Reg reporter pledges to sort out internet
Kieren McCarthy stands for ICANN board
McCarthy 2006 Worried about the way the internet is going? Frustrated at secret deals done behind closed doors? Well, worry no longer because The Reg's very own Kieren McCarthy has pledged to sort it out by standing for one of the three board positions that have opened up at internet overseeing organisation ICANN.
Having followed ICANN since the early days for The Register, Kieren told us he had grown tired of making the same complaints against the organisation year after year, so decided to see if he could make a difference from within the organisation.
"ICANN is at a big turning point at the moment. It survived the world summit process, but at the same time has managed to annoy the technical community it is there to represent. It is trying to be more open and transparent but just doesn't seem to know how. So, I thought about it and decided I should stick my money where my mouth is and stand."
ICANN sits at the top of the internet tree and is responsible for the allocation of domain names and IP addresses. As such, it is in charge of the contracts for all dotcoms, dotnets and other global domain names, as well as being the body that decides which new top-level domains should be created. It also oversees the "root zone file" which acts as the top directory for the internet.
Three spaces on the 15 member ICANN Board will become available in December (as well as a series of other appointments within the ICANN system), but so far interest in the positions has been lower than expected, resulting in an extension of the deadline from 16 July to 1 August. Anyone can apply, but they need to carefully follow the rules laid down by ICANN's nominating committee.
The nominating process is confidential and the discussion surrounding candidates entirely secret, although Kieren has purposefully made his application public.
"I am standing on a platform of openness and transparency, and my whole point is to make the ICANN community realise that you can ultimately achieve more by being open - at least when it is possible to be so. For example, some people are worried that if they state publicly they are standing, it will be embarrassing if they aren't chosen.
"But I see it entirely differently: if you want to be one of the people that help mould the future of the internet, you should be prepared to stand up and be counted. And there's no shame in saying you're prepared to give up a big part of your life for the next three years, with no financial reward, just because you want to do your bit for the internet. I hope by standing publicly I will encourage at least one other person to do the same."
Kieren has posted his entire application on his blog and has promised to do the same for anyone else that applies.
All applicants are judged by the 22 member nominating committee on an emailed statement of interest, plus letters from three or four referees named by the applicant. All applications need to be sent in by 1 August and final appointees will be announced before 31 October 2006. For all information on the process, visit http://www.icann.org/committees/nom-comm/formal-call-2006.html on the ICANN website.
Kieren McCarthy's statement of interest for the ICANN board
I believe that ICANN is best placed, best equipped, best prepared and best suited to ensuring that the internet's enormous potential is fulfilled in the best interests of all its users.
However, I am concerned that without an important degree of change - which can most effectively be brought about through the board of directors - that the organisation's ability to moderate between competing interests to find an equitable solution for all will be severely curtailed.
For that reason, I am putting myself forward as a candidate to the board because I believe I possess a set of skills that would prove extremely valuable to ICANN over the next few years.
ICANN has been forced to adapt to circumstance numerous times since its inception, each time following pressure from constituencies who have had little choice but to keep pace with the medium itself. It is quite clear that we are again at that crossroads, and this time it is the issue of transparency that is foremost in people's minds.
There have been a number of highly contentious issues of late - the dotnet and dotcom contracts, the .xxx domain, the budget - and at the centre of each has been a general failure of communication in both directions between ICANN (staff and board) and those loosely defined as the internet community. It is telling, for example, that even just a few months away from the MoU and the IANA contracts, from which ICANN derives all of its authority, that discussion has been limited to private groups, where open public discussion would clearly be preferable.
This generalised failure to communicate is especially ironic given the fact that the internet has enabled wider, freer and simpler communication than at any other point in history. It is also understandable: ICANN does have limited resources and, in the past few years, they have been directed at the wider political arena. That ICANN has made it intact through the WGIG and WSIS process is testament to that focus.
However, I believe it is now essential for ICANN to eschew the secrecy that governments prefer and return to its roots, where agreement is reached by open consensus. RFCs helped create the internet and they can help it evolve too.
I think the main stumbling block to returning to an open and inclusive model of governance is not that people are unwilling or unable to do so, but more that they are uncertain of how to do it effectively. This is where I believe I can be of assistance. Not only do I earn my living from making information publicly available, but I have significant experience in media training, advising company executives on how to provide information and, just as importantly, how to explain difficult and complex realities openly, so avoiding accusations of secrecy or wrong-doing without damaging their own interests.
I should make it clear at this point that I recognise that if I was accepted as an ICANN board member, it would have a significant impact on my journalism in relation to ICANN and to related internet matters. If I was accepted, ICANN's interests would be placed above journalistic concerns. In practice, this would mean writing comment-free stories only from information publicly available, or comment-only pieces written as an ICANN board member, the like of which are frequently written by existing board members.
I believe that with ICANN now widely accepted as the technical authority for the internet, it should provide a clear voice to the world from that technical perspective - there is certainly no shortage of topics that could do with it: IDNs, URIs, domain names, IPv6, and of course the next-generation networks that will again turn everything on its head.
ICANN has too often been used as a political football, but its real strength comes from the people that continue to work tirelessly and for little financial reward in order to maintain the culture that made the internet possible in the first place.
I also believe very strongly in maintaining a single, universal root and so retaining the core characteristic that has made the internet such an extraordinary force in the past decade. I remain confident that despite all the pressures and enticements for people to move away from this model that the logic of retaining a single root can prove strong enough to act as a catalyst for solving all the problems, past, present and future that the internet creates.
I have been following ICANN and the internet in general very closely for more than six years, and while I cannot claim the technical competence or even the management experience that would be ideal in a board member, I see those weaknesses as strengths when it comes to relaying information to as many people as possible.
I have discussed and reviewed the technical aspects of the internet with Paul Mockapetris, Steve Crocker and Bob Kahn, much as I have discussed and reviewed its political components with Nitin Desai, David Gross and Masood Khan. My privileged role as a neutral observer with a press badge has seen me follow ICANN and related internet issues across the globe, and given me access to the decision-makers in each case. As a result, I believe I have a valuable understanding of not only how ICANN works but also how it fits into the bigger picture.
In that sense, I was pleased to see so many people affiliated with ICANN sitting on the advisory board of the Internet Governance Forum, but at the same time it may be useful to reflect on the fact that many wider internet users saw such participation in a negative light.
I would like to play a part in steering the future course of ICANN, and I would do so not in order to push any group or party's aims or ambitions but solely as an internet user in support of the medium itself.