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    The Big Picture ICANN critics go mainstream
    posted by tbyfield on Tuesday February 04 2003, @10:01PM

    Or, rather, the mainstream goes ICANN critic: ABC News's Chuck Goudie has run Part Two of his "Journey to the Center of the Web" series, covering the technical administration of the net. By the standards of those habituated to the complicated nexus of issues involved in internet governance, the closing lines of Part One will seem more than a little overwrought:
    The worldwide web is controlled from some tiny offices in southern California by what critics claim is a self-appointed group of people who answer to nobody. You think Chicago politics are something ... tune in tomorrow night as the continue our "Journey To The Center Of The Web."
    And indeed they are. But I'd wager that most of those who'd be shocked at such a scabrous exaggeration of ICANN's powers would sip hot cocoa while happily watching equally simplistic renditions of just about any other subject on network news.

    Back in the day -- not so very long ago -- mere mention of ICANN to a journalist or an editor would elicit a combination of (a) an amphibian-like glazing of the eyes, (b) a sympathetic nod with a helpless shrug, and/or (c) a patient nod hinting at something between "Oh, G?d..." and "Act casual and you may come away from this alive." And why not? The net had stormed onto the international scene with guns a-blazing, and anyone who couldn't see that forest for the byzantine, barren trees of geeky telecom administration issues was at best "interesting" in a Jackson-Pollock's-first-painting sort of way or, at worst, some kind of fantastically myopic fanatic.

    No more, though. Bit by bit, ICANN has been making it into the mainstream -- and the results have not been pretty. And why would they be? Over time, ICANN has mutated from the obscure "technical coordinator" of three potentially trivial resources into a bloated bastion of Podsnappery. Even a purely factual recitation of the promises ICANN made only to break them, the teapots it's turned genuinely tempestuous, and the networks it's made incestuous is enough to convince most right-minded people that ICANN's current formation is hopeless. Its role may well be crucial, but its performance has been abysmal.

    Small wonder that ABC's Goudie would open Part Two of his series with the statement that "the internet is regulated by just one organization -- that critics claim is accountable to no one -- and is now entangled in a web of worldwide politics." Simplistic? Maybe. Wrong? Well, let's imagine for a moment what might have happened had ICANN behaved more like the Jon Postel whose legitimacy ICANN insistently invokes -- had, say, adopted a more clerical, delegatory stance by focusing its efforts on ports and parameters, and had facilitated the creation of new TLDs in an open-minded, egalitarian, and expeditious way. Then this kind of coverage would be wrong. But that's not what ICANN did at all, and, in the balance, what Goudie's coverage lacks in factual accuracy it gains in intuitive truth.

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  • Also by tbyfield
    This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.
    ICANN critics go mainstream | Log in/Create an Account | Top | 3 comments | Search Discussion
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    ICANN and its fantasy world
    by KarlAuerbach on Tuesday February 04 2003, @11:14PM (#11089)
    User #3243 Info | http://www.cavebear.com/
    I was rather amused that Stuart Lynn believes that ICANN is accountable - I guess he forgot that I, a Director of the corporation of ICANN, had to bring legal action against ICANN to exercise my "absolute right" to learn even the most fundamental facts about what ICANN is doing. I guess that he forgot that the court declared that ICANN and Stuart Lynn had unlawfully attempted to prevent ICANN's Directors from carrying out their duties.

    The truth is that Stuart Lynn and his ever-increasing "staff" hides what it is doing not only from the public but also from the Board of Directors. For example, Lynn and his staff have not informed the Board about the status of the contractually required reports on the root servers that ICANN seems to have failed to have delivered to NTIA last year.

    I guess that Stuart Lynn must have a very short memory - he claims that I haven't ever made any resolutions. I've made several. Some were buried when ICANN created arbitary and ad hoc rules to block them. And I've moved or voted for several resolutions - such as the hiring of Stuart Lynn in the first place.

    Imagine the fantasy that underlies Stuart Lynn's implication that directors of a corporation ought to act with unity. Given the degree of public disagreement about matters before ICANN - such as the relationship of trademarks to domain names, such as the business behavior of DNS name sellers, such as the privacy interests of those who register domain names - it is a sign of unhealthy institutional disfunction and insularity that ICANN's board has never once had a vote that reflected the existance of the diversity of public opinion.
    [ Reply to This | Parent ]
    They don't run it
    by phoffman@proper.com on Wednesday February 05 2003, @05:53PM (#11093)
    User #2063 Info
    ICANN doesn't run the Internet; they control an important monopoly that is a significant part of the Internet. Those two things are vastly different. If ICANN screws up royally, the root server operators will start listening to someone else. In fact, they might do that anyway; others are making better and better cases for that.

    If ICANN did its job correctly, newspeople would rightly roll their eyes when the topic came up. It should be uninteresting. ICANN staff keep saying that is what they want to happen, but they keep doing things to make scrutiny more and more difficult. That keeps them interesting in a bad way.

    [ Reply to This | Parent ]

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