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NSA Spying Fractures Internet US Loses Control of ICANN

NSA Spying Fractures Internet US Loses Control of ICANN

Privacy, Technology, and Intelligence

The U.S. government WILL relinquish control over the backbone of the Internet.


3/26/14 Esther Dyson
The problem here is that we are not talking about tech standards, but about - in practical terms - the ability to shut down websites. Of course, a lot of governments can and do do that already, but I for one don't want to make it easier. So far ICANN has exerted little control... and that's the way we should keep it. That's unlikely with a lot of governments meddling.

3/2014 RESULT OF EVIL NSA SURVEILLANCE IS IT KILLS ICANN CONTROL OF INTERNET

Given that the ICANN franchise has proven to be a government-backed license to print money in cubical amounts one might wonder whether a gift of such value unto a private body might require legislative approval, formal rulemaking, or at least some adherence to procedures for the surplussing of government rights or property?

3/18/14 America's Internet Surrender
By unilaterally retreating from online oversight, the White House pleased regimes that want to control the Web.
By L. Gordon Crovitz

Internet guru Esther Dyson, the founding chairwoman of Icann (1998-2000), has objected to the imposition of these unnecessary costs on businesses and individuals. That concern pales beside the new worries raised by the prospect of Icann leaving Washington's capable hands. "In the end," Ms. Dyson told me in an interview this week, "I'd rather pay a spurious tax to people who want my money than see [Icann] controlled by entities who want my silence."
It seems to me that we must arouse public opinion, most importantly in the technology and media sectors, and bring pressure to this surrender. The ITU sanctioning of the cutting off of Internet access by repressive governments is outrageous -- it's one thing to recognize that it exists (Putin just showed us that it does); it's another thing to legitimize it -- the US cannot be a party to this.

DAVID JOHNSON
The entire idea of Icann, all of its powers, comes from its contracts with registries (and, up to now, the decision of root servers to view its decisions re the contents of the authoritative root as authoritative).

When it was formed, there was a deal.
Not only would NSI agree to the written contract with the newly formed ICANN..
It would agree to be bound by future policies. But not any policy decreed by the ICANN board. Only those supported by a consensus among affected parties -- and only those dealing with the operation of the domain name system. (not content or use of the net)
That was the deal.
A remarkable commitment for a public company to make.
(As ICANN's own lawyers might say, how could a board of directors turn it's duties over to some outside group?)
Not a commitment any of the ccTLDs (who already had their delegations) would make.

ICANN has systematically eroded this deal by imposing contracts not based on consensus ,and not dealing only with the sound operation of the domain name system, on new registries.
It has done so by using its power over what goes into the root -- based on deference from the USG.
But that is not a legitimate use of that power.
In effect, an abuse of the the IANA function.
The forces leading to this are easily understood. The need to resist them just as obvious.

The question is whether we will have a system in which all TLD registries agree, by contract, to follow ICANN policy rules.
If ICANN exists to make policies necessary to protect the net, "issues the uniform resolution of which are necessary to assure the stable and secure operation of the internet", how could they refuse?
And, if so, what will constrain the resulting power?
I only now one answer: (1) rules must be supported by consensus among affected parties (to preserve subsidiarity, to give legitimacy, to foster compliance), (2) rules must only be on topics where global agreement is necessary to protect the stable, secure operation of the net.
On other topics, there are to many divergent views -- global rules won't work and are not desirable.
Without consensus, minority views will be unfairly suppressed.
We can agree that there should be a global forum for forging consensus on policies that govern the domain name system, to make it work for everyone.
Let's focus on that.

