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    Highlights of the ICANNWatch Archive
    (June 1999 - March 2001)

    gTLDs hoping to enter the legacy root Same Old Shell Game All Over Again
    posted by michael on Tuesday March 25 2003, @07:01PM

    You know it's important -- and more likely than not a done deal too -- when ICANN publishes something at the last minute and tries to hide it. And so it is with the new gTLDs paper released March 25 for discussion in Rio March 26 by people who may well not have access to the report between now and then. From an initial read of this paper, ICANN has ignored everything everyone (other than trademark lawyers) said to it, and is carrying on with pretty much exactly what CEO Lynn said he wanted and his cronies duly announced was an action plan, and was rubber-stamped by the Board in Amsterdam: no more new open gTLDs for now (or ever), no serious attempt to actually study how the existing ones are doing, just little sponsored TLDs, preferably those that won't have much take-up, to help us say that no one wants them.

    As for all the first-round open gTLD applicants who paid $50,000, didn't get a TLD, and then were told that they were not rejected, just waiting. Surprise! (not) They lose again! Back to the end of the line, guys!

    ICANN usually puts the newest documents at the top of its homepage; this one -- dated March 25 -- is buried in the middle in the hopes you won't see it, right between items dated March 15 and March 4.

    The ICANN plan sets out an extensive point scoring system that will be systematically manipulated by highly paid consultants and incompetent staffers, and lead to ghastly results.

    The following quote from the report is one of the most unintentionally hilarious things I've ever seen ICANN write, and could only have been written by someone who either thinks readers are completely ignorant of ICANN's history of irrational decisions, of expensive outside experts who write error-filled reports, and of misleading staff summaries to the Board. Either that, or it was written by someone who doesn't care about what readers think because the author knows that they are powerless to affect the outcome, in which case the objective is the creation of a fictional record:

    It is proposed that two or three (depending on what the budget allows) independent external evaluation teams will be selected. By external is meant teams that are not involved in ICANN activities and are not subject to ICANN political nuances and pressures, teams that can be seen to act objectively. However, to compensate for possible lack of knowledge, a cross-constituency panel of "experts", including technical experts, would be assembled to provide advice to the evaluation teams as needed.

    Evaluation teams would first reject any proposal that does not meet the minimum criteria as described in the previous section. Remaining proposals would be grouped by each evaluation team into two or three (according to the number of remaining viable proposals) "tiers" according to their evaluation scores. Proposals would be selected that were in the top tier of both evaluation teams (in the event there are two teams); or in the top tier of two out of the three evaluation teams, but not in the lowest tier of the third team (in the case of three evaluation teams).

    This evaluation methodology would provide for independent assessment. Except to opine on legal questions and to provide administrative support, ICANN staff would not enter the evaluation process, although staff would synthesize the outcomes for presentation to the Board. Similarly, the Board would not intrude in the evaluation process itself; its options would be to accept or to reject the results of the evaluation.

    Poor Lawrence Solum, blogging from Rio, is horrified that ICANN hasn't paid any attention to the extensive legal literature showing that this approach is doomed:
    Almost everyone in legal academia and economics knows that story of Ronald Coase's famous 1959 article, The Federal Communications Commission. At the time, the FCC used the "beauty contest" approach to allocate broadcast spectrum licenses. Applicants came before the FCC to argue that they would serve "the public interest;" rivals argued they would not. The result was 75 years of disaster. A public resource was given away. The market in spectrum was inefficient. Many tens or even hundreds of billions of dollars of resources lay fallow. It took almost forty years for Coase's proposal, spectrum auctions, to prevail.


