Centre for Internet & Society

CIS has been working towards enhancing transparency and accountability at ICANN since 2014. While initial efforts have resulted in ICANN revealing its sources of income in a granular fashion in 2015, we are yet to see this level of transparency become a default approach within ICANN. Here, Padma Venkataraman chronologically maps CIS’ efforts at enhancing financial transparency and accountability at ICANN, while providing an outline of what remains to be done.

With the $135 million sale of .web,[1] the much protested renewal of the .net agreement[2] and the continued annual increase in domain name registrations,[3] among other things, it is no surprise that there are still transparency and accountability concerns within the ICANN Community. CIS, as part of its efforts to examine the functioning of ICANN’s accountability mechanisms, has filed many DIDP requests till date, in a bid for greater transparency of the organisation’s sources of revenues.

1.Efforts towards disclosure of revenue break-up by ICANN

- 2014

- 2015

- 2017

2.The need for granularity regarding historical revenues


1.Efforts towards disclosure of revenue break-up by ICANN

- 2014

In 2014, CIS’ Sunil Abraham demanded greater financial transparency of ICANN at both the Asia Pacific IGF and the ICANN Open Forum at the IGF. Later that year, CIS was provided with a list of ICANN’s sources of revenue for the financial year 2014, including payments from registries, registrars, sponsors, among others, by ICANN India Head Mr. Samiran Gupta.[4] This was a big step for CIS and the Internet community, as before this, no details on granular income had ever been publicly divulged by ICANN on request.

However, as no details of historical revenue had been provided, CIS filed a DIDP request in December 2014, seeking financial disclosure of revenues for the years 1999 to 2014, in a detailed manner - similar to the 2014 report that had been provided.[5] It sought a list of individuals and entities who had contributed to ICANN’s revenues over the mentioned time period.

In its response, ICANN stated that it possessed no documents in the format that CIS had requested, that is, it had no reports that broke down domain name income and revenue received by each legal entity and individual.[6] It stated that as the data for years preceding 2012 were on a different system, compiling reports of the raw data for these years would be time-consuming and overly burdensome. ICANN denied the request citing this specific provision for non-disclosure of information under the DIDP.[7]

- 2015

In July 2015, CIS filed a request for disclosure of raw data regarding granular income for the years 1999 to 2014.[8] ICANN again said that it would be a huge burden ‘to access and review all the raw data for the years 1999 to 2014 in order to identify the raw data applicable to the request’.[9] However, it mentioned its commitment to preparing detailed reports on a go-forward basis - all of which would be uploaded on its Financials page.[10]

- 2017

To follow up on ICANN’s commitment to granularity, CIS sought a detailed report on historical data for income and revenue contributions from domain names for FY 2015 and FY 2016 in June 2017.[11] In its reply, ICANN stated that the Revenue Detail by Source reports for the last two years would be out by end July and that the report for FY 2012 would be out by end September.[12]

2.The need for granularity regarding historical revenues

In 2014, CIS asked for disclosure of a list of ICANN’s sources of revenue and detailed granular income for the years 1999 to 2014. ICANN published the first but cited difficulty in preparing reports of the second. In 2015, CIS again sought detailed reports of historical granular revenue for the same period, and ICANN again denied disclosure claiming that it was burdensome to handle the raw data for those years. However, as ICANN agreed to publish detailed reports for future years, CIS recently asked for publication of reports for the FYs 2012, 2015 and 2016. Reports for these three years were uploaded according to the timeline provided by ICANN.

CIS appreciates ICANN’s cooperation with its requests and is grateful for their efforts to make the reports for FYs 2012 to 2016 available (and on a continued basis). However, it is important that detailed information of historical revenue and income from domain names for the years 1999 to 2014 be made publicly available. It is also crucial that consistent accounting and disclosure practices are adopted and made known to the Community, in order to avoid omissions of statements such as Detail Revenue by Source and Lobbying Disclosures, among many others, in the annual reports - as has evidently happened for the years preceding 2012. This is necessary to maintain financial transparency and accountability, as an organisation’s sources of revenues can inform the dependant Community about why it functions the way it does.

It will also allow more informed discussions about problems that the Community has faced in the past and continues to struggle with. For example, while examining problems such as ineffective market competition or biased screening processes for TLD applicants, among others, this data can be useful in assessing the long-term interests, motives and influences of different parties involved.


[1] https://www.icann.org/news/announcement-2-2016-07-28-en

[2] Report of Public Comment Proceeding on the .net Renewal. https://www.icann.org/en/system/files/files/report-comments-net-renewal-13jun17-en.pdf

[3] https://www.icann.org/resources/pages/cct-metrics-domain-name-registration-2016-06-27-en

[4] https://cis-india.org/internet-governance/blog/cis-receives-information-on-icanns-revenues-from-domain-names-fy-2014

[5] DIDP Request no - 20141222-1, 22 December 2014. https://cis-india.org/internet-governance/blog/didp-request-2

[6] https://www.icann.org/en/system/files/files/cis-response-21jan15-en.pdf

[7] Defined Conditions for Non-Disclosure - Information requests: (i) which are not reasonable; (ii) which are excessive or overly burdensome; (iii) complying with which is not feasible; or (iv) are made with an abusive or vexatious purpose or by a vexatious or querulous individual.


[8] DIDP Request no - 20150722-2, 22 July 2015. https://cis-india.org/internet-governance/blog/didp-request-12-revenues

[9] https://www.icann.org/en/system/files/files/didp-response-20150722-2-21aug15-en.pdf

[10] https://www.icann.org/en/system/files/files/didp-response-20150722-2-21aug15-en.pdf; https://www.icann.org/resources/pages/governance/financials-en

[11] DIDP Request No. 20170613-1, 14 June 2017.

[12] https://www.icann.org/en/system/files/files/didp-20170613-1-marda-obo-cis-response-13jul17-en.pdf

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