News, views and what I choose to dos

ICANN Day 3: Good news all around

Category : ICANN, Internet governance, Journalism · by Jun 24th, 2010

I’ll be honest: I didn’t go to many Wednesday sessions at ICANN Brussels. At least not physically. The remote participation tools mean that, unless you want to actually raise a point at the microphone, you can settle yourself down somewhere more comfortable and follow events on your laptop (and even your iPhone with the Adobe Connect app).

No need to cram into a room, or ask 10 people to stand up so you can squeeze past them. You can instead pick a more comfortable chair, next to a table, get a nice cup of coffee or maybe a beer or glass of wine and follow events online. The majority of ICANN meetings rarely heat up so you’re not missing much by not being in the room.

I’m not the only one to have realized this. Which explains entirely and absolutely why the 1,000-seater main room had an audience of roughly two for the GNSO Council meeting.

When it comes to bums on seats, the GNSO Council beats only the ICANN Ombudsman in turnout and yet, year-on-year they insist on being in the main room, leaving popular events (DNSSEC this time) to be forced into smaller rooms.

Why? Well the Council claims that it needs the full stage to hold all its members (conveniently ignoring the fact that it actually doesn’t, and they could use the GAC room for one). The real reason is habit and a grand sense of self-importance.

Yes, the Council is a crucial decision maker in ICANN, but I can’t recall any time in recent years where they have made a decision that was at all interesting. As soon as the gTLD process moved out of policy and into implementation, all the GNSO has done is approve working groups and talk about itself.

Here’s the schedule from the meeting:

Item 1: Administrative matters [leaping out the gate]
Item 2: Prioritization of GNSO work [talking about how hard they work]
Item 3: GNSO Affirmation of Commitments Drafting Team Endorsement Process [I dread to think what this means]
Item 4: Whois Studies [10 years of indecision and still going strong]
Item 5: GNSO Improvements [please shoot me now]
Item 6: Reports from Working Groups [ah! Some real work tacked onto the end of the session]

I’m not knocking the GNSO Council [yes you are – Ed], it does what it does, but please stop putting it in a huge room every meeting so we can all see just how little anyone but the GNSO Council and its obsessive followers care about its this meeting.

Toilet question

Is it just me or is there *always* a cleaning lady in the gents toilets at the back of the main hall. I think she lives in one of the cubicles.

Status quo stalemate

I also didn’t attend the vertical integration meeting, either physically or remotely. There were two good reasons for this.

  1. It was at lunchtime – in fact it ran all the way through lunch, and
  2. It’s painful to watch people pretend to be listening to the other side

The real name for “vertical integration” is, of course “status quo protection”, and I’m not talking about security for jean-wearing, three-chord musicians here.

The issue has all the making of a Whois clusterfunk: a powerful incumbent element has nothing to lose and everything to gain by stalling the process for as long as possible.

Here’s the issue in a nutshell:

  • Ten years ago, ICANN split up the running of an Internet extension with selling domains on that extension
  • It did this in order to bring in competition between a very small number of Internet extensions. And it worked
  • A decade later, ICANN is going to shortly introduce hundreds of new extensions, and the current system looks decidedly out of date
  • A lot of people (for example companies that want to have their name as a top-level domain, like dot-canon) can’t see any logical reason why they should have to pay a third party to register a domain under their own extension
  • The biggest players in the separate markets (registry and registrar) have the most to lose from a changing of the roles, and so they are undermining any effort to change the rules
  • The Board doesn’t want to force through changes without community consensus because then the most powerful and richest companies within ICANN may sue them
  • Community consensus is impossible when a segment of the community has a lot of lose by allowing any change

And so we are going to see endless meeting with people with gritted-teeth pretend to take each others views seriously while at the same time trying to figure out how to screw the other side.

Whois has gone on 10 years. This one can’t possibly last as long because it has such clear competition implications. But that doesn’t mean I want to sit through the excruciating discussions that lead to the end point.

Security – but at a price

Some good news – dot-org went live with DNSSEC. This is a crucial security add-on for the DNS and it is a big first step on a big registry.

Dot-org’s CEO Alexa Raad called it a “tipping point” and hopefully it is. But the reality at the moment is still that it is a very costly and difficult exercise to install DNSSEC. Alexa admitted as much.

Everyone agrees that it will get easier and cheaper over time to make DNSSEC a reality, and there’s little reason for doubting it. But for something that has taken 10 years to become a reality, you can’t help but feel that there is a quiet desperation to keep the DNSSEC momentum rolling.

What if, by the time new gTLDs finally come on stream the ease and cost savings don’t appear – is ICANN really going to lumber applicants with an extra $100,000 or so in costs?

Hopefully it will all go smoothly and DNSSEC will just be something written into the new infrastructure as it rolls out. But despite the good news yesterday, it’s still far from certain.


There was some consternation at the limited number of tickets to the Gala event. The hosts had gone for the sit-down meal option, which unfortunately means you have to limit it. Anyone that has ever organized a wedding will know why.

And it did have a bit of a wedding feel to it – beautiful location, big marquee, pub band on stage with a little dancefloor, lots of drunk friends and “family”.

It was actually good fun. The place was a stunningly beautiful old building complete with moat, gatehouse, grounds and so on. We were met by people dressed up in traditional dress, treated to people wandering round on stilts and blowing horns.

The only thing missing was a bride and groom – although two dancing partners caused some amusement: the NTIA’s Fiona Alexander dancing with VeriSign’s Pat Kane; and ICANN CEO Rod Beckstrom tripping the light-fantastic with EU commissioner Neelie Kroes.

The organizers took the very dangerous decision to bus people to and from the event (about 20 minutes away and far away from taxi ranks and so on) – something that has caused all sorts of grumpiness in the past. But, as far as I have heard, the logistics came good. Brussels is shaping up to be a useful, well-organized and, dare we say it, even enjoyable experience.

Engerland Engerland Engerland

Talking of enjoyable experiences, both England and the United States won their World Cup matches yesterday afternoon, putting them through to the next round where they will face Germany and Ghana respectively.

As a British football supporter, I know when to take your enjoyment, so god bless the English team who played well and dominated the game. Fortunately the ICANN meeting will be over when England faces Germany on Sunday.


And tomorrow, we will finally get stuck into the issue that everyone has been discussing in the corridors but not raising in the meeting: dot-xxx.

The public forum has an hour blocked out for the controversial TLD, and the Board meeting on Friday is likely to be remembered only for how they decide what to do with it. It should prove interesting viewing.


(2) comments

Markus Travaille
11 years ago ·

Hi Kieren,

I am glad to read that the DNSSEC event was popular. I guess that is because DNSSEC is hapening right now. I hope it met the expectations of the audience. We put a lot of time and effort in the organisation of it. Comments on how to improve are always welcome.

11 years ago ·

This is not one of the most important points of this ICANN Brussels meeting, but I have in fact also given this “cleaning lady in the gents toilets at the back of the main hall” some thought.

I don’t actually think she does a lot of cleaning. I think she has a more personal motivation for being there.

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