    Another question that is frequently raised about gTLD auctions is: "Will the gTLDs that win the auctions have value?" Or will such gTLDs "add value?" Huh? Of course, it is possible that firms will bid for value-less gTLDs, but the whole point of a market is to insure that resources are put to their most valuable use. The gTLDs that are established as a result of an auction are exactly the gTLDs that the market tells us are most likely to add value. The "value added" question seems, at bottom, to be based on the assumption that someone (the questioner, ICANN's board) can do a better job of estimating value than the market. Sometimes this is the ending point of the conversation, but some interlocutors seem to have another idea in mind. They seem to believe in some concept of intrinsic value, i.e. value that cannot be measured by prices. Well maybe. But here is the problem. No one agrees on what constitutes intrinsic value. I suspect that in the context of new gTLDs, the idea of intrinsic value sometimes boils down to "value from the point of view of a network engineer." If so, then: (1) the market can account for this kind of value, because it affects costs and benefits, and (2) the Internet is for end users, not for network engineers.

    Exactly. And there's lots more where that came from. Go read it. [Update: 03/26 13:45 GMT by M: and this too, plus a new Manheim and Solum paper, sTLD Beauty Contests: An Analysis And Critique Of The Proposed Criteria To Be Used In The Selection Of New Sponsored Tlds.]

    Of course, that ICANN would repeat its mistakes is unsurprising so long as ICANN remains firmly in the grip of the Bourbons of the old board, and the old management. (Even Joe Sims, who keeps saying he's getting out of ICANN, has been spotted in Rio; and Andrew McLaughlin, who told me when I saw him last week that he's no longer deeply involved in ICANN is listed in Appendix 1 of the new bloated budget as serving for half time (that's .2 + .3 = .5), yes plus ca change...) So if form is any guide, expect one minor substantive change to this plan and a couple of cosmetic ones to show 'responsiveness'.

    The paper doesn't actually say when a decision will be made. The usually well-informed ICANN Blog says, "The discussion starts tomorrow at the public forum and should extend for a few weeks after." Which presumably means the final decision will be taken at an open and transparent private meeting of the Board by telephone.

    If Dr. Paul Twomey wants to make meaningful changes at ICANN, he could do a lot worse than stop the sort of behavior that leads to these sorts of railroad jobs. And if he doesn't the new Board should make him. You listening, Mr. Michael Palage?

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  • Also by michael
    This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.
    Same Old Shell Game All Over Again | Log in/Create an Account | Top | 12 comments | Search Discussion
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    comment period
    by lextext on Wednesday March 26 2003, @05:05AM (#11377)
    User #6 Info | http://www.lextext.com
    The usually well-informed ICANN Blog says, "The discussion starts tomorrow at the public forum and should extend for a few weeks after."

    I expressed concern over the apparent short time between publication of the paper and the public forum and was assured that the public forum is only the start of the conversation. Comments will be taken for a few more weeks. I understand this will be clarified on the ICANN site in the coming days.

    -- Bret

    [ Reply to This | Parent ]
      No notice
      by KarlAuerbach on Wednesday March 26 2003, @05:56AM (#11379)
      User #3243 Info | http://www.cavebear.com/
      Your note caused me to look at my the e-mail that I have received on icann's board[*]'s mailing list.

      There is *NO* notice that this paper exists or that it was posted.

      The full board meeting starts in less than 19 hours. Yet I have not seen anything more than a cursory agenda - with no detail, no proposed resolutions, no nothing.

      Once again, ICANN's staff does not properly subordinate itself to its board or directors.
      And the board, rather than objecting, sits silently and lets itself be abused and thus condemms itself to being nothing more than a rubber stamp, and failing in its job of serving the public interest.

      As for the proposed new TLD evaluations - during the last round, ICANN spent over $300,000 on an outside review firm. And as far as I can tell that firm merely sat in on meetings and gave oral comments. That's a lot of money for unverifiable hot air. And we saw the awful job that was done by Gartner in .org. (And in at least one other case ICANN paid a large sum for a study by a high-priced law firm, a study that the public has not seen. That study team was knowingly or recklessly fed false information by ICANN staff in a way that I believe was designed to induce a predetermined desired outcome.)

      ICANN likes expensive studies. They make pretty bullets on presentations. But as far as useful value? So far the only competency that ICANN has shown is the ability to pay large sums for very little result.

