Mar 112016


To the 2,000-odd regular attendees of Internet naming and addressing system overseer ICANN, recent conversations have been focussed on meeting locations.

It all started with Panama. The home of the world-famous canal was scheduled to be the next ICANN meeting, in June 2016. Then Zika hit and forced a hasty change of plans. This week, at the close of ICANN’s 55th International meeting in Marrakech (Morocco), the Finnish capital Helsinki was confirmed as the replacement venue for ICANN 56.

This “meeting B” is in itself a conundrum for the ICANN community. Used to thrice yearly meetings with a standard week-long format of industry meetings, domain name policy development and interaction between the various interest groups, attendees will now have to adapt to a shorter mid-year meeting.

Introduced for the first time this year, the B meeting is planned over 4 days only and has been renamed a “policy forum” to underscore its “ICANN meeting light” orientation. It is designed exclusively around policy discussions. A redline chart comparing the previous standard ICANN meeting schedule with the proposed B meeting format shows the vast amount of content being deleted from the Helsinki event.

On top of questions about exactly how the ICANN community will manage to fit all of its Internet identifier management duties into such a compressed schedule, there’s also been some doubt about the 2016 meeting C venue.

The ICANN meetings schedule still lists it as San Juan, yet the Puerto Rican capital is also a victim of the Zika viral outbreak, leading many to suggest that it would be hard to maintain as an ICANN destination following Panama’s withdrawal.

Yet so far, San Juan remains on the list, which has been updated to also show the 2017 venues. ICANN meeting travel junkies will be delighted to learn that they can expect Copenhagen (meeting A), Johannesburg (meeting B) and Abu Dhabi (meeting C) as destinations next year.