Recently in ICANN Category

Darth Vader, Stormtroopers come to ICANN meeting
What used to think ICANN was like...

Apologies for the delay in writing the post. I've been trying to think about what to say and have just decided that I better write it before my thoughts get old...

I joined the ICANN board during the December 2004 ICANN meeting in Cape Town. I served for a three year term and stepped down at this last meeting in Los Angeles and didn't run for another term. My apologies to all of the ICANN community and the people who helped me learn about and participate in the complex but important process that is ICANN.

Before joining ICANN, I thought that ICANN was the only part of the Internet that wasn't really working. I knew that there must be a better way to do what ICANN does, but I couldn't be bothered to figure it out. I'd agree with people who said things like, "it should just be distributed" or "it should just be first come first serve" or "we should just get rid of it." People from ICANN would say, "it's more complicated than that" or "at this point that would be impossible."

After being part of the process for three years, I find myself saying those same things and feeling a sense of exasperation at the people who take pot shots at ICANN from the peanut gallery without really trying to help or change things. I also have gained a huge respect for most of the people who participate in ICANN, many as volunteers, trying to improve the process and keep the Internet running.

With all of it's tumultuous history and bumps and warts, ICANN, in my opinion, is the best way that we can manage names and numbers on the Internet and any new thing to try to do what it does would be less fair and probably wouldn't work.

There are some technical architectures and ideas that might make ICANN less relevant, which would be a good thing. However, even relatively obvious things like IPv6, IDNs and DNSEC are having a hard time getting traction. I think that it would be nearly impossible to "redesign the DNS" and get people to use it. It would be like trying to redesign a flying airplane. On the other hand, their might be some evolutionary changes that make domain names less relevant.

The ICANN process as it is currently working involves a number of supporting organizations that feed into a consensus and policy development process. The board is 15 people, 8 who are "neutral" and nominated from the public through the nomcom process and 7 who are elected from the supporting organizations. It is geographically and otherwise fairly well distributed and balanced. It is nearly impossible to "capture" the process. If any stakeholder wants to participate, they just have to show up.

The problem that ICANN has is not one of being unfair, the problem that ICANN has is the difficulty and time required in trying to reach consensus on difficult issues. The other problem is that most of the people who are affected by the decisions, the average users, don't know or care about ICANN. Trying to figure out an better way to get their input has always been an issue, but is one that is not unique for ICANN. All of politics and collective action share the difficulty in getting the public to care about issues that affect them.

When I was urged by a number of people to join the board, I thought of my term on the board as a kind of "jury duty". I had been benefiting from the Internet running properly for the last decade, building businesses and my social network on the Internet. I felt that three years would be a kind of "community service" to give back some of what I had received. The board work included nearly monthly conference calls, probably several thousand pages of reading, two face-to-face board retreats and three meetings per year. The meetings are a week long. This adds up to nearly two months or more of work a year.

As the new chairman of Creative Commons and my portfolio of companies requiring more and more of my time, I just couldn't justify serving another term. I calculated that I spent more time reading about and discussion whether we should allow .xxx than I spent on any one portfolio company this year... and at the end of it, I voted in the minority and .xxx was shot down and I ended up as just a voting statistic.

Having said that, I have no regrets. I met amazing people, learned a lot about how the Internet works and have gained a great respect for the people and the organizations that make up and contribute to ICANN. Many thanks to the ICANN staff, board and various constituents who have made my term a fruitful and exciting one.

Changes at ICANN

Today Vint stepped down as chairman of ICANN as his term came to and end. The new board elected Peter Dengate Thrush as the new chairman.

My term also came to and end. I'll blog about this more, but thought I should post this first...

My photos from the ICANN meeting in San Juan are posted on Flickr in a set.

They're all Creative Commons Attribution licensed so free to use with attribution. If they're pictures of yourself, go ahead and use them without attribution if you have to.

The application by ICM for the .xxx sTLD has been rejected by the ICANN Board by a 9-5 vote in favor of a resolution to reject the application. Susan Crawford's comments on why she voted against this resolution echo my feelings. I have continued to vote in favor of granting .xxx to ICM and voted against this resolution to reject the application. ICANN is not chartered to be involved in trying to determine whether specific content is appropriate or not. ICANN should not be determining whether top level domains (TLDs) will solve the world's problems or not. We were asked to review an application based on whether the application met the requirements of the Request for Proposal (RFP). My view is that the applicant met the requirements of the RFP and that not granting the applicant their request for the right to run the .xxx TLD is wrong. If the RFP was wrong, this should be taken into consideration when thinking about the next round and not affect our current decision.

On the other hand, as a member of the board, I will respect the majority vote of the board. We have been working on this proposal for years and we have spent a tremendous amount of effort in trying to understanding the arguments and evidence presented to us by a huge number of parties. I urge the public and people who have not been tracking this issue not to over-simplify this issue and read Susan's comments carefully. This is NOT about whether we are for or against pornography. This is about the ICANN process and the role of ICANN.

Njeri Rionge
Njeri Rionge
I've been spending more and more of my time over the last few days looking at the world through the viewfinder of my M8. The predominantly interesting thing here to look at are people. The lighting of the conference is the standard tungsten lighting that causes my M8 sensor to turn everything into a horrible magenta hue. I've figured out how to basically correct for this, but the lighting in most of the meeting rooms is so boring anyway, that my focus has started to shift away from trying to do anything fancy in color during the sessions. Ian gave me some advice about increasing the contrast and shadows of my black and white images for that "Leica look" which seems to help pictures that have boring lighting in color.

The result of looking for characteristic expressions and gestures of everyone here and trying to capture them has been a renewed appreciation for the diversity and depth of the people attending this ICANN meeting. The effect of spending time editing and tweaking the images of my favorite people has really been satisfying and enlightening.

I should probably wait until I'm finished with the conference before posting this, but as an anxious blogger, I'm going to post this now. I am uploading additional photos throughout the day so please come back or refresh the sets if you want to see them as they come in.

