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David F. Lindsay

This chapter explains and evaluates the background to current issues in domain name governance. In doing so, it first explains why domain names, and the domain name system (“DNS”), continue to be significant. The chapter then describes the complex global processes relating to Internet and DNS governance, before introducing and analyzing the multi-stakeholder model (“MSM”). Following this, the version of the MSM applied by ICANN is illustrated by the processes for introducing a significant number of new top-level domains (“TLDs”), and especially with controversies associated with the applications for the .wine and .vin domains. Finally, the chapter explains and analyzes issues regarding the future of DNS governance, including the transition from residual U.S. government supervision of ICANN (known as the IANA transition) and the associated process for developing replacement accountability mechanisms. In doing so, the chapter does not engage in a detailed explanation of ICANN’s legal and institutional proposals relating to the IANA transition, but provides a perspective on the context in which the proposals were developed. The chapter concludes with some observations as to why DNS governance is inherently problematical and why debates about Internet governance resist effective resolution. As the chapter maintains, the difficulties in establishing a legitimate DNS governance structure mean that domain name governance will likely remain a site for the generation of competing narratives of legitimacy and governance, and a seemingly perpetual negotiation and re-negotiation of governance structures, for the foreseeable future. To the extent possible, the chapter is accurate to March 2015; but, given the fluid nature of the area, necessarily makes reference to developments since that time.