Well, this ICANN meeting in Melbourne will mostly be remembered for the attempt by ICANN's board to rewrite the entire DNS structure at very short notice and with zero consultation from other interested and affected parties.
But first a brief run-through the decisions.
- ICANN is to "press forward" in completing draft legacy agreements with country code TLDs - which are currently out of ICANN's control. On the plus side, this will give countries more say in how ICANN runs things and could lead to a more cohesive Internet in general. On the down side, this looks like an attempt by ICANN to expand its influence over the entire Internet. Critics say that the organisation has demonstrated its antipathy to all non-US companies often enough for this to be a problem. The process has already begun with bosom buddy WIPO trying to pressure countries into adopting its flawed domain resolution process, UDRP.
- The issue of "internationalization" of domain names - namely, putting domain names in a language other than English - is to go to an "internal working board" This consists of four good names, including ICANN CEO Vint Cerf and notorious board member Karl Auberach. The board will reports its findings in June. This is good news for the international community and the Internet in general.
But what are we to make of the "concern", expressed by the Board over "likely confusion about the nature and implications of the numerous existing internationalization testbeds and pre-registration services"?
Coincidentally, VeriSign announced its intention to offer multi-lingual domains just before the meeting. Other organisations have been doing it for years. Are we looking at another stitch-up between the ICANN Board and VeriSign?
Will VeriSign suddenly come out as the ICANN-approved leader in this field, even though it has next to no experience or knowledge in this area? Well, it's done it before.
- Which, of course, brings us to the controversial VeriSign deal. Many people are upset that ICANN has tried to push this through without any consultation. It "relented" at the meeting and agreed to give time to a review by the DNSO and public forum but this is just window-dressing. It has consistently claimed that the options are only the acceptance of the new deal in its entirety - or refusing it. It blames the tight timetable. The agreement has existed for well over a year - this looks to us like a blatant fudge.
ICANN's divide and conquer approach to everything has only just begun to enter people's consciousness. Here is a fine example. A meeting resolution was that the Names Council would have a review.. so long as it doesn't even touch the current "yes or no" stance. It has until 16 April (one month). The Board has also made the point that it alone makes the decision. We believe that everyone should push to refuse the agreement and make clear that this decision has nothing to do with either agreement (they are both as bad as each other) - it is simply a refusal to give any consideration to something that was purposefully held back until the last minute. Hopefully this would set what the rest of the world calls a precedent and ICANN calls a (rewriteable) bylaw.
- Another controversial measure is the At-Large Study Committee. This committee is to "examine the roll of the At-Large members" and decide what should be done in future. In case you're not sure who the At-Large members are, they'll be the only ones actually democratically selected to the ICANN board. The main concern is the committee will decide that it will function a lot better if they get rid of people that they can't choose themselves.
Great news if you are one of the 100 people in the world who are closely tied in with ICANN. Not so good if you aren't. The important thing is the board members. These were (after some argument) announced as being Pierre Dandjinou, Esther Dyson, Olivier Iteanu, Ching-Yi Liu, Thomas Niles, and Oscar Robles. Who are they? Good question.
You should know Esther, former chairwoman of ICANN. But who are the others? They all appear pretty ICANN-Board friendly (a bad thing). Dandijnou and Liu are MITF members - i.e. on the larger At-Large network. Dandjinou also has ties with ISOC (second bad thing). At least they are international - as is the whole committee to be fair. No idea about Iteanu. Thomas Niles is the president of a very corporate-friendly labour rights organisation, USCIB. He sees the Internet as primarily a corporate vehicle. Robles is quite important - he's one of the top men regarding the Internet in Mexico and is deeply involved with the Internet. We don't where he stands on this issue though.
- Back to the resolutions. This is a good one: "That the Reconsideration Committee's Recommendations RC 00-6 and RC 00-7 are adopted for the reasons stated in those recommendations." What that means - if you can be bothered to look it all up - is that ICANN has decided to ignore complaints about the $50,000 non-returnable fee for new TLD applications and also ignore IOD's fury concerning a critical (and partially flawed) ICANN assessment of its application for the .web TLD on ICANN's Web site. The Reconsideration Committee failed to come to any other agreement. Oh, and the respected director of the Committee, Abril i Abril, wasn't present when either of the decisions were made.
- That the DNSO gets its own fund which its organisations can pay into.
That was about it. A request for the flawed UDRP process to be reviewed was put off. ®