO Working Group Guidelines also enumerate the general roles and responsibilities of the working group including the specific duties of the chairman, vice-chairman, liaison, and members. The WG members are also expected to ensure the integrity of the process, act based on ICANN's Expected Standards of Behavior set forth by the ICANN Accountability and Transparency Framework, and follow the process on how to deal with a member who is obstructing the efforts of the WG.

ICANN Work Parties

The PDP of the RSSAC and SSAC rely on work parties rather than "working groups." The former term tends to indicate a high level of expertise in the topic in question, which is critical to the technical advice expected of the RSSAC and SSAC.


A Cross-Community Working Group (CCWG) is a mechanism that allows SOs and ACs to work together to address an issue of common interest that does not fall within the scope of a single SO or AC. The CCWG on Internet Governance offers a good example.

Related Topic

Work Team