Connecting the Dots in History: From Consolidation to Sustainable and Participatory Growth. Part IV

12-10-2018

Carolina Aguerre was the researcher and author of the LACTLD history for the 20th Anniversary Publication. Below, we share the fourth part of our organization history.

LACTLD 20th Anniversary Celebration
LACTLD 20th Anniversary Celebration, 2018. Panama City.

 

In 1998, the region had approximately 750 thousand LAC ccTLD domain names (ISC, 1999) and a regional average of Internet penetration around 10%. Today, LACTLD members that constitute 95% of the region’s domains are over 8 million domains, and the average Internet penetration in the region is 50% (ITU, 2017.) Back then, besides the delegated ccTLDs, there were just over twelve generic domain names (.COM, .ORG, .NET, .BIZ, .GOV, EDU, .MIL, etc.), many of which were reserved for US governmental organizations. With less than 180 available options, citizens, Internet users, governments and brands all over the world were faced to a narrow universe of possibilities for the registration of their domains. In 2012, with the release of the program of the new TLDs by ICANN, this panorama changed dramatically, not just because the number of options virtually increased tenfold, but also because many important premises about the domain ecosystem changed. It went from a relative shortage to an abundance of options for users, apart from the fact that, previously, there had been just  one responsible for TLD in most cases, which has now changed dramatically since the consolidation of new companies. This has had a political and technical impact on the global management of the DNS, although its commercial consequences on the regional ccTLDs are still not clear, since almost half of them still have high penetration rates of their respective countries’ domains. “This is a much more complex environment than the one we experienced 20 years ago, but I think that the region now has very positive coordination elements, such as LACTLD, with formal institutions and a regional ecosystem that is quite consolidated. It seems to me that we are, also, an example of coordination and collaboration for other regions,” indicates Oscar Robles.

To many of the interviewees, the new TLDs are not considered a threat a priori. Today’s challenge is to know what kind of added value the ccTLDs would offer in their services in order to be able to compete in a market that is leaning towards social media as a way of Internet identification.

The creation of strategic alliances and the market of domains are increasingly global, but at the same time, there are even more legal, technical and administrative requirements that should be taken into account for the development of the ccTLDs in the region.

Demi Getschkho thinks that one of the biggest challenges currently faced by the domain ecosystem is the lack of consensus on the rules of thumb he believes to be the ones that must be followed even in this new panorama. The first of these rules is that the first one to come should register the domain (“first come, first served” principle), or that registries should act as mediators when there is more than one interest at stake over a domain name. “The truth is that our only duty is to bring all the disputing parties together so that they can reach an agreement on who wins and who loses. Also, .BR follows a strategic plan for the semantics of domain names. For example, ‘ORG.BR’ is exclusive for non-profit organizations. We stick to this. These are decisions all the ccTLDs make. Another decision may be whether to make the second level available. Every ccTLD knows how to make its own rules.”

It is increasingly evident that LACTLD’s original mission has been revitalized in the new global scenario with new actors, technologies and rules. Another major decision that changes the conditions and strategies of participation for the ccTLDs in the region is the panorama unfolded after the IANA Stewardship Transition to the global multistakeholder community of ICANN. This process began in 2014 and its first implementation phase ended in 2017.

Eduardo Santoyo indicates: “I think that there are many things that did change, but we haven’t realized it yet. And there is some responsibility in relation to the task of managing for each of us individually as a member of the community, but also for the association and the ccNSO itself. Because, in fact, the complete change of ICANN’s statutes to make room for the end of the supervising function that the US had towards the operation of the IANA implies that the community has to be empowered or is more empowered than before. This involves, then, a greater responsibility in the joint construction and participation in the establishment of policies and structures for the management of these resources. But, internally, there haven’t been many changes in our own positions towards such responsibility and towards how we take this responsibility from our perspective in Latin America. And there is a lot of work to be done: we need to raise awareness of the impact of these changes on the general governance structure in ICANN so that we can better understand our roles. I think that we are waking up slowly. Maybe there are a few people who have been following this agenda, but we have not done so as a group yet. That agenda is on the back burner, and we need to develop this concept.”

One of the most significant achievements of the Association has been to foster the consolidation of the joint work between Regional ccTLD Organizations. As a regional organization, LACTLD’s main focus is on the development among peers and the improvement of working conditions among ccTLD members, thus adopting a specific mission and a different agenda in comparison to the one for ccNSO.

Signing of an MoU among ccTLD Regional Organizations, 2016. Marrakech.
Signing of an MoU among ccTLD Regional Organizations, 2016. Marrakech.

 

With the purpose of strengthening this cooperation, the four regional organizations —AfTLD, APTLD, CENTR and LACTLD— signed an MoU in Marrakesh in March of 2016, in order to increase the existing communication flows and explore joint cooperation initiatives. In line with this major integration, the board of directors of the regional organizations have been seeking to get together during ICANN meetings since 2013 in order to exchange viewpoints and experiences.

The current context imposes conditions for LACTLD to promote a working agenda increasingly based on evidence, with studies and reports that are assessed by the members and that allow them to develop greater capabilities and autonomy in the performance of their activities. In addition, in this context LACTLD can favor the creation of an atmosphere for the development of capabilities relative to the participation in different contexts provided by the new ICANN, after the IANA Stewardship Transition.

In order to participate in this context of new opportunities, it is fundamental to “bridge the language gap and try to talk, putting shyness aside,” says Margarita Valdés. Apart from these restrictions, LACTLD members do not find it easy to actively participate in different national and regional mechanisms due to the lack of resources related to their job description to do their everyday jobs in the ccTLD, and also due to the commitments made with ICANN or even LACTLD itself with its working groups. The balance between motivation, participation and result must be constantly assessed.

According to Eduardo Santoyo, the Anycast Cloud and the recent DNS Observatory are examples of LACTLD’s groundbreaking work achieved thanks to the collaboration of its members. Individually, members would not undertake this, but LACTLD is able to coordinate and promote it. As for LACTLD’s Anycast Cloud, there are developments around the DNS security and stability conditions, with the association’s own resources (AS) but, fundamentally, by sharing the infrastructure among the members. This project deviates from the traditional work agenda of a regional organization and focuses on the new horizons of collaborative projects.

In this context, LACTLD must face new challenges, but with a much stronger foundation in relation to its institutional experience, in comparison to when it was created, in 1998. In this regard, LACTLD no longer has to explain why it is important to have a regional place for ccTLD exchange and collaboration. LACTLD needs to spread out its lines of work that have proved to be good for the development of its members in the region and of the regional Internet.

*The original version is included in the LACTLD 20th Anniversary Publication.