.XXX Exposes the Naked Truth for ICANN

Internet governance can be a little on the dry side. So when tech policy reporters get a chance to write an ICANN story that features porn stars on picket lines, it’s hard to blame them when they run with it.


But all the media hype about ICANN’s .xxx decision at last week’s meeting in San Francisco exposed the real dilemma facing ICANN: how to engage governments in a multi-stakeholder model that’s led by the private sector. Read more

Consensus Interruptus

It took a trip to California — the land of the gold rush — to discover that most elusive of ICANN aspirations: consensus. Read more

Institutionalizing Consumer Trust and Public Interest at ICANN

For an organization where people argue for hours over arcane minutiae, it’s remarkable that virtually everyone agrees that ICANN should serve the “global public interest” and build “consumer trust” in the Internet.


Although it’s only three pages long, ICANN’s Affirmation of Commitments (AoC) cites “public interest” five times and “consumer trust” eight times. So at the ICANN meeting today in Cartagena, Colombia, a group of participants explored ways to “institutionalize” these concepts within the organization. Read more

US Government waves the caution flag at ICANN

This month, ICANN is driving hard to get two of its horses to the finish line.  The first is barely a year old – it’s the first formal review of ICANN’s accountability and transparency.   The second horse is going on 4 years old: ICANN’s plan to introduce hundreds of new top-level domains (TLDs) for the Internet.


Just as these horses have entered the home stretch, one of the racecourse officials is vigorously waving the yellow caution flag.   And ICANN would do well to pull back on the reins. Read more

A Tale of Two Governance Models

As many of us in the Internet community gear up for the ICANN meeting in Colombia next week, it’s important to remember that not everybody embraces the multi-stakeholder approach that we’ve gradually learned to love.


Just a month ago, a group with a very different vision of how to run things wrapped up their own Internet governance meeting in Latin America. Their meeting was three times as long and accomplished about a third as much, but they’d still like to see their model replace the ICANN model.


There’s something quaint about watching an old, timeworn bureaucracy struggling to understand and adapt to new technology. But it ain’t so quaint when the bureaucracy in question is the United Nations, and the new technology is the Internet, over which the UN wants control—not just comprehension. Read more

Pausing for Breath on a Didgeridoo


The didgeridoo performance that kicked off this week’s ICANN meeting in Sydney prompted Chairman Peter Dengate Thrush to marvel at how the player produced a continuous sound without pausing for breath. The didgeridoo could become the official instrument at ICANN, which pushes ever forward with its plans, often without pausing to respond to the legitimate concerns of stakeholders.


ICANN has a lot on its plate this week — the upcoming expiration of its formative agreement with the U.S. Government, the introduction of hundreds of new top-level domains (TLDs), internationalized TLDs, and internal restructuring, just to name a few. Read more

Artificial Deadlines, Real Consequences

Executives of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) have been keeping the airlines in business this year, flying to the far corners of the globe to enlist support for ending a key relationship with the U.S. Government this September. It seems the question of ICANN’s readiness has taken a backseat to the imperative of meeting this hard-and-fast deadline.

But for the business community and everyone else who relies on a stable, secure Internet addressing system, the key concern is whether the
ICANN “transition” will preserve the safety and security of the system, not whether it will occur by an arbitrary date. I said as much in my comments to the National Telecommunications and Information Administration on its Joint Project Agreement (JPA) with ICANN. Read more

If the ICANN JPA Doesn’t Matter, Why Are So Many People Trying to Kill It?

ICANN’s President Paul Twomey was up before Congress today, making his case for why the Joint Project Agreement (JPA) between the US Commerce Department and ICANN should be allowed to expire in September. Among his reasons: the JPA doesn’t matter and if it goes away, “nothing will change” in the relationship between the U.S. Government and ICANN.

If that’s really true, Mr. Twomey should probably tell the governments of Russia and Brazil, the European Union, the International Telecommunications Union and the slew of other foreign and intergovernmental entities that have mounted a concerted campaign to terminate the agreement. Read more

Right Question, Wrong Answer

How to build real accountability into the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) is the $60,000 question in Internet governance circles these days. While we don’t yet have the right answer, we just heard one answer that can be ruled out as a non-starter.

The Technology Policy Institute (TPI) this week published a report calling for ICANN to be accountable just to the domain name industry players with which it holds contracts — namely registrars and registries. TPI’s reasoning is that registries and registrars are ICANN’s primary “users,” and provide most of its funding. Read more

Making Sure Dot-Eco Doesn’t Become Dot-Oh-No!

Given the chicken-in-every-pot rhetoric surrounding the plan to create potentially thousands of new Internet domains, it’s not very surprising that Al Gore’s plan to create “.eco” domain is garnering a lot of uncritical praise.

Now it may well be that .eco will be an excellent addition to the Internet’s addressing system, forming the basis of a robust online community of environmental activists, scientists and developers. Unfortunately, because of the lack if clarity and safeguards in the selection process, it is just as possible that it will fail — becoming a haven for cyber-squatters and worse.  Read more