[ccwg-internet-governance] Conference announcement: ICANN and Global Internet Governance: The Road to Sao Paulo, and Beyond, Singapore 21 March 2014

***********************************************
William J. Drake
International Fellow & Lecturer
Media Change & Innovation Division, IPMZ
University of Zurich, Switzerland
Chair, Noncommercial Users Constituency,  
ICANN, www.ncuc.org
william.drake@uzh.ch (direct), wjdrake@gmail.com (lists),
  www.williamdrake.org http://www.nettime.org/
***********************************************

ICANN - Singapore Non-Commercial Users Constituency ICANN and Global Internet Governance:  The Road to Sao Paulo, and Beyond 21 March 2014

KEYNOTE ASSESSMENT BY LARRY STRICKLING, ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF COMMISSIONERS, GOVERNMENT OF THE UNITED STATES
   >>BILL DRAKE:   So I think probably, Larry, we don't -- I get to say somebody who doesn't need much introduction in this case.  Given recent events, I think that I don't have to read your bio.  But it is linked off the Web site, if anybody wants to know who Larry Strickling is, the Honorable Assistant Secretary of State, head of the NTIA -- of Commerce, sorry.  Commerce.  I'm tired.  And head of the NTIA.  Here is Larry Strickling.
  >>LARRY STRICKLING:   Well, thank you, Bill.  And thank you for having us here.  I mean, no better way to show a person he's welcome than to have him fly 24 hours and then sit through eight hours of meeting and then react to what he's heard all day.  So we'll see how exactly this plays out.
But Bill had assured me, you don't have to prepare any comments.  Just show up and react to the group.  So that's what I'm going to do.  But we'll try to cover any of the topics that I'm sure are on your mind, whether -- if I don't touch on them directly, do we have some time for Q&A?  We'll try to take a few questions to make sure that we are able to address your issues. But I am extremely pleased to appear here because for 15 years, people said this would never happen.  And I want to be able to -- I'm so pleased to be here to be able to say that finally the United States government has done something that Milton Mueller likes.  So -- [ Laughter ] [ Applause ] Not that that was our goal. [ Laughter ] But it didn't hurt.
So I just have a few points I'd like to emphasize.  And again, I did sit through the discussion today with the idea of trying to pick up some of the themes and trying to weave them together into some points that then relate to the action that we did announce last Friday.
And I will say that probably the most important take-away for me out of the discussion today is a point that was emphasized right from the beginning by Steve Crocker, right through the end, Marilia emphasized it again, and that's it idea that this IANA issue, the transition of the United States out of its role with the IANA functions, is really only one part of the Internet governance debate we are facing this year.  And I would tell you that one of our greatest concerns in the U.S. government about this was the fear that -- well, not fear.  The concern that by taking the action we took last week, that somehow we would suck the oxygen out of this larger discussion that I will tell you, in my own mind, is much more important longer term, and that's the question of how do we engage the developing world and build acceptance of the multistakeholder model in countries that haven't had the same level of experience with it as the more developed countries.  That, I think, should be the focus of NETmundial.  And I'm pleased, from Marilia's comments, that it should be a major topic down there.  That's the role of this high-level panel chaired by the President of Estonia to start to think about that.  And, frankly, it was a very important part of today's discussion as reflected in the last panel.  But that, I think, is the big, big set of issues that we have to be working on.
We have to find a way to get the developed world -- developing world engaged in this more than they have been.  And part of that requires getting the communities in these countries, civil society, business communities, to be able to organize themselves to then provide the stakeholders that you need to have for a multistakeholder discussion.
So it's not just a question of talking and convincing governments of the wisdom of this.  It's partly how do you reach out to the economies in these countries that are struggling to get their arms around the Internet economy and how to kind of ride that economic wave that comes with it.  But that's what we really have to be focused on.
And my deepest hope of what we put into play last week is that it might serve as something of a booster shot to the efforts to focus on this larger question.  And if it doesn't turn into that, then we should all say shame on ourselves because that's really what's at stake here, not just the question of who or what replaces the U.S. role in verifying the accuracy of changes to the root zone.
So that's kind of my first point.
The second one is that we did set out some principles for this transition last Friday.  And what I hope and what I heard today is that I think that what we laid out, which were very basic, but I think that they already represent a consensus of the community.  And I hope that that gets established in the discussion over the next few days, and, in particular, at the public session on Monday.  But the four principles that we used to build the frame around the transition planning is we need to support and happens -- or the transition plan needs to support and enhance the multistakeholder model, it needs to maintain the security, stability, and resiliency of the Domain Name System, it needs to meet the needs of the global customers and partners of the IANA services, and it needs to maintain the openness of the Internet.  I hope those are not controversial.  We didn't intend them to be particularly controversial.  We thought that these did reflect consensus viewpoints, and I hope that the community is able to affirm that.
I read with great interest Milton's and the IGP's proposal, and I think the statement of principles laid out there is very much resonant with some of this.  Certainly his comment about governments is one that I think is very much in sync with what we have said, which is that we are saying very clearly that there shouldn't be a government-led solution to this or a solution that is an intergovernmental organization.  And just to clarify, because I guess it was a matter of debate this morning, we're not saying governments don't play a role.  Governments are part of the stakeholders like everyone else, so they clearly need to be part of the discussion.  But I think Milton's paper makes a good point, which is you don't want to replace a single government solution with a multi-government solution.  And I think that's common sense, and it's certainly something that I hope the community embraces.
But on the question of the multistakeholder involvement for all this, we've tried to make it very clear from the outset that this is broader than just ICANN.  ICANN is the party with whom we contract for the performance of the IANA functions.  ICANN obviously, through these meetings and through its activities, has great experience in terms of running multistakeholder processes and, more importantly, iterative multistakeholder processes where people can work together on an issue over a period of time to reach a consensus decision.
So we've asked ICANN to convene, but we've made it very clear that this is something that we expect the Internet society, the Internet Engineering Task Force, the Internet Architecture Board, the RIRs, all of the technical community needs to be participating in this, and we expect that will be reflected in the session on Monday and will be reflected in the process as it's designed and carried out throughout all of this. We think it's essential the process be transparent.  I don't know how long it will be it's something where it's just large groups of people continuing to meet on it, but whatever it settles on, whatever the community settles on as the right process, we believe absolutely it's got to be transparent so that people can see exactly how it's playing out.
And we certainly aren't interested in seeing a top-down solution.  We'd like to see this emerge out of a discussion in the community that then filters up into the proposal that is finally presented to us.
A lot of questions with accountability.  A lot of discussion about accountability.  And one thing I wanted to make clear, I guess people read our statement but maybe they didn't read what we didn't say.  But one of the things we didn't say was we didn't put the Affirmation of Commitments into play by this at all.  Now, does that mean the community can't talk about it? Not at all.  We fully expect that the discussion that will take place among the community is going to fairly quickly segue into these larger questions of accountability and transparency and how well the existing AoC will operate in whatever is designed and whatever the community wants to go forward with.  But I want to make it crystal career that we didn't come back and say we think that document is out of touch with the times or is past due, and we're basically saying that can work, and it should still work. And if the community wants to find a way to improve it, go to it.  You're welcome to take it on.  But in the absence of that the affirmation is still there and will continue to operate as envisioned. I am -- I think Steve made the point, I guess a couple of times today, and I know he has made it in some of his writings.  This issue of the fact that when we did the IANA contract in 2012, we had to go out and do it twice because we had to make it clear that first we took input from the international community and we reflected that in the scope of the contract that we wanted parties to compete for, and we had to do it twice to make sure that the winning bidder was actually going to take on the commitments that the international community wanted.
I do think the community has to have an important discussion about that as it thinks about what replaces us.
As Fiona made very clear, our role today is primarily fairly clerical in terms of what we actually do with the IANA functions.  But we certainly understand the symbolism of all this.  That's been a source of comfort for a lot of people, but has probably been a source of irritation for just as many if not more, other people.  But this whole question -- in no way are we doing this in a way where we're handing the keys to ICANN and walking away from it.  We're asking the community to stand up and say is it you want to have in terms of not just replacing the technical role we perform, but how do you replace the sense of confidence that people take out of the idea that somehow we're sitting in the middle.  So we do think that's going to be a very important discussion for this community to have.
I do want to also talk a little bit about some of the international versus domestic interplay here.  Those of you who are from the U.S. and have been watching the press know that already we're starting to see other issues emerge out of all this.  And I think people need to be understanding of that.  Not that they should be modifying their discussions or their viewpoints about this, but already we're seeing people who are suggesting that the U.S. is abandoning the Internet or that this is somehow going to inevitably lead to the loss of free expression on the Internet.  We don't think that's the case, but we are being pushed by some of the political elements to keep emphasizing how conditional our offer was of the transition.  The idea that conditions have to be satisfied.  And I think the community should simply take that up as a challenge to bring back a well-thought-through, very solid plan to us so that we can push back against some of the political pressure that's starting to emerge on this.
In our mind, it's time to do the transition, but the community's got to step up now and really take this on in a way that can reassure policymakers in Washington and other people who simply want to comment on this sort of thing or use it to score political points that the responsible -- that there's a sense of responsibility here in the community to ensure these very important values such as free expression.
So my final point to you is as this discussion plays out over the next many months, don't let this become a political football.  We've got at least two communities that need to be really, really impressed by the discussion and the debate that's going to be held.  The first is where I started.  It's the developing world that still isn't certain that the multistakeholder process is going to meet their needs.  All right.  Well, here, we've been talking about the benefits and the values of this for years and years.  Now's the chance, as I think Mikey said, the world is watching.  Yeah, they are watching, and they're going to see is this community able to come together quickly?  Are they able to approach this in the goal of reaching consensus as quickly as possible?
We all know the multistakeholder process is chaotic, and there are going to be people out there looking to pick at it, because the second audience we're dealing with are the people who want to score political points out of this by trying to say it's not working or that it's a mess or that it's chaotic. Well, we know it's going to be that way at the outset, so it's really important for this community to act with a real sense of purpose and get people engaged in this process who are absolutely dedicated to reaching a consensus outcome in a responsible, realistic, maybe creative, hopefully creative, way.  We can't let all these extraneous issues kind of take away from the goal we have because there's just too much at stake here.
So I hope the community on Monday is able to establish some consensus around the principles we've set for it, and I'm really hoping the community can step up and take responsibility for this as quickly as possible and demonstrate once and for all that this multistakeholder business really works and is the way to move forward with these Internet policy-making issues as we work through these issues over the next many years.
So thank you very much, and with that, I'll take some questions.

