Domain pulse 2018: taking a critical look at progress

Domain pulse is an annual event for the German-language domain name community. Organised jointly by the registries for .de (Germany), .ch (Switzerland) and .at (Austria), the event attracts about five hundred visitors a year. DENIC (the .de registry) hosted this year's edition in Munich on 21 and 22 February. I was there with a number of colleagues to represent SIDN, because the German market is important for .nl and because the trends influencing the domain name industry in Germany are nearly all relevant in the Netherlands as well.

One event with two facets

The theme of Domain pulse 2018 was 'Homo Digitalis'. It was a theme with two facets: what the future may hold, and addressing current challenges, such as cybercrime and new legislation. As this year's event worked out, it was current issues that dominated proceedings. That was partly due to the imminent implementation of an important new piece of European legislation: the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). Speakers also gave ample attention to topics such as the security risks of the Internet of Things (IoT) and the privacy implications of anti-terrorism laws. Sign of the times?

Shortcomings of the digital age

Keynote speaker Matthias Horx effectively set the tone by exploring the many shortcomings of the digital age. The futurologist posed the question of just how smart a smart home actually is. Will computer capacity really keep on doubling, as Moore’s Law suggests? Do social media make a positive contribution to self-image? Horx highlighted the rise of a countermovement and called for greater 'digital acuity'. Is our digital awareness on a par with our awareness of the real world?

Several other speakers took a similar line. ICANN board member Maarten Botterman argued for a proactive approach to reducing the risks associated with the IoT. Peter Schaar, Chair of the European Academy for Freedom of Information and Data Protection, highlighted the price being paid in Germany for sharing information with a view to preventing terrorist attacks, and suggested that the policy was often ineffective.

SIDN involved in two panel discussions

SIDN was represented on two panels. Our New Business, Marketing & Sales Manager Arjan Middelkoop was a member of the panel that discussed how registries should respond to the lack of growth in the market. Options such as involvement in the on-line identity market and the Internet of Things are generating a lot of interest. Meanwhile, our Legal & Policy Advisor Maarten Simon was on the panel talking about notice-and-take-down. How can registries best help to counter the use of domain names for malicious purposes?

Elephant in the room

The GDPR remained the elephant in the room, however. While the EU imposes increasingly strict rules on the sharing of personal data, ICANN requires the gTLDs in particular to allow access to their portfolios. With ICANN being based in the US – outside the EU, therefore – fulfilling that requirement is extremely difficult for any European registry.


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