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What is ICANN?
What does it really do?
What does the media report it does?
What the world thinks of it?


ICANN suspends gTLD "digital archery lottery" again due to more technical problems (ICANN)
"Operation of the digital archery portion of the New Generic Top-level Domain Program has been suspended. The primary reason is that applicants have reported that the timestamp system returns unexpected results depending on circumstances. Independent analysis also confirmed the variances, some as a result of network latency, others as a result of how the timestamp system responds under differing circumstances."

CFO for company that applied for the most gTLDs from ICANN,
used to be CFO of ICANN

This group of four industry experts quietly incorporated in the
   early part of last year with the sole intention of becoming a
   domain name registry, according to Schindler.  "We've been in
   stealth mode for quite a while because, obviously, this is a very
   competitive landscape," he said.
   And, frankly, they are banking on all of them being successful.
   Donuts, whose Los Angeles office is just a few miles from the
   nonprofit agency deciding the fate of its applications, has deep
   roots in the industry. In fact, the company's chief financial
   officer used to be CFO for ICANN.

 - - -
Delays likely as governments demand gTLD timetable rethink
If you think you’ll be able to launch your new generic top level domain in the first quarter of 2013, you can pretty much forget it. The Governmental Advisory Committee told ICANN yesterday that it does not think it will be able to provide advice on new gTLD applications until April 2013 at the earliest. It’s also told ICANN to seriously reconsider its controversial digital archery program and the whole gTLD application batching concept. The current timetable calls for GAC Early Warnings – the “headsup” stage for applicants – to be submitted concurrently with the public comment period, which runs through August 12.

Big Content issues gTLD lock-down demands

Kevin Murphy, March 11, 2012,
Twenty members of the movie, music and games businesses have asked ICANN to impose strict anti-piracy rules on new top-level domains related to their industries. In a position statement, “New gTLDs Targeting Creative Sectors: Enhanced Safeguards”, the groups say that such gTLDs are “fraught with serious risks” and should be controlled more rigorously than other gTLDs. "If new gTLDs targeted to these sectors – e.g., .music, .movies, .games – are launched without adequate safeguards, they could become havens for continued and increased criminal and illegal activity," the statement says. It goes on to make seven demands for regulations covering Whois accuracy, enforced anti-piracy policies, and private requests for domain name take-downs. The group also says that the content industries should be guaranteed "a seat at the table" when these new gTLD registries make their policies.
The statement is directed to ICANN, but it also appears to address the Governmental Advisory Committee, which has powers to object to new gTLD applications:

In evaluating applications for such content-focused gTLDs, ICANN must require registry operators (and the registrars with whom they contract) to implement enhanced safeguards to reduce these serious risks, while maximizing the potential benefits of such new domains.
Governments should use similar criteria in the exercise of their capability to issue Early Warnings, under the ICANN-approved process, with regard to new gTLD applications that are problematic from a public policy or security perspective.

The statement was sent to ICANN by the Coalition for Online Accountability, which counts the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers, the Motion Picture Association of America, the Recording Industry Association of America and Disney among its members.
It was separately signed by the many of the same groups that are supporting Far Further’s .music application, including the American Association for Independent Music and the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry.

ICANN blows $4.6 million in the stock market
If you visit the new dashboard on ICANN's web site, you see some nice bar charts, including one rather large negative number of $4,462,000. If you click the little arrow at the top of the Financial Performance chart, a footnote window pops open where the last sentence is:
The large variance to budget is due to investment losses of $4.6 mil. Investment losses? Yup, ICANN's been speculating in the stock market, and has lost $4.6 million, or to put it in concrete terms, the 20 cent fee from 23 million domain registrations.
Way back in 1998, ICANN's bylaws said they should establish "reasonable reserves for future expenses and contingencies reasonably related to the legitimate activities of the Corporation". <more>


2005 From Richard Wiggins



Icann's role in the DNS is overstated in the media -- if the media confuses Icann's management of the DNS with managing all traffic on the Internet, and if that leads the ITU and Europe and others to the wrong conclusion about Icann.
Here are the headlines you will see 7/2/05:

US to Retain Oversight of Web Traffic
US not to give up Internet control
TechSpin: US Controls Web
US decision on Internet's key computers draws mixed response from ...
US reneges on DNS pledge
US to Retain Oversight of Web Traffic
Crispy vulture beats bald eagle
Web Oversight Decision by US Gets Thrashing
US decision to retain oversight of Internet's backbone
US Keeps Control Of Internet Computers

Now, please folks, read today's headlines -- read the text of those headlines --  from around the world, and tell me what the world outside the United States now thinks of Icann, and Internet governance, and the United States. Icann should make a statement clarifying what its role is, and what its role should be -- and what its role is not.  I believe that statement should say that Icann's role is to resolve Internet domain names to IP addresses, and nothing more.

2005 Karl Auerbach





ICANN has never "managed the traffic on the Internet" ~ Karl Auerbach

I agree that ICANN has never "managed traffic" on the net.

