What are Governance Councils?

Governance Councils owe their existence to Internet expansion efforts that began years ago. In 2005, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) began studying whether to introduce new generic top-level domains (gTLDs). Until this point, top-level domains on the Internet were relatively few, but this process, if adopted, would be a revolutionary expansion. Three years later, the ICANN Board agreed, and a multi-year process ensued whereby the implementation sought public input and addressed various stakeholder concerns. In 2011, the Applicant Guidebook was approved, laying the foundation for potentially thousands of new gTLDs beginning as early as 2013.

ICANN's Applicant Guidebook stipulated that applicants could apply for new gTLDs that represent a private brand (i.e. .Coke), a geography (i.e. .California), a community (i.e. .lawyers), or a generic concept (i.e. .love). There were provisions to protect trademarks and others to protect communities. ICANN indicated that it would give preference to gTLD applications from consortia formed to represent particular communities.

But what is a "community"? Most generic terms are too generic to apply only to a single group of people. And yet, many who would associate with those generic terms feel a passionate connection to them. It would seem impossible, then, to define a single "sports" community or a "wine" community because diverse interests—and varying definitions of who falls within or outside of that group—make it impossible.

Enter the Governance Council. Prior to applying for several gTLDs, our company sought to develop a mechanism where anyone with a passionate interest in a topic could have a say in their governance. We sought to create a mechanism by which governments around the world would feel comfortable that the Internet was being used as it has always been intended: for the broader benefit of all Internet users. Accordingly, we created Governance Councils, which are designed to serve as a voice for a particular gTLD and are constructed as follows:

  • Delegates are self-nominated to ensure broad participation from the diverse communities which might operate comfortably within the scope of a particular gTLD
  • Delegates elect a Board of Directors of 5-11 persons that best represents the range of interests from the communities
  • Resources are provided to each Governance Council to ensure that they have the ability to meet and discuss matters related to the gTLD

Want to learn more? See the next section, What do Governance Councils do?