Cerf: ICANN finally working on 'substantive issues'

He called this week's meeting a 'turning point' for the organization

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) meeting in Carthage, Tunisia, this week will be getting down to brass tacks for the first time on how the Internet works, according to ICANN Chairman Vinton Cerf.

Speaking during a conference call from Carthage today, Cerf said that the group has been bogged down in organizational issues and is just now able to deal with "substantive issues" such as how to expand the Internet and shore up its security. "This is a big turning point for me and for ICANN," he said.

The Marina Del Rey, Calif.-based organization oversees matters relating to the Internet address system and has been undergoing an overhaul after coming under criticism for being overly bureaucratic and ineffective.

With some key organizational issues, such as a putting into place a framework for greater public input, now dealt with, "ICANN 3.0" is now looking to address the technical future of the Internet. The group will be discussing how to expand the Internet address system to include different country-specific, top-level domains with greater language support, as well as plans for moving from Internet Protocol 4 (IPv4) to IPv6, Cerf said.

The move from IPv4, which was introduced in 1978, to IPv6 is critical in order to support the growing number of devices requiring specific IP addresses, according to Cerf. There are expected to be millions of new devices, including personal digital assistants, mobile phones and home appliances.

"We've quickly discovered that there will be more than one or two devices [requiring IP addresses] per person," he said.

Cerf also said that, given how central the Domain Name System is to applications working on top of it, ICANN needs to focus on how to improve its security.

While in Tunisia, ICANN also plans workshops on the Whois name-lookup database and a board meeting Oct. 31 to "put some final touches" on new top-level domains, Cerf said. While the group isn't set to specifically discuss the row over VeriSign Inc.'s Site Finder service, it does expect comments on the matter from its Security and Stability Advisory Committee in coming weeks, ICANN President Paul Twomey said during the call.

Earlier this month, ICANN asked Mountain View, Calif.-based VeriSign to shut down the Site Finder service, which was designed to redirect users who mistyped a domain name to a legitimate Web site, amid complaints that the company was steering users to properties it owns (see story). The security committee is currently accepting input on the matter and will decide in a few weeks if it needs more information or can make a decision, Twomey said.

Speaking of the controversial service, Twomey said it proved that "innovation is not in and of itself a good thing" when it destabilizes the system.

ICANN's meeting in Carthage will continue through Oct. 31.

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