View Full Version : ICANN moving to independence

Rubber Duck
29th October 2007, 01:23 PM

THE organisation that co-ordinates the internet and makes sure it runs smoothly for the benefit of all users, commercial and consumer alike, faces a big test next year when it reviews its relationship with the US government.

Since the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers was formed by the Clinton administration in 1998, it has been in a joint venture, of a sort, with the US government to run the internet.

Originally intended as a two-year arrangement to oversee the World Wide Web, the agreement remains in place.

In September a US government white paper took things a step further, recasting the arrangement in an agreement with ICANN aimed at removing the government from the equation by 2009.

The mid-point review of that white paper is due next March, and not before time.

If, as ICANN claims, US government control of the web is only a "perception", in international matters perception is reality.

ICANN holds a unique, even curious, position in world technology, commerce and communications.

It has grown apace since its formation and almost exponentially since Paul Twomey, the former head of Australia's National Office of the Information Economy, took over in 2003.

At that time ICANN had revenue of $3 million. Now it is in the order of $40 million, and with an explosion of domain names expected due to new initiatives, it will get bigger.

Based in the Los Angeles suburb of Marina Del Rey, ICANN's administrative arm consists of 80 people, although Twomey says about 10,000 technology and business professionals around the globe feed into the multitude of advisory boards revolving around ICANN.

The main peak groups and the ICANN board meet three times each year.

At this week's meeting about 1000 people will gather in Los Angeles for the first ICANN meeting held in the mainland US in seven years.

ICANN has seen off a number of threats in recent years, most notably a United Nations attempt to take over its functions and an anti-trust lawsuit brought by US technology company VeriSign in 2004.

VeriSign claimed ICANN had overstepped its authority, but its case was thrown out of court.

VeriSign then settled a broader dispute with ICANN when the co-ordinating groups allowed VeriSign to charge more for .com domains.

The two sides now have an uneasy truce.

ICANN's relationship with the US government sticks in the craw of just about every other nation in the world.

This is especially true of China - ironically, given that country's record of internet censorship.

If you go to China as a tourist, from your hotel you can access internet sites local Chinese have never seen.

There are now more internet users in China than the US, and India is closing the gap. The white face of the internet is changing fast.

ICANN has come under fire from some quarters that have argued it was never handed the right to rule on domain names and that it should be a free-for-all.

Putting this issue to one side, ICANN must take the next step and break the nexus with the US.

The body has done a good job so far of staying true to its not-for-profit roots and developing policy from the ground up, a laborious and time-consuming process.

A clean break from the US Government will be the next step towards a more truly international organisation, showing the world ICANN really does run the internet for everyone.

If nothing else, self-preservation should dictate that it does.

29th October 2007, 05:50 PM
Just remember... ICANN is nonprofit Hehe riiight ;-)