You can view the Black and White images as a flickr slideshow or in the normal set view. I have uploaded the color shots as well, but put them in another set and put both sets together as a collection. I was going to go back and "do the B&W Leica thing" on the color images, but since I've got a constant flow of new images, I'm going to focus my post-processing on the new stuff for now.

The photos are licensed under a CC Attribution license of course.

I'm at the SFO airport on my way to Sao Paulo for the ICANN meeting. After a cancelled flight, I think I'm back on course.

There is a Sao Paulo ICANN meeting blog where I'll try to post stuff once I figure out the posting policy.

UPDATE: There is a webcast and a chatroom.

Kalfin-Twomey-Ito
Photo by Bulgarian Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Yesterday, Veni Markovski took Paul Twomey and me to go see Ivailo Kalfin, the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Bulgaria. Paul is the President/CEO of ICANN (I am on the board).

First of all, The Bulgarian Foreign Ministry has now licensed all of its content under a Creative Commons 2.5 Attribution License . YAY!

The Minister also just started a blog at http://www.kalfin.eu.

It was clear from the conversation that Veni was a well known (and mostly liked) maverick who had blazed the way for open Internet in Bulgaria with the support and help of the Minister. They talked about some of the policy war stories from the past.

Here is the press release from the meeting via the Veni/ISOC Bulgaria blog:

Minister Kalfin told Dr. Twomey that the government has on the top priorities list promotion of development of information infrastructure in the country, and development of the information society. He informed the guests about the current statistics about Internet usage by the citizens, companies and government. Minister Kalfin noted the fact that Bulgaria has good traditions in the field of software. He pointed out several international IT-companies that enterBulgaria, and invest in ICT.

ICANN’s President gave high remarks on the policy Bulgaria has for Internet access and usage. He informed Minister Kalfin about the multiple business-oriented applications, and the effect of using IT in different branches of the economy.

Joichi Ito, one of the Internet pioneers in the development of blogs, spoke about the new culture and new opportunities, noting that the blogs are one of the most democratic tools for access to information.

Another topic covered was the improvement of the services about registration of domains in the .bg top level domain.

Minister Kalfin started his own blog, to be found at www.kalfin.eu, where he will be discussion issues about Bulgarian foreign policy, EU membership, etc. The blog is based on open source software - Wordpress, and is the first such an initiative by a Bulgarian minister. Mr. Kalfin invited Joichi Ito to become an author at his blog - an invitation that was accepted by the famous Japanese IT-investor and blogger.

The content, published at the web site of the Foreign Ministry is now under CreativeCommons License - attribution 2.5. That puts the ministry among the firs in the world to use this license. Another ministry to use CC is the Brazilian Cultural Ministry, but it uses CC-attribution Non-Commercial No-Derivatives.

UPDATE: Test of Google Earth - This is the hotel I'm staying at -
GrandHotelSofia.kmz

For one of the last resolutions of the ICANN board meeting, Vint asked the board to show their support by swaying back and forth in their seat. He promised to explain it later, but wasn't able to. Therefore, I believe it is my role in the interest of transparency, to explain the reference.

Last night Veni told us a joke.

Lenin, Stalin, Khrushchev, Brezhnev, and Gorbachev are on a train heading towards communism.

Suddenly the conductor says, "Oh noes! There are no rails left. We can not move on."

Lenin says, "no problem, Saturday is Lenin day and we will all work for free and cut down trees and build the rails."

Then Stalin says, "no, we must find out whose fault this is and kill them."

Khrushchev disagrees and says, "no, we can plant corn in the fields, sell the corn to the American and we can buy the railroad."

Brezhnev says, "no, we must all sit in the train and sway back and forward so we have the appearance of forward motion towards communism."

Finally Gorbachev stands up and says, "Comrandes, you don't understand the modern times. There is a new spirit of glasnost and perestroika. We need more transparency. We need more openness." At this point, he opens the windows and starts shouting, "there are no rails! There are no rails!"

After the joke, we tried replacing communism with new gTLD's and discussed which board members were like which Russian leaders...

Bret blogs about the vote.

I'm at the Wellington ICANN Meeting and the public forum is just about to begin. There is a webcast. I'm sitting next to fellow board member Susan Crawford who has blogged in more depth about this meeting.

I just finished my keynote for the 22C3 conference. I'd been mulling over what to talk about from about 2AM or so this morning. After reading the program and the amazing breadth of the 150 or so talks and imagining the 3000 leet hackers that I would be talking to, I decided to put together a brand new talk hitting a lot of the points that often skip because they are controversial or difficult for me to discuss. I was a bit nervous kicking off what I think is one of the most important conference I go to. I am happy to report that it was the best crowd ever. ;-)

Although there is a bit of preaching to the choir, (I got cheers for just saying "open network"), judging from the hallway conversations I had afterwards, it was a smart and motivated crowd and I'm honored and happy that I was able have people's attention to allow me to talk about some of what I believe are the most important things going on right now.

The Syncroedit guys set up an instance for my talk where you can see my notes and things others have said. (Use Firefox please.) http://22c3.ito.com/ Please feel free to add stuff. It's still a test install and fragile so please don't try to break it. It's not a challenge. ;-)

Anyway. Thanks much to everyone at 22C3 for the invite and look forward to spending the rest of the week hanging out with everyone.

A video of the presentation should soon be up at http://22c3.fem.tu-ilmenau.de

Interesting article in eWeek about the business of registering domain name typos and how they game Google. "Some of the domains move around between domain parking services or between anchor domains over time as part of a 'multi-layer redirection structure' that makes it difficult to trace". The bulk of the data and analysis comes from Microsoft Research. Again, I'm not going to "judge" this business, but clearly it's a large business that is becoming exceedingly complex with some cat-and-mouse going on. One thing I wonder about is whether there is a whole lot of incentive for the cat to catch the mouse if the cat gets a share of the mouse's take.

ICANN
NEXT STEPS ON PROPOSED .COM SETTLEMENT On 21 October 2005, ICANN announced proposed settlement terms between ICANN and VeriSign, including a proposed new .COM agreement. Since then, ICANN has been conducting extensive public consultations on the proposed settlement. At its 24th International Public Meeting in Vancouver this week, the ICANN Board has been engaged in consultations with the ICANN community on this topic, among others.

Today at its Board meeting, ICANN Chairman, Vint Cerf, announced:

"The Board has listened long and hard this week to all constituencies with regard to the .COM agreements

"We are deeply grateful to the efforts made by all constituencies to respond to the Board’s invitation to organize comments on the proposals and to provide, where possible, concrete suggestions for improving them.

"We are also very grateful for the time each constituency spent going over with the Board their ideas and reactions.

"We ask the staff to accept any further written comments until December 7 and to produce for the community a public report summarizing, analyzing and organizing the feedback provided on the .com and settlement agreements by December 11.

"We recommend that staff approach VeriSign with the results of the report on the proposed contract and settlement. We remind all parties that the Board has not yet agreed to the terms of the contract and settlement.

"We also note the existence of a policy development process on new gTLDs and strongly believe that this policy development process should be informed by the results of the comments received on the proposed contract for .com and settlement with VeriSign."

I realize there is still a lot of work to do, but as Vint is quoted in saying above, I really want to thank the community for a constructive and intense week of discussions. I hope that VeriSign and staff have fruitful discussions and that we can come up with something that reflects the issues raised this week. I was sincerely moved by the ability for the rather complex process to function in such a productive way and am proud to be part of this ever-improving "experiment" in bottom-up consensus.

Yesterday, I wrote a post about the parked domain monetization business. Since then, I've begun talking to a variety of people here at the ICANN meeting. It is clearly a complex issue and I have decided to suspend judgement until I have more information. I think that these "professional registrants" are clearly a different group than "user registrants". I think we should differentiate people who buy domains as their primary business to people who use domains to use in their business. It could be argued that professional registrants "use" their domains to run ads, but I think most of these professional use tools like Google AdSense for domains which automate the process and does not require the professional to engage in the business of actually running a web site or service.

I am going to try to gather as much information as possible before I come to any conclusions. I urge people, especially those people who are in this business, to help me understand the issues and nuances. I've just started a page on the ICANNWiki about this. Please contribute there as well. Thanks.

I think that a large number of people buying domains can't get their first choice name because some "parked domain monetization" operation (cyber-squatter) owns it and is making money running ads on the page. The trick is to sign up for millions of domain names; set up pages and run ads on them; after 1 day delete domains that have no traffic; after 3 days delete names that have some traffic; after 5 days delete pages with marginal traffic; keep the 1% of pages that have enough traffic to be worth keeping the domain. Because of the refund policy, the 99% of pages deleted before the 5 day grace period are refunded in full and the "monetizer" gets to keep the ad revenue generated over those 5 days. (This is called "domain tasting".) See the DNForum page for more information on how this business works. Interestingly, I think Google AdSense probably has boosted the viability of this business. I wonder what percentage of Google's posted $2bn (or so) / yr "traffic acquisition costs" goes to this business. According to Ram Mohan from Afilias, 3 of the big 5 registrars say that they make over $5m-$8m / year from parked domain monetization pages. This means that these people are making more than that from these pages and Google and other ad servers even more.

I wonder if there is any way to close this loophole that effectively enables a no-risk business. I think these monetization businesses are a net-negative value to the community and seems like a loophole exploit. On the other hand, refunds are a legitimate service for legitimate registrants. It is VERY difficult to tell the difference between a legitimate and illegitimate registrant.

In the jungle of such pages, the Kevin Kelly page stands out as my favorite example of responsible domain name use.

UPDATE: WSJ November 17, 2005: "Revenue from text ads on these sites will total $400 million to $600 million world-wide this year and may reach $1 billion by 2007, according to Susquehanna Financial Group analysts Marianne Wolk and Roxane Previty, who track the online ad industry."

UPDATE: Google has an AdSense page targeting domain name parking businesses. I wonder if these Google folks will talk to us? They should know the size and shape of the "professional registrant" community better than anyone else and it appears they are "taking to them" directly from the looks of this page.

Wiki site about ICANN. (ICANNWiki)

I will be a panelist in a public roundtable discussion at the Vancouver ICANN meeting entitled "Welcome to ICANN, Here’s What It Means To You." The roundtable is scheduled for Wednesday, 30 November, 10:30 - 11:30, at the Columbia's Westin Bayshore.

The purpose of the roundtable is to introduce ICANN -- its community and its work -- to the local and regional community and press. The roundtable will feature members of the ICANN community in an informal, moderated discussion of what ICANN does, why ICANN is important to various stakeholder communities, what the ICANN community will be doing in Vancouver, why you volunteer your time with ICANN, and how people can get involved.
If you're coming to an ICANN meeting for the first time, I would suggest you come to this meeting.

Icann Van Head Logo
I'm at the ICANN meeting in Vancouver this week. You can often find me on the #joiito IRC channel. I need to give the face to face meeting priority, but I'll try to provide background and contextual information for anyone who is attending or watching the webcast and is interested.

I've just spent five days in Croatia visiting Zagreb and Dubrovnik. The trip was organized by the Creative Commons Croatia dynamic duo, Marcell and Tomi with the support of CARNet. CARNet is the Croatian Academic and Research Network and I gave a keynote at their 7th Internet Users Conference in Dubrovnik.

After Dubrovnik, I went to Zagreb and gave two presentations organized by Marcell, Tomi and the mama team. mama is a very cool media center, library, community center that is the meeting place of a number of really interesting communities in Croatia. One of the communities that hangs out there is the anime community who I had a chance to meet. They were extremely organized, fun and knew everything about Japanese anime. I learned a lot from them and renewed my feeling that a stronger relationship between anime publishers and their fans would be a win-win.

While I was in Dubrovnik, Marcell drove me to Montenegro and gave me a full day talk on the history of the region and many of the issues. A lot of the news that I had been skimming in the past about the war in the region and the struggle of the people all sort of fell into place. The scenery was beautiful with a mix between ancient towns and cool new restaurants and bars. Although I'm sure Marcell is slightly biased, it was a great opportunity for me to learn about an area of the world that until this trip has been filed in my brain under "Eastern Europe". As I mentioned earlier when writing about my friend Veni from Bulgaria, I am going to make an effort to visit and learn more about Eastern Europe and make up for my embarrassing lack of knowledge of the region and I think this was a good start.

Thanks again for the hospitality and for sharing your culture with me.

I've uploaded a few pictures from the trip.

I'm posting this from my flight to Vancouver where I will be attending the ICANN meeting.

The nomination committee (NomCom) of ICANN announced today they have chosen Njeri Rionge from Kenya for another term on the ICANN board and has added Susan Crawford to the board. I'm glad to be working with Njeri who I met on the ICANN board. Susan's one of the people who helped me understand ICANN in the before I joined the board and I'm psyched to be working with her. If you're interested in ICANN you've probably been following her blog, but if not, you should. It's one of my must read blogs.

The NomCom has also announced a number of other important ICANN positions today:

ccNSO Council - Slobodan Markovic (Serbia and Montenegro, Europe)
GNSO Council - Avri Doria (USA, North America), Sophia Bekele (Ethiopia, Africa)
Interim At Large Advisory Committee - Jacqueline Morris (Trinidad and Tobago, Latin America/Caribbean Islands), Alice Wanjira (Kenya, Africa), Siavash Shahshahani (Iran, Asia/Australia/Pacific)

The word "nomination" is a bit confusing. There is a process before they are officially board members, but for all practical purposes, they have been chosen. Congrats and thanks to the new members and to the NomCom who have been working VERY hard.

Vint Cerf just left MCI to join Google. Congratulations Vint!

Interesting in the context of eBay buying Skype...

UPDATE: Google press release

The Working Group on Internet Governance has issued its final report. The WGIG is a group of experts tasked by the United Nations to think about and come up with a report about Internet governance. Many people were concerned because the meeting was kicked off by the Secretary General of the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) saying that this was about questioning ICANN. The comments gave me the sense that the ITU was trying to take over ICANN's role and wanted a report to justify this. In fact, the group of experts represented a broad range of opinions and have produced an interesting report. It recommends several possible scenarios for the future for ICANN. Only one of the four scenarios calls for starting from scratch without ICANN. According to Kieren McCarthy of The Register, "UN report to leave ICANN’s balls intact". ;-P

For those of you who have difficulty understanding the report or don't have time to read it, Wortfeld has a wonderful graphical visualization of the scenarios. I am not a WGIG expert. Can anyone tell me if these visualizations are accurate?

Also, it's interesting to note that the ITU is not mentioned in the report. I suppose that the ITU is part of the "UN Anchor" that is referred to, but they are not discussed in the report. Or maybe they're supposed to appear later like Mighty Mouse.

Anyway, thanks to everyone who put effort into creating this report.

Sorry about the light blogging the last few days. It's been a tough week at the ICANN meeting and it's finally over. I would like to express my appreciation to everyone in the community who took the time to explain their issues and gave us the opportunity to try to address these issues. I think we took a step in the right direction, but we have a large number of outstanding issues still left to address. I appreciate everyone's continued participation in the process. My commitment will be to deliver on the various promises that I have made this week. I look forward too seeing everyone again in Vancouver. For anyone who is new to ICANN but interesting in learning more, the next meeting is in Vancouver on November 30 - December 4. Everyone is welcome to join the meeting and I'll be happy to provide a guided tour. ;-)

I'm leaving Luxembourg for Tokyo today.

There is a very important and interesting IDN Workshop going on right now. There is a web case. If you're interested, I suggest you tune in. We're talking about it on #joiito and #icann on irc.freenode.net.

I don't know how much deep thought was involved when George Bush called the Internet "the internets" but this reflects a real risk that we face today. If you look at the traffic of many large countries with non-English languages, you will find that the overwhelming majority of the traffic stays inside the country. In countries like China and Japan where there is sufficient content in the local language and most people can't or don't like to read English this is even more so. I would say that the average individual probably doesn't really notice the Internet outside of their country or really care about content not in their native language.

Physical mail inside of these countries is delivered with addressing in their local language. It's not surprising that on the issue of International Domain Names (IDNs) there is a strong and emotion position inside of these countries that people should be able to write URLs in their native scripts. Take my name for example, the same Chinese characters for my name can be transliterated into English as either Johichi Itoh or Joichi Ito. This problem is aggravated in languages such as Chinese where there are more dialects and many more readings for the same set of characters. Why should these people be forced to learn some sort of roman transliteration in order to access the company page where they know the official Chinese characters for the names.

Similarly, there are people who don't like the policies of the Internet and either want to censor or otherwise manage differently THEIR internet. Others who don't like the way DNS works, have proposed alternative roots. This is possible and easy to do, but you end up with "the internets".

It is the fact that we have a single root and that we have global policies and protocols which allows the Internet to be a single network and allows anyone to reach anyone else in the world. Clearly, allowing anyone in the world to reach anyone else in the world with a single click introduces a variety of problems, but it creates a single global network which allows dialog and innovation to be shared worldwide without going through gateways or filters. This attribute of the Internet is a key to the future of a global democracy and I believe we need to fight to preserve this.

Since more and more people are using the Internet, there are more and more diverse views about the policies and control. This is clearly making consensus more difficult and ICANN is one of the groups which is having to adapt to the increasing number of inputs in the consensus process. This is all the more reason to work harder to keep everything together. Please. Lets fight to keep the Internet and not let it turn into the internets... It is a difficult process with various flaws, but if we give up, it will be very difficult if not impossible for all of to talk again very soon.

icann.org
ICANN Posts New gTLD Questions Paper

6 July 2005

In September 2004 ICANN published a strategy for the implementation of new top-level domains (TLDs). The strategy called for the implementation of a strategy that would appropriately take into account many relevant technical, economic, socio-political and cultural issues. In light of several new developments regarding DNS operations and structure, ICANN has developed a plan to facilitate implementation of the strategy for the designation of new TLDs.

The staff paper has been drafted to inform about the current status of the implementation of the "New gTLD Strategy". It is also intended to solicit public comments on the completeness of the list of questions therein as well as on the consultation matrix enclosed.

Please also note the following: The paper is a draft and does NOT foreclose any procedures or outcomes of consultations. The draft questions in the question list are open and are NOT to be read as implying particular preferences. Future consultations will welcome contributions from ALL and the draft consultation matrix does NOT imply any exclusivity provisions.

Please submit your comments to new-gtld-questions@icann.org. You can view comments at http://forum.icann.org/lists/new-gtld-questions/. Deadline for comments is 1 August 2005.

This is part of a long process of trying to decide if and how new top-level domains should be allocated. Many people complain that ICANN decides these things behind closed doors without taking input from the public. In fact, ICANN tries very hard to solicit input to develop consensus. The question about whether and how new top-level domains should be allocated is an important issue. ICANN is currently soliciting input on whether we are asking the right questions. If you have an opinion on top-level domains, I urge you to read the document above and submit your opinion. I promise you that we read all of the comments and will try to address and include them in our discussions.

For those not familiar with the debate, there are proposals including 1) no more top-level domains, 2) auctions, 3) sponsored top-level domains and 4) a first-come first-serve laissez-faire approach. Each of these proposals have interesting arguments for and against them and the questions we are asking help define the debate. Please take a look at the questions with these various scenarios in mind.

Yesterday the ICANN board discussed and approved ICANN staff to enter into negotiations with ICM Registry, Inc. for the .XXX Top Level Domain (TLD). I'm sure there will be a longer more complete presentation from ICANN later about this, but as an individual board member I thought I'd post a quick note before people got carried away with speculation based on a lack of information.

I realize that the formal documents on the ICANN page are difficult to read, but I suggest people take a look at the actual application before jumping to conclusions about what the .XXX TLD is. It is actually a well thought out structure that provides a balanced approach to an issue with many stake holders.

The .XXX TLD is a sponsored TLD or sTLD with a sponsoring organization. Policy will be managed by a non-profit organization called the International Foundation for Online Responsibility (IFFOR). (Here is the org chart.) IFFOR will have a board of directors comprised of members from several supporting organizations. These organizations include 1) privacy, security & child advocacy, 2) free expression, 3) online adult-entertainment and board members selected through a nomination committee system similar to ICANN. No one constituency can capture the board and all have a say. There will be an Ombudsman. The organization has demonstrated strong support from all of the constituencies and also the credit card industry. A portion of all of the revenue from domain names will go to a fund that a Grant Advisory Committee will use to support child advocacy. Credit card companies are working with the legitimate adult sites to create incentives for them to switch to .XXX.

ICANN has been mandated with trying to increase the TLD space and the .XXX proposal, in my opinion, has met the criteria set out in the RFP. Our approval of .XXX is a decision based on whether .XXX met the criteria and does not endorse or condone any particular type of content or moral belief. This is not the role of ICANN. I realize that some will view this as ICANN endorsing pornography on the Internet, but this is not the case.

There are people who are concerned about censorship and control. These are issues that have been raised, but I think the .XXX proposal is more about creating incentives for legitimate adult entertainment sites to come together and fight "bad actors" and is not focused on forcing people to use the .XXX domain.

Some people have argued that there has not been enough public debate, but we have been taking public comments for quite a while. We DO read them and have encouraged people to discuss their issues with us through the process. I believe we followed a rigorous process. We started with an RFP and over the last 15 months, we have had independent evaluators, numerous meetings, public discussion and public comments.

I think Bret Fausett summarized the situation well on his blog.

The decision on .XXX may be one of the most difficult ICANN has ever made, and you can expect ICANN to be criticized whatever it decides. I imagine that many of the countries participating in the GAC aren't ready to be part of a decision that will endorse a space for pr0n on the Internet. The fact that .XXX could be a political hook on which the governments of the world could hang Internet zoning laws could make the decision more palatable, but it's still a political minefield for ICANN. Again, I hope the proposal is accepted, but it's going to take a great deal of courage to do that.
I think any decision would have had strong critics. I believe we have made the best decision possible considering all of the issues involved. Having said that staff are now negotiating the contract. If anyone has any thoughts that we should consider in negotiating the contract I would be happy to hear them. Staff are working hard to produce a contract that ensures that the TLD functions as advertised.

ICANN's Nomination Committee has begun their process to nominate more members to various boards, councils and committees of ICANN. This is the process by which I was elected to the board last year. Contrary to what some people may think, these positions should not be taken to try to gain some privilege or power. These are positions of responsibility and require a lot of work for no tangible return except possibly the opportunity to meet other very interesting people. (OK. They MIGHT give you a t-shirt.) I think about my role at ICANN like I would think about jury duty. We have all benefited from the proper functioning of the Internet for the last decade. If you've benefited in the past and care about the future of the Internet, it is a great opportunity to give back to the community by applying for one of these positions. We are at a crucial turning point in Internet governance. Governments and other organizations are seriously questioning the continuing ability for the Internet to be governed in a bottom up, consensus driven and open manner. I believe it is literally "all hands on deck" to keep things running and further improve the process that is currently in place. PLEASE. If you believe you can fulfill one of the critical roles or know someone who can, please contact ICANN and file a submission of interest.

ANNOUNCEMENT: ICANN Call for Submissions of Interest for Leadership
Positions is issued; submission deadline is 15 June 2005.

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) has posted a call for recommendations and statements of interest for leadership positions on its Board of Directors and its Supporting Organizations. Additional details, including the URL of the complete details and the application form, are contained below.

I encourage you all to read the material below and to consider who might be appropriate and strong candidates for such submissions, and to make recommendations of suitable individuals. Interested individuals may also submit a statement of interest directly.

If any of you have any questions, comments or recommendations that you would like to discuss with me directly please contact me directly.

Please feel free to redistribute this message to any and all relevant individuals and groups. Thank you.

Sincerely,

Elliot Noss
Member, ICANN Nominating Committee

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~oOo~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

http://www.icann.org/announcements/announcement-29apr05.htm

The ICANN Nominating Committee invites Recommendations and Statements of Interest from the community as it seeks qualified candidates for the following positions:

- two members of the ICANN Board of Directors;

- two members of the Council of the Generic Names Supporting
Organization (GNSO);

- one member of the Council of the Country-Code Names
Supporting Organization (ccNSO); and

- three members of the At Large Advisory Committee (ALAC).

Those individuals selected by the Nominating Committee will have a unique opportunity to work with accomplished colleagues from around the globe, address intriguing technical coordination problems and related policy development challenges with diverse functional, cultural, and geographic dimensions, and gain valuable insights and experience from working across these boundaries of knowledge, responsibility and perspective.

Additionally, those selected will gain the satisfaction of making a valuable public service contribution. Placing the broad public interest ahead of any particular interests, they will help ensure the stability and security of the Internet for critically important societal functions.

These voluntary positions are not remunerated, although direct expenses incurred in the course of duty may be reimbursed. These positions may involve significant international travel, including personal presence at periodic ICANN meetings, as well as regular telephone and Internet communications.

Candidates should be women and men with a high level of qualifications and experience with an international outlook including some familiarity with the Internet. They should be prepared to contribute to the collective decision-making process among ICANN's constituencies, supporting organizations and advisory bodies.

Selection criteria, eligibility factors, roles of each position, application procedure, and contacts are posted at:

http://www.icann.org/committees/nom-comm/formalcall-22apr05.htm

Applications will be handled confidentially and should be received by 12:00 GMT on 15 June 2005 for full consideration. Selections will be made in October with service beginning in December 2005.

UPDATE: I just remembered it was Elliot Noss who first talked to me about the ICANN board at the Future in Review conference several years ago. I remember laughing at him at the time. ;-) Things have come full circle I guess.

Mr Blog
Practical IPv6

We finally released a project we've been working on in EarthLink R&D for some time now. I was not the lead engineer on this project but it's perhaps one of the most exciting things we've done in R&D to date, if not the most exciting thing.

Basically it's a demonstration of a practical IPv6 migration strategy. There is a sandbox that allows users to obtain their own /64 IPv6 subnet of real routable addresses (Goodbye NAT -- YEAH!)

Here's how it works: Simply get an account at http://www.research.earthlink.net/ipv6/accounts.html to get your own personal block of 18,446,744,073,709,551,616 IPv6 addresses; install the firmware onto your standard Linksys WRT54G router, and blamo, you have IPv6. With this special code installed on your Linksys router, your IPv4 works as normal; you'll still have your NAT IPv4 LAN. But in addition to that, any IPv6 capable machine on the LAN will get a real, honest to goodness, routable IPv6 address too. It couldn't be easier. This works for Mac OS X, Linux/UNIX, as well as Windows XP. You don't have to do anything special on the machines on the LAN. They just work, as they say.

So with this code installed on the router and your IPv6 accounts setup, nothing breaks. You continue to use your LAN as before, but you suddenly also get real IPv6 addresses. Easy migration. No forklift required.

This may be a bit geeky for some people, but for anyone who's been worried about how we're going to get IPv6 everywhere, this should be good news. Congratulations Earthlink R&D! I'm going to get a WRT54G router and try this out right away...

Technorati Tags:

Thanks to everyone who showed up in Mar del Plata to participate in the ICANN meeting. I thought that the discussion was healthy and productive and although we moved forward on a number of things, we are left with a lot of work to do based on the feedback we received on the strategic plan, the board governance guidelines, .pro, .net, IDNs, transparency, process and a number of other topics. Special thanks to staff for running such a great meeting in the absence of our CEO Paul Twomey. I think you did an excellent job.

Thanks to everyone who showed up for dinner last night and special thanks to Mariano for organizing everything. It was great to meet the Argentine bloggers. I'm sorry I was late. Our bus from Mar del Plata broke down and we had have them send a new one.

Thanks to Mookie letting me stay at his place in Buenos Aires.

I'm off to San Francisco today to do my usual rounds and to go a Institute for the Future retreat.

Since my flight doesn't leave until this evening, I hope I can do a bit of moblogging in Buenos Aires.

IDNs (International Domain Names) have been the subject of a great deal of discussion. IDNs are a way to allow non-ASCII scripts to be used in URLs. There are a number of difficulties with IDNs. One is that there are letters or punctuation that look similar to normal ASCII characters or punctuation. This allows people to spoof other URLs and use it to fool users and steal their banking information for instance. The other criticism is whether people really need them. The argument (which until recently I agreed with) is that everyone in the world reads ascii and can't people at least type the URLs in ASCII.

Fellow board member Hualin Qian said that the Chinese were using IDNs using a browser plugin and that since most Chinese read only Chinese web pages, it seemed to be doing quite well. I would have to concur. I think one thing that we forget is that the type of people who come to ICANN meetings and argue about this stuff tend to speak multiple languages, care about what is going on in other languages, and are trying to get everything perfect. We are not the norm. I remember when we set up Infoseek Japan, we decided to index only Japanese pages. I argued that we should index English pages, but I was overruled by the people who said most Japanese don't read English web pages.

Many of the problems of IDNs come from trying to do multiple languages at the same time or languages one can't read. The biggest difficulty is implementing them in gTLDs like .com or .org. I think that if we focus on helping the country level TLDs (ccTLDs) get going with IDNs in their own native languages, we would be solving the problem for 80% or so of the people. My concern is holding up the ability for these people to use IDNs because we can find the perfect solution for the edge cases.

This is a philosophically opposed to my "Global Voices" position which focuses on building bridges between cultures and languages, but I believe that the benefit for the digital divide to get something running soon is worth it. Also, once we have a lot of people using IDNs in different regions, I'm sure we can use this experience to come up with more creative ways to solve the more difficult IDN problems.

Again, this is my personal opinion and not any sort of consensus of staff or the board of ICANN. I am mainly pointing this out because until this meeting, my position (privately) was "why the hell do we need IDNs?" On the other hand, I think we are moving forward and the discussions during this meeting in MdP were very helpful.

