If we had to name one development that has disrupted the domain industry in the past few years, it would have to be the introduction of new gTLDs. Before 2012, if you wanted to register a domain name, you could choose between ccTLDs and a few gTLDs like .com or .net.
The first new gTLD application round was launched on 12 January 2012. Working behind the scenes is the Generic Names Supporting Organization (GNSO), a policy-development body responsible for developing and recommending policies on new gTLDs to the ICANN Board. This organization achieved a tremendous accomplishment in creating the first applications and guidebooks. Now they are back at work, promoting innovation and competition on the internet even further. Philippe Fouquart, engineer and Senior Expert in Naming, Numbering & Addressing at Orange, is the current Chair of the GNSO. His broad experience and expertise in the internet industry are now at the service of the GNSO, working towards their next ambitious and game-changing goal. They aim to finalize the policy for launching the second new gTLDs program. This is a historical change that we want to discuss with Philippe!
You have devoted yourself to the internet throughout your career. How have you been engaged so far?
Over the last 20 years, I have been involved in technical and policy-related work in the internet technical governance and various international and regional organizations such as Standards Development Organizations (SDOs), specialized agencies of the United Nations, the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) and different industry groups. Today, I am an engineer and Senior Expert in Naming, Numbering and Addressing at Orange, a telecommunications operator based in France.
When it comes to ICANN, the first time I heard of it was through some colleagues who have participated since its inception. My company, named France Telecom at the time, was involved in the registry/registrar split trial in 1999, which almost coincided with the creation of ICANN. I have been extremely lucky to benefit from experienced people to guide me in this ecosystem during the early days of ICANN. In the past eight years, I started to become more involved at ICANN with the ISPs and Connectivity Providers Constituency within the GNSO and then as their representative on the GNSO Council for almost five years now. In 2020, I was honored to be elected GNSO Chair. This is a rewarding and humbling responsibility. My term is shorter than some of the timelines we will be talking about here but the job essentially consists of helping to move forward pieces of work that were started long before I was appointed (and done by others!) and handing them over, hopefully with some progress, to those who will be in charge when they are completed.
How would you describe the work of the GNSO?
The structure and the mission of the Generic Names Supporting Organization (GNSO) and its Council are clearly defined by the ICANN Bylaws. The primary mission is to develop policies related to generic top-level domains and recommend them to the ICANN Board. Those policies do not only include the introduction of new gTLDs, but encompass various topics like the management of WHOIS data, curative rights protections, dispute resolution, IDN registrations, transfer of domain names between registrars, etc. To accomplish this mission, the GNSO operates in close collaboration and cooperation with other SO/ACs.
Furthermore, the GNSO community contributes to ICANN's mission of coordinating the stable operation of the internet's unique identifier systems. In order to achieve this, it engages in several topics, some of them being ICANN's budget or strategic plan or the evolution of the multistakeholder model and, more recently, the "Holistic review pilot", which is a reflection on the relevance of our structure concerning our mission.