After a slumbering, almost tedious, first day, the meeting of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) came alive today for its official opening.
Gone were the musical extravaganzas of the previous two meetings (a shame?), but CEO Rod Beckstrom made sure there were fireworks by giving a defiant speech to his organization’s critics.
The VIP quotient was also pretty high, with EC President Herman Van Rompuy and the European Parliament star-turn Silvana Koch-Mehrin appearing on stage and EC vice-president Neelie Kroes providing a video message.
The politicians gave policy-wonks a wide variety of cheap thrills by throwing in knowing but vague statements about Internet governance and the IANA contract. But Beckstrom went to town, insisting on his autonomy when it came to the simmering dot-xxx issues, the new Accountability and Transparency Review Team (ATRT), and public criticisms of comments he had made at the last meeting about the DNS’ security and stability.
The ATRT – which has been doing the rounds talking to all constituencies this week – was not happy and fired back just a few hours later in its public meeting with a statement that, fascinatingly, has since appeared on ICANN’s front page.
“The members of the Accountability and Transparency Review Team note Rod Beckstrom’s disparaging comments this morning about the objectivity of our work. It is disappointing that he feels compelled to lay a foundation for discounting our work, even as it is only beginning,” it began.
With the blood flowing, ICANN then pulled off one of the best panel discussions it has had since Jothan Frakes highlighted the issue of domain tasting in Marrakech four years ago. Paul Mockapetris and Dam Kaminsky, as non-ICANNers but recognized DNS and security experts livened up a discussion about the latest efforts to make the Internet’s infrastructure more secure.
It was what ICANN can and should be – a hotspot of the best and brightest when it comes to the Intenet’s underlying domain name system.
Then came the ATRT, which soaked up responses from the community about flaws in the organization’s processes. Although, apparently, things were much livelier in its earlier meeting with the registrars where GoDaddy’s representative was champing at the bit to explain why she felt ICANN was failing in its extensive accountability and transparency promises.
And then, the stalwart of every meeting for the past 55 years, the Applicant Guidebook session.
I don’t know what it is – possibly being able to view the light at the end of the tunnel – but the man in charge, Kurt Pritz, was on fire.
Normally the updates on what changes have been made since the last round of endless argument and back-biting policy madness is too tiresome to watch. And Kurt, for all his hard work and pleasant demeanour has always been uncomfortable on stage and answering questions.
Not today. He handled the stage, and the questions – including the idiotic ones send in online – like a master. Alternatively funny, serious, precise, imprecise, straightforward and complex, you really felt – perhaps for the first time – that ICANN has this hideously complex process under control.
I thought I might be going mad but I checked with several others and they all felt the same. There can be no clearer signal that the gTLD extended safari is finally coming home.
All this, frankly enjoyable activity appears to have put everyone in the mood to get stupidly drunk at a variety of free events, with attendees stumbling into hotel across central Brussels and generally giving the Internet a bad name. God bless them all.
Thankfully it’s constituency day tomorrow, so people can nurse their hangover while pretending to listen to what their close colleagues have to say. Expect there to be a shortage of coffee.