 

3/27/14 Opportunities, Threats, Internet Governance and the Future of Freedom If all goes according to NTIA’s plan, the U.S. government will relinquish its contractual oversight of ICANN by September 2015. If events don’t unfold as NTIAintends, however, Internet freedom, global prosperity and international political reform will be at risk.

 

14 March 2014 Internet Technical Leaders Welcome IANA Globalization Progress

The USG never had control of the backbone — just IANA functions

The leaders of the Internet technical organizations responsible for coordination of the Internet infrastructure (IETF, IAB, RIRs, ccTLD ROs, ICANN, ISOC, and W3C), welcome the US Government’s announcement of the suggested changes related to the IANA functions contract.
The roles on policy development processes of the Internet technical organizations and ICANN's role as administrator of the IANA functions, remain unchanged
The transition of the US Government stewardship has been envisaged since the early days of IANA functions contract. This transition is now feasible due to the maturity of the Internet technical organizations involved in performing their respective roles related to the IANA functions, and ICANN will facilitate a global, multi-stakeholder process to plan for the transition.
The strength and stability of the IANA functions within the above organizations (which make up the Internet technical community) are critical to the operation of the Internet. The processes around the IANA functions have always been carefully specified in the communities that our organizations represent. The IANA functions are faithfully administered by ICANN. We are committed to continuing our proven, community-driven processes as we engage in this transition. Our communities are already considering proposals to progress the transition.
Our organizations are committed to open and transparent multi-stakeholder processes. We are also committed to further strengthening our processes and agreements related to the IANA functions, and to building on the existing organizations and their roles. The Internet technical community is strong enough to continue its role, while assuming the stewardship function as it transitions from the US Government.
Participating Leaders
• Adiel A. Akplogan, CEO African Network Information Center (AFRINIC)
• Barrack Otieno, Manager, The African Top Level Domains Organization (AFTLD)
• Paul Wilson, Director General Asia-Pacific Network Information Centre (APNIC)
• Don Hollander, General Manager Asia Pacific Top Level Domain Association (APTLD)
• John Curran, CEO American Registry for Internet Numbers (ARIN)
• Peter Van Roste, General Manager, Council for European National Top Level Domain Registries (CENTR)
• Russ Housley, Chair Internet Architecture Board (IAB)
• Fadi Chehadé, President and CEO Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN)
• Jari Arkko, Chair Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF)
• Kathy Brown, President and CEO Internet Society (ISOC)
• Raúl Echeberría, CEO Latin America and Caribbean Internet Addresses Registry (LACNIC)
• Carolina Aguerre, General Manager, Latin American and Caribbean TLD Association (LACTLD)
• Axel Pawlik, Managing Director Réseaux IP Européens Network Coordination Centre (RIPE NCC)
• Jeff Jaffe, CEO World Wide Web Consortium (W3C)

OPENS DOOR TO WEB TAX The U.S. government's plan to give away authority over the Internet's core architecture to the "global Internet community" could endanger the security of both the Internet and the U.S. -- and open the door to a global tax on Web use.

"U.S. management of the internet has been exemplary and there is no reason to give this away -- especially in return for nothing," former Bush administration State Department senior advisor Christian Whiton told The Daily Caller. "This is the Obama equivalent of Carter's decision to give away the Panama Canal -- only with possibly much worse consequences." The U.S. Commerce Department announced late Friday it would relinquish control of The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) -- the organization charged with managing domain names, assigning Internet protocol addresses and other crucial Web functions -- after its current contract expires next year. In response to months of mounting criticism from the global community over sweeping National Security Surveillance programs leaked by former agency contractor Edward Snowden, the administration surrendered to allegations it had too much influence over the Web through ICANN, which designates the roadmap from web-connected devices to websites and servers across the globe.

Chairman John D. Rockefeller All for Fracturing the Internet
The family names on the Skull and Bones roster roll off the tongue like an elite party list -- Lord, Whitney, Taft, Jay, Bundy, Harriman, Weyerhaeuser, Pinchot, Rockefeller, Goodyear, Sloane, Stimson, Phelps, Perkins, Pillsbury, Kellogg, Vanderbilt, Bush, Lovett and so on.

US to relinquish Internet control

The U.S. government on Friday announced it is taking steps to
relinquish control over the backbone of the Internet. The Department of Commerce announced it is beginning a process to
transfer control over the technical system that operates the
Internet's domain name system, which ensures that Internet users can get to the websites they're looking for.

Currently, the National Telecommunications and Information
Administration -- an agency with Commerce -- oversees that technical system, named the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA). Historically, it has contracted the operation of IANA out to the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Number (ICANN) on a biennial basis. The current contract is set to expire in September of 2015.

ICANN -- which contains an advisory board comprised of government representatives -- also manages the system for naming domains, ensuring that each web address is registered to only one person.

"NTIA is asking ICANN to convene global stakeholders to develop a proposal to transition the current role played by NTIA," NTIA Administrator Larry Strickling said during a press call Friday. Strickling said any proposal "must have broad community support" and must be based on a multistakeholder approach to Internet governance. "It must maintain the openness of the Internet," he said. "We will not accept a proposal ...with a government led or an intergovermental solution."

According to an NTIA official, the U.S. agency will continue
overseeing IANA until the contract expires in 2015. At that point, the agency hopes to be able to transfer stewardship, the official said. Some lawmakers and members of the tech industry have expressed concern that relinquishing control of IANA will open up the Internet to threats from other governments that seek to censor it. While the U.S. can participate in the domain name system through ICANN's Government Advisory Council, its oversight role of IANA was the only direct link between the U.S. government and the critical Internet infrastructure.

