The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) is meeting this week to discuss critical issues such as generic top level domains, internationalised domain names, and the organisation's efforts to become more accountable.

The international public meeting, the second of three of its kind ICANN has planned for this year, will also include discussions about a major expansion of available Internet Protocol addresses, as well as about the process for accrediting registrars.

ICANN oversees the Internet's address system and as such carries the critical responsibility of ensuring the overall security and stability of the Internet.

A key effort ICANN is involved with is, improving the transparency of its operations and the accountability of its decisions, areas critics regularly complain about. "We must ensure we're in the leading edge of transparency and accountability," said Paul Twomey, ICANN's president and CEO.

ICANN commissioned an independent study about its transparency and accountability in December from London's One World Trust, which reported its findings in March. It concluded that ICANN is a very transparent organisation but that it can improve certain areas, including better explaining how it uses input from stakeholders when making decisions.

ICANN wants to improve making it easier for people to find the vast amount of information on its Web site, Twomey said. ICANN also wants to be faster in posting information online about its meetings and initiatives, he said.

However, the transparency and accountability issue will likely remain on the table until ICANN removes its special ties to the U.S. government. Since its creation in 1998 to progressively absorb Internet management functions until then handled fully by the U.S. government, ICANN has been criticised for lacking transparency in its decision-making process and for responding disproportionately to U.S. interests.

In September, the memorandum of understanding between the U.S. Commerce Department and ICANN was renewed for three additional years, a disappointment for those who had hoped for ICANN's full autonomy.

Also in this week's agenda is the Internationalized Domain Names (IDNs) initiative, which aims to revamp the DNS (domain name system) so that it can support domain names in a broad range of languages and alphabets that can't be represented via the ASCII character set.

"You'd think this would be simple. It has turned out to be really hard, technically," said Vint Cerf, ICANN's chairman.

Another initiative on deck for discussion is the drafting of a policy to introduce new generic top-level domains (gTLDs) to add to the well-known ones like .com and .net. Like the IDN effort, this gTLD project has run into technical challenges.

Original reporting by Juan Carlos Perez, IDG News Service.

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