However, ICANN has for years claimed that its role is the technical stability of DNS and IP address allocation. 
(I bet that people have forgotten that ICANN also claims that it exists to "reduce the burdens of government".)
(IANA, which is distinct from ICANN and is a jab that ICANN performs under delegation/contract from NTIA, the National Atmospheric and Oceanic Administration(!), and perhaps also the IETF.  And the IANA function with regard to "protocol parameters" has no immediate direct impact on day-to-day traffic flows on the net.)
Now, what is this job of technical stability for DNS that ICANN is supposed to perform?
No person in their right mind would claim that the job includes the  reliable operation of the entire DNS hierarchy - the genius of DNS is  that it distributes responsibility while insulating most DNS users  from the errors made at the leaves of the hierarchy. However, technical stability of DNS certainly does entail certain  aspects of the upper tiers of DNS.
And what are those aspects?  Here's my list of the responsibilitys  that ICANN has over the upper tier of DNS:

1. That the root zone file is properly prepared.

ICANN several years ago in its CRADA report said that it, or rather  IANA, would take this job away from Verisign.  I'm not sure of the  current status of this.

2. That the root zone file is safely disseminated.

Again ICANN's old CRADA report said that ICANN wanted to do this, and there was a reasonable technical plan in place to do it.  I'm not  sure of the current status of this.

3. That the root servers operate well, meaning at least:

  a) High availability of each server (or anycast server group)

  b) Reasonably prompt updates of the root zone as changes are become available.

  d) Prompt response to query packets.

  d) Accurate response to query packets.

  e) Reasonably consistent responses to queries made to different root servers at approximately the same time.

  f) No discrimination in favor for or against any query source

  g) No ancillary data mining (e.g. using the queries to generate marketing data that is then sold.)

  h) Robust against threats, both natural and human.

  i) Adequate backup and recovery plans in place and tested.

  j) Adequate financial reserves and human resources so that should an ill event occur it is possible to recover.

  k) Wide dissemination of the root zone file so that those in local communities can cache the data and create local temporar DNS roots during times of emergency when those local communities are cut-off from the larger part of the internet.

Notice that I do not define technical stability to include any of the  stuff that ICANN has spent its time on: the business practices of DNS  registries and registrars.  To my mind that is a matter in which realcompetition and the existing regime of laws aganist anti-competitive  practices and consumer protection provide a better answer than ICANN.

The root server operators, to their great credit, and despite the  fact that they have nothing more than a moral obligation to do so,  and often using only their own funds, have met many of the  requirements I've listed above.

But ICANN has done little more than make a lot of sound and fury, but  just as it did for MacBeth, it signifies nothing.

Simply put: ICANN is claiming credit for the work of others. And those others, despite their best of intentions today, are either  mortal humans or institutions that ultimately have responsibilities  that could, under circumstances or war or emergency, be inconsistent  with the items I've listed above.

ICANN claims that it benefits the public (and thus ICANN receives its  tax exempt status) by virtue of ICANN's ensuring to the public that  the upper tiers of the DNS operate with technical stability.
ICANN has done nothing more than waved its hands - and sat on a  committee.

Those of us who use the internet obtain no actual assurance of  technical stability from ICANN. We have been fortunate so far - certainly due to the under  appreciated efforts of the root-server operators - and also due to a  streak of luck that may someday end without notice.
ICANN's mission has certainly crept - in the realm of business and  economic ICANN's system of regulation mimics the worst of the telco  world of the 1950's and 1960's.
But ICANN's mission has also retreated.  ICANN was to have ensured  the technical stability of parts of the internet.  It has retreated  from that role (although it still claims that role).  And the  community of internet users have been left in the lurch and bearing  the risk. The fact that NTIA still believes that ICANN is performing this role  is a sad commentary on NTIA"s self-inflicted blindness.

2005 Esther Dyson

Is Icann's importance overstated in the media?
~ Esther Dyson July 2, 2005

ICANN really should manage nothing. it should be the organization  where the members set *policy* for themselves.  All it needs to  manage is nonconformance with those policies.

That statement is perhaps a *little* too dry for reality, but it's  the ideal.  ICANN  should be much lighter-weight than it is, and  should leave most questions - and management - to its member  organizations.  It should not have a regulatory function, but more of  a judicial one..... though it does need more than the nuclear option  of banishment/disbarment/deaccreditation for recourse when its  policies are  not followed.  As it is, any recourse would be so  draconian that most bad behavior goes unchallenged.

Even in practice, yes, its importance is overstated. Most governments  face more pressing problems than who sets policy for the Net.  Most  businesses should be running their businesses better rather than  dreaming that a catchy domain name can ensure their success.  Yet...  good governance does matter - just not as much as some people think.

Esther Dyson (former chairman of ICANN, wish I had left a better legacy) June 3, 2005
yes, I would be much happier if they had approved a bunch of them, including .sex, .porn, .bank, .fin and the like... allowing for genuine competition among TLD operators with competing and *differentiated* rulesets. Right now much of the competition is mostly based on price and worst- wins sleazy business practices. Will every registrar have the right to register names in .xxx? (though that question might be more germane relating to .bank and .fin, which could compete on the basis of strong security) I also share the concern over the possibility of censorship as opposed to incentives.... pretty soon anything "troublesome" may well get pushed there, whether it's sex, politics, health advice or sheer bad taste.

"DNS Governance" - the 4 bugs by Mike O'Dell 11/3/02

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