Critics of ICANN have said that increased globalization of the domain name system could decrease the influence of the U.S. as one of the most vocal proponents of Internet freedom. Fadi Chehade, the CEO of ICANN, said during the call that his
organization will bring stakeholders together to discuss a transition process for IANA during ICANN's upcoming meeting in Singapore later this month. "All stakeholders deserve a voice in the management and government of this global resource as equal partners," he said. "We thank the U.S. government for its stewardship, for its guidance, over the years, and we thank them today for trusting the global community to replace their stewardship."

An NTIA official denied that the agency's move was in reaction to
revelations about U.S. government surveillance programs over the last year which have sparked international criticism of America's role in Internet governance.

Chehade and Strickling both pointed to the original plans for IANA. "The U.S. government and Internet stakeholders envisioned that the U.S. role in the IANA functions would be temporary," Strickling said. In a statement, Verizon applauded the Commerce agency's move to relinquish control over the technical system. "A successful transition in the stewardship of these important functions to the global multi-stakeholder community would be a timely and positive step in the evolution of Internet governance," Craig Silliman, senior vice president of public policy, said. "Given the importance of the IANA functions to the stability and correct functioning of the Internet, it will be essential that a plan that preserves the security, stability, and seamless nature of the Internet be developed through a comprehensive multi-stakeholder process prior to the transition."

14 March 2014 Administrator of Domain Name System Launches Global Multistakeholder Accountability Process

Los Angeles, California… The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) today launched a process to transition the role of the United States Government relating to the Internet's unique identifiers system.

ICANN's announcement comes on the heels of an historic announcement today by the U.S. Government stating that it is ready to transfer its stewardship of the important Internet technical functions to the global Internet community. The U.S. Government's current responsibilities to be transitioned include the procedural role of administering changes to the Domain Name System's (DNS) to the authoritative root zone file - the database containing the lists of names and addresses of all top-level domains – as well as serving as the historic steward of the unique identifiers registries for Domain names, IP addresses, and protocol parameters.

In doing so, the U.S. recognized ICANN's maturation in becoming an effective multistakeholder organization and requested that ICANN convene the global community to develop the transition process from of the U.S. stewardship to a global community consensus-driven mechanism.

"We are inviting governments, the private sector, civil society, and other Internet organizations from the whole world to join us in developing this transition process," said Fadi Chehadé, ICANN's President and CEO. "All stakeholders deserve a voice in the management and governance of this global resource as equal partners."

Independent of the U.S. transition, the roles of the Internet technical organizations, including ICANN's role as administrator of the Internet's unique identifier system, remain unchanged. The Internet's Unique Identifier functions are not apparent to most Internet users, but they play a critical role in maintaining a single, global, unified and interoperable Internet.

"Even though ICANN will continue to perform these vital technical functions, the U.S. has long envisioned the day when stewardship over them would be transitioned to the global community," said Dr. Stephen D. Crocker, ICANN's Board Chair. "In other words, we have all long known the destination. Now it is up to our global stakeholder community to determine the best route to get us there."

"The global multistakeholder process is defined by inclusion, and it will take some time to make sure that we obtain all of the necessary inputs," said Chehadé. "By the time the current contract with the U.S. Government expires in September 2015, we will have a defined and clear process for global multistakeholder stewardship of ICANN's performance of these technical functions."

The first community-wide dialogue about the development of the transitional process will begin March 23-27 during ICANN's 49th Public Meeting, in Singapore. All global stakeholders are welcome to participate in person or remotely.