As people have reported widely, there has been a great deal of abuse of .Pro. .Pro was supposed to be a top level domain dedicated to creating a credentialed area for verified professionals and profession related domain names. People have been registering obviously unrelated domains and going as far as selling them on eBay. This clearly violates the spirit of the agreement, but it is still unclear whether anyone is technically violating the agreement. ICANN has been criticized for not policing .PRO especially in light of ICANN approving new sponsored top level domains. As Michael Palage pointed out in his comments during the board meeting, ICANN staff is currently investigating the issues and they will come back with the facts and the board will discuss any appropriate actions.

Afriniclogo
We just unanimous approved the resolution which makes AfriNIC a fully approved and recognized Regional Internet Registry to provide IP address registration and other services for the Africa service region. This is an important step forward for the African Internet community. Congratulations to everyone involved. Yay!

There have been some severe allegations about foul play inside of ICANN with regards to the .travel sTLD allocation. Staff, counsel and the board have reviewed these allegations and I am convinced that these allegations are unfounded and have just voted in favor of .travel.

I have talked to several independent participants who are also puzzled by these allegations but I have asked them to dig around for more facts. I will report back if I find anything, but until there is some third party corroboration of these allegation, I would hope people would stop spreading this rumor as if it were fact. I understand that people don't like to give ICANN the benefit of the doubt, but these are quite severe allegations from a single source. Please be responsible.

Ray Plzak of ARIN pointed out during the board meeting that 45% of available addresses have been allocated to the RIR's (Regional Internet Registries). There are number of studies about how much longer we have before we run out of addresses. The estimates range from 10 years to 40 years of time left.

I'll write more about this later, but IPv6 seems to be moving forward, but the efficient reallocation of addresses and unanticipated technologies such as NATs (Network Address Translation) has taken the pressure off of IPv6 adoption from the "running out of addresses" perspective. However, IPv6 has many benefits, not just increased address space and we should move forward with adoption. I would also like to point out that the rumor that a single US university has more addresses than China is an urban myth. This was true in the past, but many universities and early Internet address users with large allocations have returned their address space and China has one of the largest address allocations today.

UPDATE: Hmm... This report seems to suggest that the allocation is a bit higher. Maybe I misheard. It appears that 45% of the addresses have NOT been assigned to the RIR's.

There has been a great deal of discussion about the Board Governance Committee's draft of the Core Principles and Corporate Governance Guidelines. Section 5(e) says "Having given the chief executive delegated authority, Board members should be careful – individually and collectively – not to undermine it by word or action." The idea behind this is that the board should not be undermining the activity of the CEO after it has delegated a task. As a CEO, I can understand this intention, but I believe that it should be decided operationally and should not be in a guidelines document to be signed by the board. In addition, I think the word "undermine" is vague. In many ways, the role of the board is to "undermine" management if management is not doing the right thing.

During the public forum (which is going on right now), Alejandro Pisanty, the chair of the committee, pointed out that there were a number of comments and that the committee is working on revising the draft. If you have comments, I suggest you submit them through the link above. There were a number of constructive comments from other participants during the forum and they will be posted on the site soon.

The ICANN meeting in Mar del Plata is just about to officially begin. There will be a webcast of the sessions in the main auditorium. There are some interesting issues on the agenda including DNS Security, Domain Name Hijacking and WSIS. Of course the public discussion and the board meeting should also be interesting. You can find the schedule on the web site.

WEBCAST AND REMOTE PARTICIPATION INFORMATION

ALL sessions in the main auditorium can be viewed at:
http://media.icann.org/ramgen/broadcast/argentina.rm.

ALL ccNSO sessions can be viewed at:
http://media.icann.org/ramgen/broadcast/ccnso.rm.

To send questions to the board of directors or if you have question or comments related to the meeting, please send an email to argentina@icann.org.

Just between us, I will have my computer with me and will be on IRC at #joiito on irc.freenode.net during the sessions. I would not recommend IM'ing me on anything other than Shinkuro or Skype if you want to say something to me securely since I'm on an open wifi network.

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.

Ross Rader writes a passionate response to the ITU "Beyond Internet Governance" paper. This is the struggle/debate that we face today and good for Ross for articulating the position many people have but are either not in a position to say or are not informed enough to say. I would be very interested to hear the ITU's response to Ross.

We just finished an ICANN telephone board meeting. The resolutions have been posted to the ICANN web site. The resolutions were posted just a few hours after the meeting completed. Good hustle folks. (People have complained about the delay.)

I did not participate in discussions about or vote on the .mobi application because of my relationship with Nokia.

James Seng and Elliot Noss have interesting responses to an anonymous post on Susan Crawford's blog calling for the reformation of the Internet. Read the anonymous post first, then Elliot, then James. They all represent a small view into the diversity of intelligent opinions on the future of the ICANN.

I'm now at Frankfurt airport waiting for my connection to fly to San Francisco. I slept through most of the 12 hour flight here catching up on my nearly no sleep week in Cape Town. As I've said before, I'll try to pick topics as I get my head around them and blog them, but it feels like I learned more during this one week at the ICANN meeting in Cape Town than I've ever learned in a single week. The scary thing is, the more I learn, the more I realize how little I know. People who participate in ICANN come from government, politics, civil society, academia, law, technology, business, NGOs and just about every other kind of group you could imagine. They come from developing nations and developed nations. It was the most diverse group I've ever seen. People wear 3 piece suits, t-shits, traditional dress from their countries and everything in between. It reminded me of scenes from science fiction movies of intergalactic meetings.

