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Re: [ga] Developing an alternative to ICANN 2.0

Richard Henderson wrote:

>I think ICANN 2.0 perceives itself as well on the way to consolidating its
>positions. Its strategy with regard to the inclusive namespace is probably
>to overwhelm it and to duplicate some of its key operating tlds.

Few days ago I started commenting on this post, but then I realized I was 
reproposing the old debate "single root - multiple root", about which I 
believe everything has been said already in the years.

However, the opening sentence of Richard made me think about where we are in 
the process of ICANN 2.0, and do we really have an ICANN 2.0.

We are on the eve of a major election/nomination of the ICANN BoD. This is 
supposed to be an event that will deeply influence the Internet policy in 
the years to come, as a large number of Directors is involved.
However, I don't feel the tension that I have experienced at the times of 
the selection of the initial BoD. The hectic horse-trading, the circulation 
of names of candidates, the intense phone calling, the gossip on the lists, 
the cross-vetos, and so on, is not there.
Maybe I'm just now less attentive, or simply not so much in contact with the 
decision-makers. Of course the nominating committee is probably being 
flodded right now by email, phone calls, letters and what else by more or 
less influent people recommending candidates. But the general feeling is, 
looking on the low traffic about the subject on the public lists, that the 
interest is generally lower than at the time of the first BoD.

The reason, IMHO, is that the stakes are lower.
I'm not sure whether ICANN has established itself or not, but I am sure that 
some of the critical decisions have been taken. And together with this, the 
economic situation has dramatically changed from years ago. Consider the 
following examples (please be aware that I am not passing judgement on 
things or on somebody else's position, I only try to explain what I observe 
from the fence where I am sitting now).
* The NSi monopoly issue has been put at rest, with the trading of .org in 
exchange of the burial of the principle of the Registrar/Registry 
separation. This decision cannot reasonably be changed in the future, 
whatever the composition and attitude of the Directors.
* New gTLDs have been introduced, but no dramatic change of the global 
picture is to be seen. I don't see any new actor making easy billions as 
seemed to be the forecast years ago. The new Board will probably only 
continue a careful introduction of new TLDs, following the recent 
recommendation of the GNSO.
* dotcoms have collapsed in thousands, and Telcos have other bigger problems 
than risking huge monies in DNS, with ROI seriously doubtful at this point 
in time. I remember discussions I had in Montevideo with my former Telcos 
colleagues on the situation, and that was on the eve of 9/11. When we all 
came back home, most of us travelling the very 9/11, we found a different 
world, and the little optimism that some might have had on a quick recovery 
had disappeared.
* UDRP is an established fact (although the regular courts obviously have 
the last word on the issues). This process is also unlikely to be changed, 
and with it the other landmark for introduction of TLDs, namely the 
diversification of business models, policies, attitude towards trademark. 
This is gone forever, whatever the composition of the future Board.
* The worry of the IAB, and of large part of the commoners in IETF, that 
some Internet-illitterate people could take over and destroy the Internet, 
has not materialized. The PSO has been able to dissolve itself easily, 
without danger of leaving ICANN without a strong supporter of the technical 
lobby. Besides, at least two of the signatories of the PSO-MoU were seen 
anyhow by the purists as an element of dilution of the technical backbone, 
more prone to industrial or governmental interests rather than to pure 

So, what is the real open issue? What is the real interest at stake in the 
next years? What are the foreseeable developments, dangers, mission, that 
the oncoming board has to deal with?
To answer this, I would suggest to go back in time to the ICANN meeting 
(Yokohama, but I might be wrong) where two major players, Paul Twomey and 
Christopher Wilkinson, stood up to state that ICANN could not be ruled only 
by business interests: if that was happening (continuing?), governments 
would have to step in. Interestingly enough, Paul is now ICANN's CEO, while 
Christopher is non-voting member of the NomCom.
So, what does this mean? I would expect an ICANN BoD that will have some 
representation of the "public" interest, the users, the registrants, the 
individuals. Not to the extent of constituting a block that can be tempted 
to fight against other lobbies, but still a non-negligeable presence that 
will "legitimize" ICANN in the eyes of the laymen. Of course, the next 
consequence is that the voice of the AtLarge will be seeked and organized. 
Whether the masses are ready and willing to invest time and resources in 
participating to the ICANN process, that's another question, of which the 
answer is unknown to people without cristal ball. Ant that is the real bet 
and challenge: to move from the abstract declaration of principle of the 
need for individual stakeholder representation to the concrete work to make 
this representation a reality. I think that ICANN will remove the opposition 
it had (not in principle, but in the facts that rendered individual 
participation difficult and marginal), and that the page can be turned. Will 
we be able to grab the opportunity?

