In the two short decades since it became available for commercial use, the Internet has come to occupy a unique position in the business world. Novelty has quickly given way to an unthinking reliance. Like electricity and running water, the Internet is presumed to be available on roughly the same terms in the future as it is today.
Unthinking reliance invites unanticipated risks. More thought should be given to how deeply the Internet is embedded in an organization’s business plan, and to the Internet policies on which that plan relies.
In short, the standards and policies that shape how the Internet operates, what features it offers, how domain name disputes are decided, and what business opportunities on the Internet open up or terminate are subject to policy debates that occur beyond the horizon for many organizations.
Last year alone, ICANN approved the introduction of a new Top Level Domain (TLD) for pornography (.xxx) and a program to add a limitless variety of new TLDs. Already these decisions have shifted and disrupted business plans. But these are hardly the only policy decisions within ICANN’s power that present threats and opportunities: