The project has been undertaken in light of recent developments that are likely to significantly alter the parameters of DNS governance in the near future. These developments form the catalyst and chief focus of this project. One such development is the decision by the Internet Corporation of Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) in June 2008 to radically expand the range of generic Top-Level Domains (gTLDs). While this extension of the gTLD namespace brings many benefits, it is also likely to generate considerable conflict. Another development is that the “Joint Project Agreement” between ICANN and the US Department of Commerce expired at the end of September 2009 and was replaced by an “Affirmation of Commitments (AoC)”, somewhat altering the institutional framework for DNS governance. Much uncertainty surrounds the precise effects of this institutional shift. Central questions being aired include whether or not the considerable reduction of formal US government oversight will significantly alter the balance of power between the multitude of constituencies that shape ICANN policy development. Will there emerge a new oversight body and, if so, in what form? Will DNS governance continue to operate largely on the basis of contractual instruments? Will the basic principles of DNS governance otherwise remain intact?
The project has two main prongs of research. The first prong is critically examining the ongoing enlargement of the gTLD (generic Top-Level Domain) namespace. The second prong assesses the relative utility of respectively (i) contractual mechanisms and (ii) legislative and treaty-based mechanisms for global governance structures in Internet governance generally, but with a focus particularly on management and steering of the DNS. Both prongs of research are undertaken in light of development of the Internet as a platform for social networking, communication between “things” (“Internet of Things”), and mobile services.