ICANN Board Gets Decisive. Vertical Integration Debate Killed Off

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Earlier this morning ICANN made public the resolutions from the most recent board meeting of November 5th 2010.

The meeting was not a “normal” meeting – it was deemed a “special meeting” and its sole topic was vertical integration and cross-ownership between registrars and registries.

This topic, often simply referred to as VI, has been a subject of debate – often very heated – for the last 12 months.

What it boils down to in simple terms is whether registrars can own registries and vice-versa.

During the ICANN meeting in Seoul last year both sides of the debate were able to put forward their points of view in an actual public debate. Unfortunately, although the working group that was formed around the topic has been discussing it for months (and for some of us in the group it feels more like years .. ) there was no way to reach any level of consensus.

At the Brussels meeting there were several “face to face” meetings with participants. The only area that we could actually reach any level of agreement was in relation to “enforcement”. We all agreed that ICANN needed to enforce any rules that were created.

But again, agreement on pretty much any other points of interest at Brussels simply wasn’t going to happen.


There’s a diplomatic answer to that and then there’s a more honest and realistic one.

The diplomatic one is probably composed by making all sorts of vague and oblique references to policy making, past decisions, perceptions and, if you want bonus points, you can probably camouflage a lot of that by citing the much famed “public interest”.

The more honest and realistic answer is that those opposed to the concepts of cross-ownership and vertical integration are the same people who stood the most to gain from maintaining the “status quo”.

So what exactly did the board decide?

The first line of the announcement sums it up:

ICANN’s Board of Directors voted to allow new gTLD registries to own registrars, opting not to create new rules prohibiting registrars from applying for or operating new gTLD registries.

You can read the full announcement here and the actual resolutions here.

Now the next question is – what next?

How will people react?

Are we going to see a flood of nastygrams from Afilias and PIR being sent to the ICANN board demanding them to backtrack?

Or are we going to see Afilias and PIR graciously accept that they’ve lost this battle (but will they view it simply as one battle in a longer war?)

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