Breakfast with NSI - ICANN membership discussion

Breakfast with NSI / ICANN membership discussion

I was at a breakfast meeting with NSI in Berlin once. Yeah yeah.

I'd showed up there the night before, I'd met Milton Mueller and Michael Sondow that night after just having flown in and Don Telage walked by. I looked like a freak. I was in my comfy travelling clothes and I have pretty long hair. He introduced himself and asked if I'd like to sit in on a meeting they were having tomorrow morning to dsicuss what key points they felt were important for the formation of the DNSO and a membership for ICANN. I wasn't sure why they wanted me there. But they'd sent me a ticket to show up and hadn't asked for anyting in return, so I figured it was only polite to go, plus I'd always found these guys to be pretty resonable.

I said "of course" and he left.

I got up the next day, showered, and put on my best Italian $3000 Canali suit, a light green summer weight wool job I'd bought 5 years back.

I've made a small fortune by working exclusively online. Unfortunately I started with a large fortune from being a realtime/firmware contract programmer. But I still had the suit I'd bought 5 years ago after a momentary weakness made me plonk down $300 when I saw it and went in every week and haded over yet another fistful of bills towards its purchase.

I get to the meeting and like any meeting n any company there's a joker in every crowd. I'm used to this being John Berryhill but in the Network Solutions world this was was Phil Sbarbro, their head attorney. "Wow, don't you clean up well!" he said. Chuck Gomes laughed the loudest.

I was ready to hear the evil empire find a way to destroy those worthless peons that are Internet users. But no. The funny thing was, to be honest, they seemed to lean a lot more towards principles of democracy than principles of theocracy, sometimes egregious, that I see happen in public fora of organizations that begin with the letter "I". The DNSO composition they'd suggested was similar to but not exactly the same as what it ended up being.

Then came the issue of membership. Don Telage spoke to this and articulated the idea that "poeple should be able to join and to vote". The implications of this were pretty staggering to me: what if the members decide to give .com to somebody else? It seemed to me NSI potentially had the most to lose by a membership able to vote over that happens to the DNS.

But, what would be, would be I figured. If they can keep the majority of those people happy then things will be fine. I reasoned this to be an excellent example of a "good faith effort". If both sides operate in good faith then all things being equal the voting membership and NSI would be reasonable and that to me struck a good balance. So ok, they're cool with a membership.

Don Telage then said he felt it should "cost a few bucks". That didn't sit well with me, I'm used to the "free as in beer" nature of cooperative online collaboration - which really doesn't cost anything at all. But, who was I to disagree with a dozen NSI guys in suits though? It's not like I'm an officially appointed representative of the Internet at large. Now, the US the Army, "be all you can be" so I pretended I was and declared *I* thought it should be free.

Don quitely offered the retort: "You gotta have some skin in the game" which is an American expression I'd never heard before but figured out quickly. "$5 or $10, probably $5, will keep people who aren't serious out". I immediately thought of a fisherman in Mozambique, at that point the poorest country in the world and wondered why he's want to spent two weeks salary to be able to vote in ICANN but figured this was an edge case and overall this was probably a good idea. I found the "skin in the game" argument compelling enough to change my mind.

My opinion on this was suddenly changed, so ok, a few bucks, probably $5. This makes sense.

Years later it strikes me as odd - NSI could have said "no members" - but it didn't and had obviously given some thought to the validity of a voting membership and was being constructive - in all good faith they expected it to exist and to actually work and have power of force. And as negative as I was on the new ICANN regime I always did expect they'd have a membership exactly as the white paper and awarding of the "newco" contract dictated.

But no. Network Solutions as the evil empire was prepared to work with and for a membership and had no fear of it. Yet the ICANN board, a perpetually self appointed bunch, was much more concerned about the existence of a membership.

And this strikes me as very, very odd. And contrary to the principles of the government mandate it operated by that spoke of "membership" and a board "immune to capture".