      [*] ICANN's board's mailing list has an unknown number of non-board members, including Joe Sims, who routinely participate in board e-mail discussions as if they were principals rather than hired servants.
      [ Reply to This | Parent ]
        Re:No notice
        by tbyfield (tbyfieldNO@SPAMpanix.com) on Wednesday March 26 2003, @04:52PM (#11383)
        User #44 Info
        so .aero has ~2500 registrations; i wonder how many of them are 'defensive' (and what exactly they're 'defending' themselves against). and .museum, just shy of 17 months old, has less than a thousand -- not even 2 registrations per day. that's quantifiably laughable. sorry, but karl's right: these are jokes.

        [ Reply to This | Parent ]
      • 1 reply beneath your current threshold.
    Wishful thinking?
    by KonstantinosKomaitis on Wednesday March 26 2003, @05:28AM (#11378)
    User #3552 Info | http://www.icannwatch.org/
    It looks as if ICANN is trying to achieve something and prove that there is always room for change. The evaluation team that will be created seems as a good beginning and a process that may result to more transparency. No way though, ICANN's dictionary doesn't know what transparence stands for. "The Board would not intrude in the evaluation process itself; its options would be to accept or to reject the results of the evaluation." So if the Board is in the position to reject the results of the evaluation, why should there be an evaluation in the first place?If the evaluation is to be rejected, its outcomes will never be known and will never be posted on ICANN's site. And why should they? The last thing that ICANN wants is another polemic to its functions and to the way they operate the DNS.
    However and to make another point, what is really strange in my opinion is why in every meeting of ICANN - and there are a lot - nothing is discussed about the UDRP? Do they think that the system works? Well, if they do they are obviously blind; but most probably it is not that they are unaware of the whole situation, it is just that they don't want to dissapoint those for whose the system was created, trademark holders.
    [ Reply to This | Parent ]
      Re:Wishful thinking?
      by KarlAuerbach on Wednesday March 26 2003, @07:57AM (#11380)
      User #3243 Info | http://www.cavebear.com/
      Under applicable law the Board of Directors, as a collective body, has ultimate control over ICANN's acts.

      Under applicable law, ICANN's Board of Directors is free to override any recommendation, any evaluation. In fact, Directors are obligated to exercise their independent judgement and not simply be mindless marionettes.

      ICANN's Board, through its history of continued rejections of Requests for Reconsideration, its history of ignoring recommendations from the DNSO, and its interpretation of its own bylaws, has made it clear that the Board will not be bound even by its own by-laws.

      I saw the report of the IP Address RIRs - I hope they recognize that if one admits that ICANN has a role in IP address allocations via any of its agreements with the US gov't that ICANN's board has the ultimate authority to allocate and revoke IP addresses no matter what the RIRs might think.

      ICANN's history is one of arbitrary and capricious behaviour, unguided and unlimited by principles or rules.

      Is ICANN likely to change its spots? Is the moon made of green cheese? Do pigs fly?
      [ Reply to This | Parent ]
        Re:Wishful thinking?
        by KonstantinosKomaitis on Thursday March 27 2003, @02:10AM (#11385)
        User #3552 Info | http://www.icannwatch.org/
        The truth is that as long as the Internet community or governments around the world silently support ICANN, then ICANN is unlikely to change its spots.
        Even though the GAC is supposed to make things better and ensure more involvement in the decision-making process, it looks as if it is wishful thinking to believe that ICANN will finally meet its obligations towards the simple Internet user.
        ICANN is depending on the fact that there are no existing alternatives, and since this is the case, ICANN can act as it pleases. If it were to split ICANN in many pieces or let's say to be rumours that the US Goverment is about to seize ICANN and create instead another authority, then ICANN's actions would be definatelly improved.
        ICANN acts more like a chameleon changing its colours to suite its environment, protecting itself from its enemies and critics. Sometimes ICANN presents itself as a private entity that shields the Internet community from national control and on other occasions it chooses to act more like a governmental body that co-operates with the GAC.
        This metamorphosis is neither desirable nor sustainable. So if ICANN is for some the answer to structuring and governing the Internet, then maybe the moon is made of green cheese.
        [ Reply to This | Parent ]
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