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ICANN: It's my party and I'll cry if I want to

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ICANN meeting This is the fifth and final instalment of our exclusive diary from New.net's director of policy and marketing Andy Duff on the ICANN meeting in Uruguay. Having met up with all the combatants, sorry constituencies, and told of trouble brewing; demonstrated just one aspect of ICANN's bureaucratic and self-serving processes; and chewed over the future of the organisation, Andy spends his last day in Montevideo having a few lagers and a chin wag with some of the lead players

  • It seems Montevideo's "W bar" has been a major factor behind the blurry eyes in today's Public Forum. A quality drinking hole apparently for those of you planning your hols here. ICANN staff can now add Montevideo to Melbourne and Stockholm for detailed knowledge of drinking establishments picked up over the last 6 months. At least you get four good holidays a year ;-)
  • The Whois Committee reported to the Board today. They said that things would be complete by "Spring/early Summer 2002", which prompted a gentle reminder from one of the Board members to remember that ICANN represents both North *and* South hemispheres where summer represents a very different time.
  • Andrew McLaughlin (chief policy wonk for ICANN) showed he has a good sense of humour today. During his presentation on the contracts ICANN is offering ccTLDs, he suggested the ICANN globe-based logo might be changed to a picture of the Deathstar; chairman Vint Cerf followed up with a quick impression of Darth Vader - heavy breathing and all.
  • It seems though that the ccTLDs believe there’s some truth in the Deathstar analogy - immediately after McLaughlin's presentation, we witnessed a major bust-up (by ICANN standards) over those same contracts the ccTLDs are negotiating with ICANN. Peter Dengate-Thrush (the main spokesman for the ccTLD movement) took the microphone to express in no uncertain terms that he found the ICANN staff's "top-down" approach "severely disappointing" and suggested the whole thing was a "PR exercise" by the staff - who Dengate-Thrush clearly feels have been engaging in confrontational rather than participative negotiations.

    Others involved in ccTLDs came to the microphone to express their dissatisfaction too in what became an increasingly acrimonious exchange. Although board member Hans Kraaijenbrink "detected a sense that there are ccTLDs which do not want to enter into relationships with ICANN", it seems likely that ICANN *will* eventually hammer out some form of agreement with the vast majority (and probably all) of the ccTLDs. But the criticisms of how negotiations are being run echo many of the other criticisms of ICANN staff's high-handed approach.

  • One for the domainiacs among you - only at an ICANN conference can you find the Realnames CEO, the New.net CEO and CMO, a former chair of the ICANN DNSO GA, a Verisign ICANN rep, one of the leaders of the NAIS project, a senior exec from Register.com, and a senior exec from Neulevel all crushed together in one lift. And who says ICANN's not about networking?
  • Had a couple of beers with one of the world's good guys this evening, Amadeu Abril I Abril. He also happens to be an ICANN Board director. Amadeu's enthusiastically garrulous nature at ICANN Board meetings stands out against the lack of vocal input from many of the other Board members. Just a thought - perhaps if the Board were more open in the public discussions that they have, there would be more understanding of their decisions? But then the Board was set up to be at the apex of a consensus based bottom-up policy process, which is currently being stifled through an unrepresentative structure. No wonder the Board's often silent, when they often don't have the information they need. FYI, Amadeu's just been elected for another three-year term.
  • Finished off with an ever-so-slightly-inebriated discussion with Werner Staub, excom member of CORE (Council of Internet Registrars). Werner's one smart cookie, and it was great that he was up for an open discussion about what we do and why we are doing it. That’s all we've ever asked for really.
  • Tomorrow's the last day of the meeting. I'll be on a plane back to Blighty, so this is my last post. Of course I haven't covered all the issues, so I'd recommend ICANN watch if you want to know more or ICANN's own site if you want to read the minutes.

Speaking for New.net, we'll continue to advocate a thinner ICANN with less interference in the market and on attempts (like ours) to give Internet users greater choice. We'll also continue to push for better interfaces between *all* the users of the Internet and ICANN. Our business would not have been needed if ICANN was genuinely addressing the needs of the broad Internet community - specifically by releasing new top-level domains at a speed which matches market demand. If you want top contact me, you can reach me at andy@new.net.

Adios till the next ICANN get-together on their home patch in LA.

Andy

Previous diaries

Performance and cocktails
The bickering begins
Mexican stand-off in Montevideo
The insider's guide to the ICANN meeting

Top three mobile application threats

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