Highs, lows and sickos

The unspoken side of the Morroccan meeting

The ice! The ice!

Talking of unpleasantness, there has been a long series of illnesses in Marrakech. Following the Tuesday Chez Ali meet-up, a number of people decided to spend the next day in their bathrooms rather than the conference centre. The same happened following the Wednesday .mobi event at a local restaurant, and a number of ICANN regulars were spotted the next day looking very tired and green.

This led to a regular exchanges as people attempted to locate the culprit: did you eat the chicken in the cous-cous? Did you eat the skin of the lamb? What did you drink? Were you sitting on the toilet, or clutching it? And so on.

Eventually, it was Mrs Michael Palage - who had spend the night nursing her husband while feeling rotten herself - who figured it out. The ice cubes! she cried. And sure enough, the culprit has been found. A moment's silence then for all the bodily fluids expelled in the past few days thanks to dodgy frozen water.

Jon Postel repercussions

ICANN is in for some very, very big changes in the next few years and everyone is trying to get a handle on it. My response has been to consider "what ifs..."

Jon Postel "what ifs" are the most intriguing. The biggest: what if Jon Postel had not died when he did? Dr Postel believed that the internet space should have been hundreds of top-level domains right from the word go. Just imagine how different the net would be now if there was a .news, .house, .glass, .mac, .monkey, .sleepy-bye-bye. I have a rough estimate that 60 per cent of all the controversy created on the internet and forced upon ICANN since 1998 has come about through unnecessary scarcity of domain names, and the resulting power plays by rich companies keen to defend their position.

Another big one: what if Jon Postel had had a sturdy lawyer when he was told by Ira Magaziner that he would face criminal actions when his "test" shifted half the internet out of the control of the US government? If he had told Mr Magaziner where to stick his threats, the US government would never had gained control and another 30 per cent of the internet's woes would have been avoided.

What if ICANN hadn't decided to kill all the At Large Board members thanks to the distracting appearance of Karl Auerbach? Would the public inclusion that ICANN is now so desperate to seek have happened automatically? Would the influx of people outside the existing ICANN internet community have made it all work better?

What if George W Bush's swinging chads had swung the other way, if 9/11 hadn't happened? Would the USG still stubbornly be insisting on keeping control of IANA and ICANN? Would it still be disrupting the flow of ICANN's processes for its own ends?

The what ifs are a good check on where we are, and where we could have been. Do any of them point to a better internet, to a more effective ICANN? Because if they do, what if the internet community decided that was where it wanted to be anyway?

Marrakech has become, for almost arbitrary reasons, one of the hubs of the internet's history. The meetings held here in the past 20 years have decided the fate of a medium that is almost certain to revolutionise and alter every aspect of our lives on this planet. There is an odd sense that somehow this meeting has added to that long history.

How, no one has yet figured out. ®

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