3/21/14 Mercury News editorial: U.S. must insist on Internet remaining free and open


2005

Breaking America's grip on the net
From: Russell Nelson @crynwr.com
Date: October 9, 2005
After troubled negotiations in Geneva, the US may be forced to relinquish control of the internet to a coalition of governments Kieren McCarthy I think that enough people have written in to IP to firmly correct Kieren.  I want to say something different.  You see, I finally (FINALLY) understand what Bob Frankston says about endpoints.  If you've ever listened to Bob Frankston, @bobf.frankston.com, you quickly realize that he is so much smarter than everyone else that it's hard to make sense of what he says.  Bob sounds confused or insane.  But Bob goes beyond mere genius to true discernment.
How do you know who owns property?
Different countries have different solutions.  In the US, states are split up into counties.  Each county has an office which register deeds, run by the county clerk.  In theory at least, there is a one-to-one and onto relationship between land and deeds.  Property is described in relationship to well-known benchmarks (or so goes the theory).  Many things can go wrong, which leads to conflicting property claims.  There is a whole branch of law which deals with those times when ownership of property is not clear.
How do you know who owns the name of a product (a trademark)?
Again, different countries have different solutions.  In the US, the US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) says that the first party to use a trademark in commerce is the owner.  This leads to interesting conflicts like So-and-so's Pretzels of Kunkletown, PA, and So-and-so's Pretzels of Lancaster, PA, when both So-and-so's sold pretzels without any conflict until one expanded into the other's territory.  To avoid these kinds of conflicts, you can register your trademark nationally, which gives you the presumptive right of ownership (but first use trumps registration).
How do you know how to get to somebody's website?
Before you can go somewhere, you need an address.  Back in the good old days before websites there was HOSTS.TXT, which was a single listing of every possible hostname on the Internet.  That was the official listing of hostnames and the only way to make a correspondance between name and address.  Towards the end they had to restrict entrance into that table simply because it had become so unwieldy.
This system was replaced by the domain name system.  Paul Mockapetris' genius was to replace one authoritative listing with one authoritative list of lists.  This is the list that ICANN controls, and which contains .COM, .NET, .ORG, the two-letter countries, etc.  Everyone believes this list, just as everyone believes the country clerk when they say that somebody owns property, just as everyone believes the USPTO when they say that somebody owns a trademark.
It is this belief, this faith, that gives ICANN its authority.  It is also why ICANN has no more control over the Internet than does the parade marshall leading a parade.  If the marchers choose not to follow, then parade marshall has two choices: recognize that his authority has vanished, or get back in front of the parade and continue to pretend that he is leading them.
But what about Bob?
Bob Frankston's insight is to recognize that there are other sources of belief.
Let's say that you want to use a P2P network to find a file being shared.  You log onto the network using a cache of IP addresses that have previously been on the network.  You start running through the cache looking for addresses that are still connected to the network. Once you find a few, you are connected to the network again.  You can issue a search for a name (much like a domain name), and you will be offered several names of files.  If you find several hits with the same name, file size, and file hash, it's likely that those are all the correct file.
Let's say that you want to find my friend Rob Logan's website.  You can go to rob.com or logan.com, or you can go to any search engine (I tested Google, Yahoo, A9, and MSN) and type "Rob Logan".  You'll get one or the other of Rob's websites in domain name form.  What if he wasn't lucky enough to have domain names that match his names?  What if, instead, he didn't have any domain name at all?  The search engines would show him as being at 66.94.81.250.
The Internet is already usable without domain names.  The UN and EU think they're taking over control of the Internet?  They're actually taking control over a wet noodle.

--
NOTE: I am eliding some details for the sake of explanation.  For example don't bother writing to tell me that there are 45 classes of trademarks.  I already know that, and the readers of this don't need to in order to understand my point.  Also, Bob makes the point that well-known ports such as 80 for http and 25 for email are also not necessary, since a web server endpoint could be specified as 1.2.3.4:80 just as easily as 1.2.3.4.  Or email could be addressed to nelson@192.203.178.8:25.  Nobody would ever need to publish those numbers; people would say instead "search for Farber" or "search for Russ", or "search for McDonald's".

Paul  Vixie, its in several committees of the California-based  Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) with day- to-day control of the Web, on his CircleID blog.

 

 

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