Those of us who were not in Accra had trouble understanding what happened to the DNSO policy statement on .org. We were particularly amazed by how the Board, without any warning or any supporting public record, abandoned the DNSO recommendation to give .org to a non-profit organization, proposing to allow major commercial registries to bid for it.
Now it is possible to understand better what happened. It seems that the major registries are even closer to the Board than we imagined.
One of the companies that has been making it clear that they want to be involved
with .org is Neulevel. According to one knowledgeable source, before Accra they were making
it known that four people were assigned to the .org bid full time.
According to the transcript, Board member Robert Blokzijl issued the stern warning
that “there are not many organizations that have a demonstrated experience in
running a registry with 3 million registered names.” This point was then picked
up by Pisanty to guide the Board away from a nonprofit requirement. Seeking clear direction, Stuart Lynn asked whether he was being told to make “the foremost requirement” to delegate
the .org registry to someone with “demonstrate[d] experience in operating a
registry of scale.” The answer was yes. See the transcript on the ICANN site.
Such a criterion basically narrows the field to incumbents Verisign, Neulevel,
Afilias, Core, and perhaps DE-NIC and Nominet UK, although Blokzijl also commented
that “this is a little bit more than running a country code top-level domain”
– a rather odd statement given the scale at which Nominet and DE-NIC operate.
And since .org cannot be divested to Verisign, that little turn in the discussion
massively enhanced Neulevel’s prospects, making it one of two or three leading
As it happens, Mr. Blokzijl has a special relationship to Neulevel. His wife,
Lynn Hardy Blokzijl, was hired by Neulevel a few months after they were married.
She registered for the Marina del Rey meeting as a Neulevel employee.
Maybe this is just a coincidence. It is possible that Mr. Blokzijl's insistence
that .org be given to a company with "demonstrated experience" and
the Board's subsequent vote to permit commercial applicants was a legitimate concern unrelated to
Neulevel's lobbying campaign. It is possible that Neulevel's hiring of Mrs.
Blokzijl had absolutely nothing to do with the fact that she was married to
a Board member.
Even so, given the sharp deviation from unanimously approved DNSO recommendations, the incident raises concerns about what really drives ICANN
decisions. Perhaps ICANN’s Conflict of Interest committee should look into this.
Oh, by the way, the committee is chaired by Mr Blokzijl.