News, views and what I choose to dos



Is ICANN’s independent review dead in the water?

I have avoided the meetings of the Accountability and Transparency Review Team (ATRT) into ICANN for a few months because it was so incredibly frustrating to listen to 60 minutes of people organising hotel rooms in different parts of the world while the ICANN Board and staff ran rings around them.

But the meeting popped up while I was in front of my computer this afternoon so I decided to listen in. The 90-minute scheduled meeting lasted just over 30, and nothing was discussed except for organising its next trip – to Boston this time – and what sort of meeting the ATRT would have with the Board when the review team is on the final leg of its international tour of pointlessness in Cartagena in December.

While this was going on I noted a new document had appeared called CA-Corp-Law. It’s a PDF so I downloaded it and read it and it comes from ICANN Board/General Counsel. You can download it here [pdf]. And it states that ICANN is *legally* obliged to never allow a process that forces the Board to act. I then spent the next 15 minutes trying, and failing, to get the review team to discuss the fact that its entire work product had no weight whatsoever in ICANN’s eyes.

I thought the ATRT was dead in the water before this point. But now that the team won’t even discuss the fact that it is wasting its time, I think it’s pretty certain that the fearless wolf of review has been beaten, neutered and house-trained and that being forced to recognise that it is also toothless was too much for it to bear.

The ATRT is a dud. ICANN’s accountability problems will remain. Next time this issue explodes, it may take ICANN down with it.

Here’s a copy of the chatroom for the meeting. You may be able to sense my frustration:

Finishing up the rules for new Internet extensions

ICANN logoTwo very interesting things are happening today that may have an enormous impact on the Internet for many years to come.

First, the ICANN Board is meeting at a special two-day retreat in Trondheim, Norway, in an effort to finalise the rules for new Internet extensions. This process have been going on for more than five years – two years longer than was planned – and it appears that everyone is now tired of the back-and-forth and wants results. The hope is that the “Applicant Guidebook” will be formally approved at the ICANN meeting in Cartagena in December.

The second interesting thing is a letter [pdf] from the Governmental Advisory Committee (GAC) of ICANN to the Board giving very precise and useful comments about what it feels about some of the outstanding issues in the new rules. These letters are usually carefully timed and this is no exception – it appears the day before the Board retreat. It is also a fair assumption that the ICANN chairman and CEO and senior management already know much of what was in the letter and may have helped in its production.

So, here’s the big question: will the Board be able to make the decisions necessary for a fifth and final version of the Applicant Guidebook to be produced in time for the Cartagena meeting?

I’m an optimist, so I’m going to say Yes; I think they will be able to do it. Well, almost all of it, with the rest thrashed out in Cartagena. Here’s why and where I think the axe will come down.

Postel Award goes to Dr Jianping Wu

Category : Internet · (4) Comments · by Aug 2nd, 2010

Dr Wu - Postel Award winnerMissed this last week: the Internet Society (ISOC) has handed out its annual Postel Award, which honours those who have made outstanding contributions to, broadly, the Internet.

The winner this year – awarded at the IETF meeting in Maastricht on Wed 28 Jul – was Chinese technologist Dr Jianping Wu (left). Dr Wu received the award for “the pioneering role he has played in advancing Internet technology, deployment, and education in China and Asia Pacific over the last twenty years”.

Dr Wu developed the China Education and Research Network (CERNET), the first Internet backbone network in China. It has since become the world’s largest national academic network. He has also been building a large-scale native IPv6 backbone in China. IPv6 is a crucial but complex expansion of the current Internet system and it is large-scale rollouts that are making it possible to shift the Internet onto these new networks.

.UK is 25 years old

Category : Internet, Internet governance · (1) Comment · by Jul 27th, 2010

The United Kingdom’s dot-uk Internet domain is now 25 years old. Which in the Internet world is ancient.

The first dot-uk registrations were in 1985 – a decade before most of us had ever even heard of the Internet. As one of the oldest, dot-uk is also one of the biggest registries in the world. According the organisation that has run the dot-uk registry since 1996, Nominet, it is now the fourth largest registry in the world with 8.5 million registrations (I thought it was fifth after dot-com, dot-net, dot-cn and dot-de. Anyway…)

Of course there shouldn’t really be a “.uk” at all. According to the international standard used to create the “country code” top-level domains on the Internet (ISO 3166-2 (or is it ISO 3166-1?)), the United Kingdom should have been represented by “.gb”, denoting Great Britain. So how come dot-uk even exists?

Calendar for ICANN ATRT meetings

Category : Internet, Internet governance · No Comments · by Jul 23rd, 2010

ICANN is currently being reviewed by an independent Accountability and Transparency Review Team (ATRT). Their meetings are open, but I have only been stumbling on them by accident.

A closer look at the ATRT’s webpage reveals at the very bottom of the page a PDF that contains details of their future meetings. Not exactly the most accessible way of following the team’s work.

So, to help out, I have created a Google Calendar of the events and have pasted it below.

WordPress and Thesis: your upgrades are driving me mad

Category : Internet, Journalism · (4) Comments · by Jul 12th, 2010

I love WordPress – the software that this blog runs on. And I love Thesis – a clever piece of software that works with WordPress to provide all sorts of clever customisations.

But the combination of them is driving me nuts at the moment. In particular, the fact that they keep bloody updating both too frequently, and each time something goes wrong with one or the other or the combination of both and then I am forced to trawl through techy posts from people who *believe* they are being clear but really aren’t.

