Johnson & Crawford:'The Conflicting Myths of ICANN'
Date: Monday April 22 2002, @10:26AM
Topic: The Big Picture

David R. Johnson and Susan P. Crawford have sent in another one of their seductively written essays, this time called "The Conflicting Myths of ICANN". In a nutshell, they argue that the ICANN wars can be understood as a conflict between two world views. On the one hand, those who think that ICANN is "really" about having a global regulator to delegate resources and responsibilities, and "Protector of the Public Interest" and on the other hand, those who see it as a "forum" the "development of consensus policies and mechanism for increasing competition". As always, it's well written, thoughtful, stuff and you should read it.

But after you read it, I'd like to convince you it's not quite right.

There is, of course, more than a grain of truth in this account. The two camps that Johnson & Crawford describe certainly exist, and they are certainly vocal. Indeed, in some slightly deluded persons they even co-exist (those who, like Joe Sims, persist in claiming a consensus for what ICANN has been doing).

But I think this account also leaves out a lot that is relevant to our current predicament. In particular, they take ICANN as a given. (Who cares what ICANN was supposed to be for half an eternity ago in Internet time. Maybe we've learned a thing or two since then?) They give very short shrift to the view I'd champion, that the critical element for ICANN is technical coordination. That the public interest is served by delegating resources, not hoarding them, and by presiding over an orderly de-centralization of policy-making, away from the current single point of near-total failure. That this decentralization would in fact serve competition too. And that often (but not inevitably) the market will create consensus policies when they are appropriate. If that attempt to stake out a position that draws from both sides of this dichotomy makes me sound as deluded as Joe Sims, well, so be it.

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