The conference is organized so that different constituencies have closed as well as open meetings about their issues. There are cross-constituency meetings where different constituencies discuss issues with each other, and there are public forums where everyone is present. The tone and style of each of the constituencies were extremely different, but I was struck by how civilized the discussions were considering how diverse people's backgrounds and views were. Obviously some people had agendas and some people were frustrated with many things, but everyone there seemed to be really committed to doing the right thing for the Internet. I met with many people who were critical about some of ICANNs positions and all of them were very patient in explaining their positions and sending me additional materials to study. (Special thanks to those of you who sat down with me and walked me through issues.) During the Public Forums, there was an open mic and many people spoke for many hours, very eloquently about their positions. This was also very enlightening. I do think that getting the web casting more organized, having more information online to help people understand the issues and creating more ways for people to participate without being physically present is something we need to work on. Also, with all of the acronyms and history, it's quite hard for a newbie like me and probably for most people to understand the context of many of the discussions. I think we need to make it easier for people to get up to speed and participate in the dialog.

It is an extremely important time for ICANN and for the Internet. Even though the focus is names and numbers, the issues being debated in this context will have a broad impact on how the Internet operates. There are many critical issues that have to be resolved over the next few years. If you really care about how the Internet impacts your life, I urge you to get involved. Getting involved means understanding the issues, participating in mailing lists, reading and writing white papers and getting others to think about the issues. You don't have to be technical. Many of the issues involve the social, economic and political impact of technical and operational policies. (I know some of you are wondering when I'm actually going to start talking about the issues... It will be when I have something non-ignorant to say.)

It looks like I have lots to learn and a lot of work ahead of me. I had some discussions with the ICANN staff and board about my blogging and everyone has been very supportive and encouraging. I will try to blog as much as possible. I think the only real constraint that I have will be in areas where I have privileged and confidential information or where we have an odd relationship. For example, since there is an ongoing litigation with Verisign, I won't be blogging about how they suck like I used to. I will try to reset biases and try to consider all of these important issues with an open mind and more rigor. My thoughts about Verisign will be expressed as official comments during board meetings. I'll have to leave reporting about them and other off-limits areas to the rest of you.

We just finished the board meeting where I was officially appointed to the board of ICANN. In addition, I was appointed to the Audit Committee, the Committee on Reconsideration and the Finance Committee.

The Audit committee is "responsible for (1) recommending the selection of external auditors to the Board, (2) receiving, reviewing, and forwarding to the Board the annual financial report of the external auditors, and (3) such other matters as may warrant its attention."

The Committee on Reconsideration is "responsible for handling requests for reconsideration of ICANN Board and staff actions. Consisting of five Directors, the Reconsideration Committee has the authority to investigate and evaluate requests for reconsideration and to make recommendations to the Board of Directors, which ultimately determines how to resolve such requests." Anyone can lodge a reconsideration request by sending email to reconsider@icann.org. A reconsideration is basically a complaint about some staff or board action or inaction. Now that we have an Ombudsman, Frank Fowlie, if the reconsideration response is not satisfactory, you can escalate to him.

The Finance Committee is "responsible for consulting with the President on ICANN's annual budget process; reviewing and making recommendations on the annual budget submitted by the President; and developing and recommending long range financial objectives for ICANN."

ScribesScreenicann-1
The scribes at this ICANN meeting are amazing. They are using steno keyboards to type what people are saying in realtime and it is being projected on a big screen. What is amazing is that they are typing in English, even when the speakers are speaking French. I wish I could pipe the text into the IRC channel. I wonder if there is a way to get the scribe text via jabber or something...

UPDATE: Someone noticed that the "jp" macro completes to "Jon Postel" so they can been seen quickly fixing it when the Japanese are speaking. ;-)

UPDATE 2:
Stenosys
I talked to the scribes (is that the correct name for people who do this?) and I confirmed that jp completes to Jon Postel. ;-) A few more interesting facts. The two have their own custom dictionaries and they are different. They have a little PDA as a backup connected to the keyboards.

Susan Crawford is providing very good blow by blow coverage of the ICANN meeting on her blog. My apologies for not blogging anything substantive. I'm still doing a lot of listening and don't have enough context make intelligent statements. I'll try to write a summary after the entire meeting. Anyone else blogging ICANN?

It would be great if all of the different constituents would blog since ICANN can only be understood by listening to all of the perspectives.

Also, as I posted earlier, the meeting is being webcast. There are a bunch of public forum meetings with an open mic for anyone to ask questions to ICANN staff and board which is quite interesting. I wonder if there is a "newbie guide to ICANN" since many meetings require context to understand. I'm hanging out on #icann on irc.freenode.net when I'm in the meetings and I will try get answers to any questions that I am capable of answering.

Meetings in the main auditorium at the ICANN meeting in Cape Town, South Africa December 1-5 are being webcast.

Right now, the Workshop on the World Summit on the Information Society (WSIS) is on.

I will be hanging out on #icann on irc.freenode.net when I'm available.

The ICANN Staff and President and CEO have recently made a strategic plan available. It's quite complete and probably interesting for anyone interested in ICANN. It's a 70+ page PDF. Any comments or opinions about it would be greatly appreciated.

Sorry about the light blogging. I've started immersing myself in reading and studying ICANN related stuff. I know this is generally true, but the more I study, the more I learn how little I know. Soon I will probably convince myself I know absolutely nothing. OK. It's not THAT bad, but it quite daunting. I hope it gets better by the time I have to go to the first official board meeting. I'm trying very hard to understand as many of the points of view as I can and am still looking for more views and opinions.

I do promise to blog more about my thoughts in the future, but I'm still very much in learning mode.

After my blog post about joining ICANN and protecting the Internet from the ITU, I received several essays and arguments about how I didn't understand the ITU. I promise to study the ITU more and enter the dialog with an open mind. The previous post is based on my understanding which is admittedly not first hand maybe a bit shallow. It was based on discussions with people whose opinion I respect highly so I am still fairly convinced that ICANN is better than ITU, but if anyone has anything that they think I should read to understand the ITU and why THEY should take over ICANN's role, please send me email or drop a comment here and I will read it. I'll post again when I'm a bit more educated from more first hand sources.

Thanks to everyone for a wide range of advice about ICANN. I am trying to understand as many of the perspectives and issues as I can before going to my first meeting in December. I've created a wiki page listing some of the essays and links that people have suggested I read. If you have any other suggestions, please email, comment here or post on my wiki. I will try read everything I can and approach this with an open mind. I am also happy to receive private email with personal opinions.

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