We’re stuck with ICANN: Official

Historic moment in Internet's history

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Pessimists of the world unite! The US government has granted ICANN another three years to run the Internet in its own idiosyncratic manner.

No-one seriously expected the overseeing organisation to be dumped when the contract ran out on 30 September but until now the Memorandum of Understanding between the Department of Commerce and ICANN has only be extended by one year. Now it has control until September 2006.

The decision is a clear vote of confidence in the "new" ICANN, headed by Paul Twomey, which has seen a fair degree of reorganisation and resulting professionalism that the organisation always lacked. People have been impressed and there is a feeling that a new era is on its way.

But then anyone that has seen the rise to power of the New Labour government in the UK and its subsequent rejection of every principle that people voted for will be more than a little sceptical.

Twomey - a government official through and through - has pulled in other government figures from across the world to head top spots in New ICANN. Another government - the US government - has rewarded this forward thinking. As Twomey says in the press release, just released: "This new agreement clearly indicates the DoC's recognition that ICANN is the right organization to manage the Internet's naming and numbering systems. We look forward to working with the DoC to complete, within this term, the transition toward privatisation that began with the first MoU five years ago. We are pleased that we were able to reach agreement with the DoC on a term giving us three years to get the job done."

This actually is a historic moment in the life of the Internet. The “privatisation” that Twomey mentions refers to the original plans for ICANN - it was to gradually pull away from government control and become an autonomous worldwide organisation. The fact that without the MoU, ICANN would cease to exist in any meaningful manner is proof of the complete shambles that it has made of it.

Given three years though and a slew of government officials, less given over to petty and irrational squabbles, it seems inevitable that when 2006 comes, there won’t be a need for any more US government approvals.

That can only be a good thing - it is ludicrous that something so pervasive as the Internet should ultimately be controlled by the US government - but it is also a terrible shame that the computer scientists and academics were unable to build the Internet as the late, great Jon Postel would have wanted it.

It was perhaps always inevitable that governments would have to have a big say in how such a huge medium would turn out. But if there is a lesson that can be learnt from the failed experiment that was old ICANN, it’s that people should learn to put their differences aside for the greater good. If that had happened, we would have ended up with a far more exciting and democratic Internet than we will now get.reg;

Related link
The MoU press release

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