Joi Ito's Web

Joi Ito's conversation with the living web.

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.

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.