At-Large Representative for Canada and the United States on the
ICANN Board of Directors

Karl Auerbach

Diary - July 31, 2001

We had another crack-o'-dawn phone meeting of the Board yesterday morning.  The subject of the meeting was the .name TLD.

Here's where you can see the official "preliminary" report of that meeting:  http://www.icann.org/minutes/prelim-report-31jul01.htm

As with all other meetings there were non-Board members present who had no compunctions about participating in the discussion.  I happily accept this with regard to ICANN's General counsel who has done an excellent job during these meetings in presenting balanced statements of fact and professional opinions.  However, I do object to the presence, and much more to the participation, of these other parties when at the same time the public isn't even permitted to observe, much less to participate.

The "Thank You" Resolution

There was a trivial resolution to thank those people who helped organize the Stockholm meeting - The resolution was trivial but the work and effort of those who contributed was quite significant and much deserving of a hearty "Thank You".

There was an interesting procedural glitch about this resolution: I do not believe that it was posted for public comment.  And after the resolution was moved and seconded I didn't hear an actual vote.  Considering the nature of the resolution I considered these flaws to be excusable.  So, let me ask my readers: What's your advice: should I overlook these procedural errors on these kinds of innocuous resolutions or should I be hard-nosed about any and all such flaws?

The .name Resolution

I voted to approve the resolution 

Not that I like .name - but I figure that the path to getting ICANN out of the regulatory business is to develop an institutional blindness to how TLDs are used.

As I see it, when we get to that marvelous day when we have enough TLDs so that there is real competition for services, then there will be personal name offerings that give the customer what the customer wants without extracting a pound of flesh and handing half to the local trademark-taxman.

It was a tough decision.  There was a significant issue: To what extent may a TLD registry (or registrar) evolve its offerings before it is so different that ICANN should take notice?

But my path of reasoning came to closure before I had to reach that question.  I believe that ICANN ought to avoid becoming a body that regulates Internet business offerings.  And what is this inquiry into .name's e-mail offering but an exercise in regulation of matters that are purely business and entirely non-technical?  In other words, I felt that what the .name folks chose to do in conjunction with the TLD is simply none of ICANN's concern unless there was a demonstrated and concrete threat to the technical ability of the Internet to deliver its primary service.

I certainly have no intention of spending any of my own money on "auerbach.name".  (I already have "auerbach.com" ;-)  And given my own experience handling e-mail forwarding for relatives in auerbach.com, I can't see that the .name folks are going to have an easy time covering costs without levying some expensive fees or resorting to some kind of advertising-based revenue stream.  But these are not my concern, nor should they be ICANN's.

I must admit that I am concerned that the central mail forwarding service that .name will be establishing could be a central point of attack for spammers who have recently resorted to sending out e-mails with huge lists of common names in hopes that one or two will get through. The .name mail forwarders may be a rich target for that kind of attack as names such as ann@smith.name fred@smith.name john@smith.name joe@smith.name, etc are all reasonably guessable targets.

I am also concerned about a central mail forwarding service imposing filtering policies (i.e. size limits, spam/RBL filters, etc) without adequately informing those who are affected.

And I'm wondering whether the .name folks will, as many others have done, surrender to the urge to derive revenue by selling information about the e-mail behavior of both its customers and those who send e-mail to its customers.

But should my concern be manifested via ICANN regulation?  Would it not be more appropriate for such concerns to be handled via recourse to constitutionally established legislative bodies and duly empowered administrative agencies?

The big question is this: Is ICANN to be a consumer or trademark protection body that engages in heavy regulation?  Or should ICANN allow innovation to proceed unencumbered and allow customers to make their own choices and vote with their own feet against those that offer poor service packages?  My sense is that it is better for ICANN to be less intrusive and less willing to evaluate how a business operates


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2001 Karl Auerbach, All Rights Reserved.
Updated: Wednesday, August 01, 2001 12:17:08 PM