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ICANN reveals hitherto undisclosed details of domain names revenues

Posted by Geetha Hariharan at Dec 08, 2014 05:55 AM |
Following requests from CIS, ICANN has shared a detailed list of its revenues from domain names for the fiscal year ending June 2014. Such level of detail has, until now, been unavailable. Historical data is still to be made available.

 

Five days ago, CIS received a detailed list of ICANN’s revenues from domain name sales and renewals for the fiscal year ending June 2014. The document, sent to us by ICANN’s India head Mr. Samiran Gupta, lists payments received by ICANN from registrars, registries, sponsors and other entities such as the NRO and Country Code TLD administrators. Such granular information is not available at the moment on ICANN’s website as part of its financial transparency disclosures. A summary has also been provided by ICANN.

This revenue disclosure from ICANN comes on the heels of public and email correspondence between CIS and ICANN staff. At the Asia Pacific Regional IGF (August 3-6, 2014), CIS’ Sunil Abraham sought granular data – both current and historical – on ICANN’s revenues from the domain name industry.

Again, at the ICANN Open Forum at IGF (4 September 2014), Sunil sought “details of a list of legal entities that give money to ICANN and how much money they give to ICANN every year”. In emails to Kuek Yu-Chuang (ICANN’s Asia Pacific head) and Xavier Calvez (ICANN CFO), CIS had asked for historical data as well.

The global domain name industry is a multi-billion dollar industry, and ICANN sits at the centre of the web. ICANN is responsible for the policy-making and introduction of new Top Level Domains (TLDs), and it also performs technical coordination and maintenance of the Internet’s unique identifiers (domain names and IP addresses). For each domain name that is registered or renewed, ICANN receives payment through a complex contractual network of registries and registrars. The domain name industry is ICANN’s single largest revenue source.

Given the impending IANA transition and accountability debates at ICANN, and the rapid growth of the global domain name industry, one would imagine that ICANN is held up to the same standard of accountability as laid down in the right to information mechanisms of many countries. At the ICANN Open Forum (IGF Istanbul), Sunil raised this very point. Had a Public Information Officer in India failed to respond to a request for information for a month (as ICANN had to CIS’ request for granular revenue data), the officer would have been fined and reprimanded. Since there are no sufficiently effective accountability or reactive transparency measures at ICANN, such penalties are not in place.

In any event, CIS received the list of ICANN’s current domain name revenues after continual email exchanges with ICANN staff. This is undoubtedly heartening, as ICANN has shown itself responsive to repeated requests for transparency. But it remains that ICANN has shared revenue data only for the fiscal year ending June 2014, and historical revenue data is still not publicly available. Neither is a detailed list (current and historical) of ICANN’s expenditures publicly available. Perhaps ICANN could provide the necessary information during its regular Quarterly Stakeholder Reports, as well as on its website. This would go a long way in ascertaining and improving ICANN’s accountability and transparency.

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The documents:

  1. ICANN’s domain name revenues in FY14.
  2. Summary of revenue information.

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