In other words, I'm moderately optimistic. Anyway, I guess in Montreal at 
the latest we will know...


>It still staggers me that they could get away with the duplication of .biz
>It reflects a "Might is Right" philosophy which seems devoid of moral
>So I believe that one form of challenge to ICANN is the creation of an
>"umbrella" where ICANN's hegemony and poor practice can be called into
>question by a multiplicity of interests : what's needed is an alliance of
>various sympathetic groups, the aggregation of writers' thoughts...
>intelligent participation and contributions. What's also needed is the
>generation of a movement which promotes the interests of ordinary users, 
>portrays them as damaged by ICANN's bias toward vested interest groups.
>That's why I'm interested in the promotion of a kind of At Large outside of
>ICANN, and the development of mission, structure and policy, which can
>ultimately be democratised, and represent the interests of millions of
>ordinary users who are by far the largest constituency of stakeholders.
>Not all people being damaged by ICANN are interested specifically in the At
>Large, so an umbrella would be useful to help draw together an 
>particularly if we attempted to reach out to ccTLD participants etc.
>If a worldwide alliance of groups could be generated, to create an
>alternative axis which the media could recognise and hang hooks on, then I
>believe intelligent independent thought would begin to shift away from 
>domination. The ccTLDs are probably reluctant to jump until they see the
>bandwagon rolling, but I'm sure many are hugely dissatisfied with ICANN
>(Nominet, for example) and its not implausible to imagine a world where the
>multiplicity of nets became as understood as the multiplicity of TV
>That's my hope - that in a few years the public will recognise a
>multiplicity of Internets, mostly mirroring each other, all over the world 
>but with distinctive features - and a multiplicity of tlds - and they will
>just pick their internet channel like you can pick your TV channel. I think
>technology will render the ICANN dinosaur obsolete in the end... but ICANN
>will try to crush its opposition, and USG may step in to help under the
>guise of security issues. However, technology can run roots all over the
>world, and far from US constraints.
>A key part of the strategy is to get the media aware of a challenge to
>ICANN, and to get substantial numbers of people, and groups, interested or
>involved in a revolt... or at least a serious challenge. The two main
>groupings which are likely to have an impact in this are: internet users 
>large); and the ccTLDs. Obviously the inclusive roots figure in all this
>I see this as a two-year strategy in the first instance, and it would need
>I take the view that the At Large (or "User") movement needs to be "given" 
>coherent org, process, and website outside and independent of ICANN - with 
>coherent mission and outreach plan - which we can then 'democratise' in
>stages. The experience of IcannAtLarge so far indicates that to democratise
>at the outset results in easy sabotage, divergent objectives and potential
>inertia. What's needed is a ready set up package which people can then buy
>into (not financially, but ideologically).
>It should be possible to create an alternative axis, if serious and 
>participants come on board.
>The inclusive roots can form part of that alternative, but I take the view
>that you need to fight the opening battles/debates on the grounds
>used/occupied by ICANN and the world media as well. On the other hand,
>mirroring is a big part of the
>future subversion of ICANN's hegemony, and the inclusive roots are there to
>mirror, and diversify ICANN's monolithic dinosaur.
>In a sense, think USG>> DoC >> ICANN>> their DNS, and what you've got is a
>monolithic "one way only" incredibly old-fashioned and patriarchal
>hierarchy. It's all "top down". The subversion needs to be lateral,
>intuitive, more feminine and
>co-operative. It needs an alliance of multiple interests. It needs diverse
>expressions under one alternative banner. It needs genuine "bottom up"
>Think alliances. Think the unpredictable. And when you're done with
>'thinking' ... start feeling! The future of the Internet - what it can 
>become - is a vision thing. It cannot just be reduced to economic
>imperatives and old-world domination.
>An alternative axis, opposite ICANN, and beyond it, can and should be
>Richard H
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