A few months ago, I abandoned an upgrade from Thesis 1.5 to 1.7 because it destroyed the look of the site and made it unreadable (and this despite me following upgrade instructions carefully). Of course, lots of other people had the same problem and so “guides” started appearing online. I tried these guides, and it fix some issues but also created new ones. So I stepped back down to 1.5 – and found I had lost some of things I previously had.

I decided, unwisely, to try again tonight after a break. Same problem – mostly with the menu. So I decided to leapfrog 1.7 and try the beta of 1.8 which, amid all the wonderful reasons as to why you should upgrade, also noted it had fixed an issue with navigation menus. This I did and the site all appeared great. Except now the options within 1.8 don’t actual change the site – so now I have two useless menu items at the top of my blog that I don’t want and can’t get rid of.

AT THE SAME TIME as these troublesome upgrades, WordPress has put out at least three upgrades in the past few months. I had also held off upgrading for a while because of the problems I’d have in the past. But, I had used the updated versions (on new sites) and they were better, so I bit the bullet and upgraded. And then upgraded again. And then upgraded again. And now I see WordPress is urging me to upgrade a fourth time to version 3.0.

Will people PLEASE STOP PUMPING OUT NEW UPGRADES! You are turning them out too fast. You are causing people to have to constantly go back to their site and fiddle about with it, and you keep causing problems with other plugins that aren’t upgraded every bloody month. I know you think you need to do this but you don’t!

I know you think that new features that enable the user to upgrade some plugins with just a click mean that upgrades are easy and so you can do more of them – you are wrong. It is a royal pain in the arse and you are causing me and many thousands of other people alot of grief. Stop it. We use your software because it means we *don’t* have to fiddle around with code and files.

Store up your great ideas and new tweaks and resist the urge to keep banging them out like over-excited schoolboys. Please, a maximum of once a year. It really, really is not worth doing more than that. I know you think it is but can I please assure you that it isn’t.

Dot-xxx approved by ICANN Board

Category : ICANN, Internet, Internet governance · (1) Comment · by Jun 25th, 2010

As flagged up yesterday, the ICANN Board has approved the dot-xxx Internet extension at its Board meeting just now in Brussels.

It did so almost unanimously (two abstentions) but rather grumpily, however, with several members saying they were “uncomfortable” with the decision and appearing the blame the “process” for forcing them to make a decision. The approving resolutions also stuck in several approval steps, which more members grumpily pointed to.

The resolutions – and a statement attached to the vote by the CEO – also purposefully stepped away from ICANN accepting recommendations by the independent panel review that will make it less likely that the Board will be told it has done the wrong thing in future.

This is slightly sad – the Board had a great opportunity to be big-hearted and to demonstrate that it does indeed believe that it should be held accountable and that it is not as arrogant as it sometimes comes across – but they blew it. And used the difficult nature of dot-xxx as cover.

Dot-xxx to be approved tomorrow

The domain name system’s overseeing body, ICANN, will approve the controversial Internet extension dot-xxx, designed for online pornography, at its Board meeting tomorrow.

The pre-announcement came in an extraordinary statement read out at the start of the public forum at ICANN’s meeting in Brussels by the organization’s general counsel, John Jeffrey.

The statement said that the Board accepted the results of an independent review panel that the Board had made the wrong decision back in 2007 when it denied the application.

But then it went further to say it would approve dot-xxx, would enter into contract negotiations, and then refer that contract to the Governmental Advisory Committee to make sure they were happy with its contents, since they had raised concerns in the past.

The news caught the community by surprise, just as it was due to make its views known to the Board, but has so far been warmly welcomed by the community.

The ICANN Board by the ICANN Board

Self-evaluation paints picture of Board at odds with itself

A self-appraisal of the ICANN Board has just been posted on the organization’s website.

In it, Board members rate 89 different measures of their own performance according to a seven-measure rating from “strongly agree” to “strongly disagree”. Unfortunately, despite plenty of figures in the documents, there is zero analysis of what this all means, so I have gone through them and prepared one.

Overview

What is striking from the self-evaluation is how ill-at-ease the Board is with itself. You can see a spread of all the averages on particular topics in a graph below. The median is 4.6 which comes between “Neither agree nor disagree” (rated 4) and “Somewhat agree” (rated 5).

Graph showing all ratings for topics

I would expect a healthy Board, especially one whose main philosophy is to build consensus, to average out around 5.5 – between “somewhat agree” and “agree”.

But this graph only tells half the story – the real problem appears to be that the Board strongly disagrees with itself. If you look at the variation in ratings between different Board members, you see an extremely high level of disagreement.

Summary/analysis of dot-xxx issue

I have spent the past week going through literally thousands of comments about whether there should be a new dot-xxx Internet extension for pornography. You won’t be surprised to hear it has brought out some strong feelings.

Anyway, the company behind the application, ICM Registry, hired me to write an objective summary of what was said. There were nearly 13,000 comments, which would have been impossible to read and analyse but, fortunately I suppose, more than 80 percent of them said the exact same thing. The majority of the remainder were also the result of no less than 10 online campaigns.

Not that it wasn’t exceptionally time-consuming to go through every one in an effort to extract common arguments and then summarise them. I did my absolute best to get the overall length down to something bearable but it still ended up at 45 pages. I suspect most people won’t get past the four-page Executive Summary, despite the inclusion of several pretty graphics to give the eyes a rest.

Anyway, I will let my week’s worth of work speak for itself. The whole glorious thing is below:


Summary/analysis of the following comment period:

Report of Possible Process Options for Further Consideration of the ICM Application for the .XXX sTLD

Date opened: 26 March 2010
Date closed: 10 May 2010
Prepared by: Kieren McCarthy