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In the next four weeks, 100 people will decide the future of the web

While America tucks into Thanksgiving turkey, the world will be taking over the net

Obama and Silicon Valley dinner, Official White House Photo by Pete Souza

On February 8, 2000, the US government signed a contract with the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) to run the so-called "IANA functions" – which glue together the internet as we know it.

Ever since that day, people have been trying to end that contract. This time next year, it will finally happen.

Unfortunately, despite having had nearly 14 years to think about it, the process for deciding how to move the global internet and its addressing systems out from under a US government contract will be decided in the next four weeks. By 100 people. Mostly over email.

The CWG, or Cross Community Working Group (CWG) to Develop an IANA Stewardship Transition Proposal on Naming Related Functions, to give it its full title, has until 27 November to complete its deliberations.

The group has 19 official members and 78 participants as of Wednesday morning when it held its third conference call. Its first meeting was also a conference call held on 6 October; the second was a face-to-face meeting held during lunchtime at an ICANN meeting in Los Angeles, California. Since then, both co-chairs have dropped out, one being replaced just in time to chair the meeting at 6am PST on Wednesday.

The CWG will decide how the internet's entire naming systems will be transitioned to as an as-yet unidentified organization in an as-yet unknown process containing as-yet unknown details.

And so for the first 30 minutes of the two-hour call, a series of high-level "guiding principles" were discussed, including: "All proposals by the CWG must ensure the continued stability or security of the internet" and "the CWG should operate in a transparent manner."

When members started getting agitated at the pace of progress, the next 30 minutes were taken up with a proposal for how to break the work out into different sub-groups. The next 30 minutes were then taken up with people volunteering for the different sub-groups, while complaining that one sub-group was effectively the entire reason why the CWG existed in the first place. People were then told they should volunteer for roles again after the call over email.

The last 30 minutes was taken up with people planning the next meeting, to be held face-to-face in Amsterdam on 19 and 20 November 2014, which roughly one-sixth of the group will be able to attend.

Just to be clear, the deadline of 27 November is Thanksgiving, the largest public holiday in the United States. Bigger than Christmas. Turkey, anyone? ®

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