In the last post I talked about wanting to break up monopolies and I was accused of being a hypocrite. The accusation was that ICANN was a monopoly. I responded by saying that ICANN is not a monopoly. One of the ideas behind ICANN was to break up the Network Solutions monopoly and encourage competition among registrars and registries. Also, if you want globally-consistent references, you need a root and an administrator of the root. ICANN is a non-profit and the board members do not benefit directly from the ability to regulate the delegation of top level domains (TLDs) and IP addresses. I think the trick is not to figure out a way to avoid anyone being administrator, but to figure out how to make that administrator fair. ICANN tries to address many of the issues by having a board composed of neutral members and members which represent the various constituencies. ICANN exercises a strict conflict of interest policy. Because of this, the board is very difficult to "capture" although a very broad group, such as the intellectual property lobby could feasibly have a great deal of influence over a number of the constituencies.
Anyway, having responded a bit defensively that ICANN is not a monopoly... and in the spirit of the soul searching from my last post, I do want think about what could make ICANN better. Even if I don't believe it is "a monopoly" in the sense of monopoly that I was talking about, it does have a monopoly over a particular aspect of Internet governance. I am going to Argentina next week to participate in the ICANN meeting so I suppose this is a good time to think about ICANN constructively and think about how I should try to contribute next week.
Just to frame this a bit more. I'm less concerned about what "evils" ICANN has done in the past and am more interested in what ICANN is doing now or should do in the future. ICANN is changing and fighting about the past is interesting, but not as productive.
A few things that I currently believe:
1 - The ITU can not manage names and numbers as well as ICANN and it's affiliated groups and I can't see anyone else who can.
2 - The basic architecture of ICANN - multi-constituent, multi-lateral with various working groups is correct.
3 - ICANN should and will eventually become independent of of the US Department of Commerce. The current goal is 2006.
4 - A completely distributed peer to peer directory service is technically feasible, but would be impossible to implement without causing complete chaos for people using the Internet today and isn't practical. Having said that, a more distributed directory system that sits on top of DNS may be useful, but that doesn't replace the DNS.
5 - ICANN should focus on names and numbers.
6 - ICANN should not become bigger than necessary to fulfill it's mandate.