In the ICANN realm, TechOps stands for Technical and Operations and its goal is to simplify processes, to find solutions, and to advise on technical and operational matters. There are three TechOps groups: The Registry, the Registrar and the joint Registry and Registrar, also known as Contracted Party House (CPH). How did we get there and what exactly are we doing? These are the most common questions over the last couple of months that I got as the current Vice Chair of the Registrar Stakeholder Group (RrSG) and one of two Co-Chairs of the CPH TechOps group.
Let me start from the beginning
There are two major communities for the Internet: The Internet Corporation of Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) and the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF). Since 1998 ICANN is coordinating and maintaining the names and numbers space, and it has and will probably always be primarily focused on policies. The IETF came into existence in 1986; it develops and promotes the technical aspects of the Internet. The IETF Registration Protocols Extensions (REGEXT) working group is figuratively the home of the technical standardisation of the domain namespace. These two communities are loosely coupled, and some employees of their members are quite active in both. In my opinion, this has worked well over the last years. However, aside from a very few ICANN accredited registrars, the most active members are domain name registries and volunteers from others groups. The lack of support from registrars makes it difficult for registrars to implement technical developments afterward.
This is one of the reasons why the RrSG was discussing how they can engage better and provide more service to its membership, as well as how to bridge the gap between policy vs. implementation. In April 2017, the RrSG came to the conclusion to form a TechOps subcommittee to address technical and operational needs and challenges. The goal was to invite software developers and product managers from all RrSG members to collect and to discuss all issues that are usually bothering them. Furthermore, this group was intended to be an open space to exchange and to discuss ideas. Right from the start, this new subcommittee attracted more than 60 people and started to collect all sorts of topics. This led to more than 15 items the group wanted to work on and to write a statement to address ICANN Org, Registries and/or any other 3rd parties.
What we were working on
The first topic they worked on was the Registry Maintenance Notification, an idea to standardize the notification domain name registrars are getting from all domain name registries in various forms. After a couple of weeks and months, the RrSG TechOps subcommittee has finalized a statement and submitted it to the Registry Stakeholder Group (RySG). This led to quite a lively and very productive discussion and resulted in the formation of a RySG and a joint Registry and Registrar TechOps group in September 2017. This joint group is also known as the CPH TechOps subcommittee and has about 120 members.
This CPH TechOps subcommittee worked together to finalize the Registry Maintenance Notification draft and to submit it to the IETF REGEXT working group asking for adoption. Meanwhile as one could expect the European Union (EU) General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) did impact the work of this group. While ICANN was drafting their Temporary Specification, which came into effect on 17 May 2018, the CPH TechOps group was actively discussing how domain name transfers could be handled after WHOIS will be heavily redacted. The CPH TechOps group issued a letter to ICANN Org, exchanged some letters and discussed very animatedly, which finally resulted in the acceptance of their suggestions.
In the meantime, the CPH TechOps was working on topics and ideas for the ICANN GDD summit in Vancouver where a 1.5-day TechOps track was implemented for the first time. There were brainstorming and breakout sessions on the future of domain transfers, the standardization of a registry reporting repository, the concept of registry mapping and transition, a presentation on IETF REGEXT, and a presentation on China’s new domain regulations. Overall there was tremendous great feedback and the session room was partly overcrowded.
What we expect in the future
While this increases expectations for the upcoming ICANN Meetings and GDD Summits enormously, it also shows how important this work is. The plan for the future is to have a one-day TechOps session at every meeting, to work more closely together to formulate best practices, and to work closely with the IETF in order to standardize ideas. There are still a lot of topics on our roadmap, such as Registry Reporting Repository, Future of Domain Name Transfers, Registry Mapping, Registry Transition, Billing Cycle and Renewals, Bulk Transfers, etc. Regardless of this, we will see if and how much there will be to do for TechOps about the Expedited Policy Development Process (EPDP), which will kick in and will last for at least the next couple of months.
I am certain that we can achieve our goals and if you are a member of the Registry or Registrar Stakeholder Group and want to join the TechOps initiative, then please do not hesitate to contact the respective secretariat or drop me a note.
Written by Tobias Sattler, CIO united-domains