ICANN: Club Med for Geeks? - Comments

ICANN: Club Med for Geeks?

"Ideology, politics and journalism, which luxuriate in failure, are impotent in the face of hope and joy". - P. J. O'Rourke

In 1996 the net was pretty excited about getting some new domain names and some real competition for Network Solutions and not just MLM like sales channels the way com is flogged today.

In that year, when NSI began charging for domains the first time, plans evolved on the net to create competitors to Network Solutions (who ran com/net/org) - this would give consumers an actual and very real choice in domains, prices, and policies.

The subject was discussed, on the net, by the technical and legal communities for years, the government took over and through it's corporation, ICANN, began to "implement community consensus"; ICANN was formed to address trademark issues *and* create new top level domains to foster competition in the then young marketplace - and not neccesarily in that order. There were laws to protect trademark holders, and it's not like they lost a case). It was never at issue "should we make new TLDs" - the government already held that public comment period and the answer was "yes". Asked and answered.

But the trademark lobby through big business stalled the process and never mind ICANN implemented a trademark friendly universal dispute resolution mechanism in the first six months of its existence, or that a cybersquatting law was enacted some few short years later, and despite some tests with .info and .aero and .coop in 2000, the process to create new top level domains has been stalled - and not for technical or policy reasons, it's the looming threat of the trademark lobby groups that have done this. Another case of innovation strangled by over-reaching actors in the intellectual property arena as Lessig and others have warned of.

So, the next time you see an article that implies there's a question of whether making new top level domains is desirable, understand this is really either an explicit or implicit marketing dictum from the trademark lobby. New domains are not a question. The US government, who is in charge, hs asked and answered this and ten years after the introduction of 7 new gTLDS and nearly 200 country code domains, most of which function not as country code domains but the same as com/net/org, that is gTLDs, nobody can reasonably say it's unknown what will happen if we make new TLDs. Why should the next 300 be any different than the last 300 from what we've seen of them over the past 15 years!

More so, new domains will presumably be subject to all some sort of favorable conditions to trademark holders, and keep in mind the current 250+ top level domains were all created without that benefit and the number of cybersquatting cases not resolved quickly and cheaply in the modern day domain world is extremely small if not zero - the system has worked, still works and will continue to work we we add another 100 domains. Or 1000.

The long history of the DNS wars are plagued with fear, uncertainty and doubts as an excuse to promote some horrific policy. Fear of an internet gone mad with brand dilution of byzantine nature beyond searchability is fearmongering nonsense and akin to weapons of mass destruction in Iraq and "Saddam Hussein is in the wifes jam", to paraphrase Monty Python.

Whenever anybody in the domain industry tells you something is possible, believe them. Whenever somebody tells you something is dangerous, look very very careful at the history (Mueller and Froomkin are good places to start) - and look at their lips: are they moving? Or is somebody on Madison avenue operating them via remote control?

When dealing with technical coordination of internet names databases, facts matter.

However, in this context, yes the worldwide extravaganza of face to face meetings is inappropriate - this is not the way the net was built, the online collaboration the net fosters was the very reason it was able to bootstrap so quickly with the result that by the end of the 70s nearly all computer science teachers and students, young and old all had email.

Traditionally no binding resolutions in the technical arena were set in physical face to face meetings, these infrequent events were workshops to get a lot done quickly so it could be ratified by everybody online - or not - and this is the method ICANN should almost certainly be using.

By now I'd expect ICANN to be at less of a leading edge with regards to the way they work online, something on the order of this perhaps: at the 11 minute mark (Alan Kay explains his new system to a Stanford computer science class).

Coincidentally, this is Rod Beckstrom's area of expertise, his second company was an online collaboration tool, so telling him is like preaching to the choir. Hopefully this will have some impact with the way ICANN operates. Many of us have been saying since before ICANN and before the US IFWP meetings that this all has to be done online, and it's nice to see mainstream news media waking up to this.

But keep in mind it was the trademark crowd that pushed for physical meetings in the first place, there was great opposition from the internet community about these lavish face to face extravaganzas as far back as the last century.

To quote Dmytri Kleiner: "Whatever portion of our productivity we allow to be taken from us, will return in the form of our own oppression."

Richard Sexton, July 6, 2009.
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