July 19, 2004

One out of seven ain't bad

I see via Lextext that ICANN's Chairman has said "ICANN's stewardship is international, bottom-up and multistakeholder.  ICANN promotes user choice, predictability and a stable technological environment in which innovation is encouraged."

By my count that statement is 1/7 correct, or 6/7 incorrect.

ICANN is certainly international - Like the Prodigal Son ICANN has not held a meeting in its home country, much less its home jurisdiction for several years.

But is there anything else in the quoted statement that is even close to reflecting reality?

Bottom-up?  ICANN has evicted internet users and repudiated any form of end-user participation except through a system of company controlled puppet "organizations."  End users have no role in ICANN except to pay the bills.  And do they ever pay the bills!  ICANN costs the community of internet users over $100,000,000 per year in excessive fees.  Of course, if one considers "the bottom" to be the DNS industry and the trademark lobby then ICANN is indeed "bottom-up".

Multistakeholder?  Sure, if you happen to be one of the chosen few stakeholders.  Internet users are not among those who have been so privileged.

User-choice?  ICANN gives users no choice but to pay artifically elevated domain name registration fees.  ICANN gives users no choice but to publish their personal information and abandon their privacy.  ICANN allows no innovation in business models; ICANN imposes a highly restrictive set of business processes and prices on those who wish to participate in the domain name business.  Choice?  Under ICANN the only way is ICANN's way.

Predictability?  Nobody has ever been able to articulate objective reasons why ICANN piicked the seven TLDs it did in year 2000 and why it left 40 others unpicked but "pending".  Nobody has ever been able to explain why the UDRP is only usable by trademark owners and not by other people and entities that have rights in a name that are based on foundations other than trademark.  Nobody has ever been able to explain why ICANN holds 75% of its board meetings in secret.  Nobody has ever been able to explain why ICANN adopts measure after measure over the objections of those who must bear the costs and endure harm of those policies and over the explicit objections of ICANN's own policy bodies.  About the only thing that has been consistently predictable about ICANN is that it will pay excessive amounts of money to the law firm that created ICANN and that ICANN will always decide on a course of action in which the public interest will be damaged in order to benefit ICANN's chosen stakeholders.

Stable technological development?  ICANN doesn't do anything technical; it has relinquished that job to others - ask ICANN who runs the DNS root servers.  ICANN has, on the other hand, taken a hand at ensuring that many critical technical things are not done - like enhancing the security and reliability of DNS operations or even taking note of when the DNS isn't working very well.  ICANN completely failed to notice major problems with .org the other week.  ICANN is so absorbed in itself that it really does not notice whether the net is working or not.

Innovation?  ICANN has repeatedly acted as an anchor against innovation.  ICANN's arbitrary business restrictions impose one kind of DNS product and one model for providing that product.  For example, ICANN has foreclosed the possibility of short term domain names for use for events, meetings, movies, political candidates, etc.  And ICANN though an arbitrary decsion to limit registrations to 10 years has foreclosed the possibity of long-term registrations (and presumably reduced prices).  And ICANN's price-support structure, such as the $6 yearly fee to Verisign for each name, has no incentives to push Verisign to become more efficient and pass costs savings on to users.  And as I have written about the recent report by ICANN's SSAC on "Sitefinder", ICANN has adopted a vigilante model for deciding what technology it wants to attack and what technology it will allow.  Innovation can not happen within such a system; few will take the risk investing time and money in a new idea if that idea can be crushed and defamed if a majority of ICANN's board, or a single member of ICANN's staff, should wake up on the wrong side of the bed.

One out of seven is very sad.  But what is even more sad is that this one-of-seven demonstrates how detached ICANN is from reality.  ICANN lives in a fantasy world; ICANN has self deceived itself into believing that it is actually working with internet technology and that it is benefiting the community of internet users.  When your house catches fire you hardly want a pay-actor fireman.  Do we want core functions of the internet to be regulated by a play-acting ICANN?

Posted by karl at July 19, 2004 3:30 PM