WP gets it wrong on domains again

WP gets it wrong on domains again
(ICANN departures after Web suffix vote draw criticism, Aug 20/2011)

Washington Post: you're kidding, right? Frankly the best thing we could have hoped for is that the players named in this article were corrupt enough to speed along the process to make new top level domains, something that they were tasked to do by the US government in 1999. The process was expected to take 6 months to a year.

If anybody had known at that time that it would take ten years for complete the process then the outrage would have been so great ICANN would have almost certainly either been turned off or ignored to death; keep in mind that it has no actual legal authority to make people listen to it; all it's work in the DNS and IP address space is used by convenience, not by statute.

The US Government actually gave it three things to do, I quote Ira Magaziner from a meeting with him in New York: "devolve the .com monopoly, do something about trademarks and create a process to make new top level domains".

The latter wasn't some research project and there were several systems in place at the time that already did that, it was policy that was discussed for a decade and nothing new was learned. Diversion, distraction, one thing after another from the intellectual property lobby that to quote one Verisign CEO's private comments "leaves no fingerprints". More so, other than making new domains ICANN's other tasks were over years ago, the devolution of the .COM monopoly was done very quickly - in the first year, and the intellectual property rules we operate under are the same ones we had in 1996 when we began this (modulo one new cybersquatting law, but making laws is not ICANN's job), to say nothing of the fact that during the greatest span of intellectual stagnation the Internet has ever known, the "DNS wars" that 250 new top level domains came up anyway, the "country code tld's" and if you can get your email and YouTube works than it's pretty clear the net didn't come to a screeching halt and die because of a "noble and dangerous experiment". We make up namespaces on the Internet all the time, always have, always will - from Usenet newsgroup names to domain names to the epic Google nymwars, any system that does not let the users of that system define the namespace they use is in trouble. ICANN's notorious lack of a membership that can pay dues and then - *cast votes*, something the government and all players agreed to a decade ago, is most notorious in its absence. ICANN's history has been, frankly, an embarrassment. But now that they're actually done and people are winding this thing down, you're surprised? Ohai, you must be new here...

Molasses in January moves at the speed of light compared to the glacial pace of ICANNs new top level domain work, and the feeling of those more aligned with Bell Labs than Wall St is that the answer to the question "when will ICANN allow us to register domains at the top level" was almost always "never", having lost all faith that the organization even remembers what to do.

So, wp, are you suggesting Peter Dengate Thrush did something nefarious so he could dash out and be involved with the sales of new top level domains? We should be so lucky. Dear Joseph and Mary if only things worked that well in real life. But no, for a couple of reasons.

When things are glacially slow, such as ICANN's new top level domain process, or, a glacier itself, you find they are indeed very very very slow. But, they do move, albeit at, well, a glacial pace. Now, go try and stop one - for with great bulk comes great inertia. ICANN has been on a multi year mission to finish a procedure to apply for people to apply for top level domains for over a decade, while the new tld process itself predates ICANN for at least five years. I know because I'm one of the people that started it and while I have no love at all for ICANN it is nice to see they actually finished this and frankly it would have been finished even if a chimpanzee was the CEO at this point - it's essentially on auto pilot now. Things tend to do that when a thousand people work on something together for a decade.

So I'd love to believe Peter Dengate Thrush swooped in there, kicked butts and took name and got on with the job and got ICANN to do what it was supposed to have in 2000, but it's not like that.

Even if it were possible to do that I know Peter Dengate Thrush and have for ages, I dare anyone to examine every decision he's made to see if it passes the "reasonable man" test; you'd be hard pressed to find a more neutral or reasonable player in this game, and keep in mind Peter came from the intellectual property side of things and I didn't and he is is one of the small number of people from that camp I trust in any position of authority. I know Peter and I like him a lot, to imply what is suggested here says you don't know the man, and that you're guessing and you're guessing incorrectly. Now

, if Peter had never become CEO of ICANN two-odd years ago the ICANN process would have still ended up where it is now, years of inertia yield no other conclusion. Peter could have been part of Minds+Machines anyway under this scenario, and it makes sense, the three players in that company have known each other well since the mid nineties. I'd have been surprised if Peter went anywhere else.

"Revolving door" has become somewhat of a slur, fed by examples of abuse in the banking, medical, military and other sectors, but ICANN has no government contracts to receive, its job, now done, is to make it possible, at least in theory, for anyone qualified (and the qualifications are steep - hence the need for companies such as Mind+Machines) to apply for a top level domain. I'd see the point of this article if only Peter Dengate Thrush's organization were to receive some lucrative and possibly classified contract and were the only recipients, but Peter's job was to make sure this process worked for him, for you and for me. Given the 3902312 man hours of commenting and 5 major revisions based on those comments, the excuses for delay have run out, pay the ticket, take the ride is now the order of the day.

ICANN is now done. It's finally completed the three things given it over a decade ago in a process started by Ira Magaziner, and doesn't really have a lot left to do, the hard part is done, the rest is just busy work and at some point all that work will be done too and just as the NSI monopoly was wound down, ICANN itself at some point assumes a very minor operating role.

In other words, that car race is over. You can expect the cars to pull over now, their drivers will get out and get into their cars and drive home and get on with their lives now, and what you're seeing is normal.

Richard Sexton (RS79)