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December 30, 2005

Kieren McCarthy on the Import of 2005

Kieren McCarthy on the Import of 2005:

2005:The year the US government undermined the Internet: "On 28 July 2005 at a special [ICANN] board meeting ....consciously and for the first time, ICANN used a US

government-provided reason to turn over Kazakhstan's internet ownership

to a government owned and run association without requiring consent

from the existing owners. The previous owners, KazNIC, had been created

from the country's Internet community...."

December 29, 2005

What's in a Name? - Circle ID

What's in a Name?:

Internet domain names are truly bizarre. There is nothing especially remarkable about them from a technical perspective, but from a social and political perspective they are all sorts of fun. We can have arguments over control of the DNS root, arguments over whether names are property, arguments over innate rights to specific names, arguments over a registrar's right (or lack thereof) to exploit unregistered names for private gain, and many more arguments besides. In this article, I'd like to explore the argument-space rather than defend any particular position in it. In so doing, I hope to illuminate some novel (or under-emphasised) perspectives on the matter.

December 20, 2005

Revisiting the idea (the very stupid idea) of sponsored top level domains

Revisiting the idea (the very stupid idea) of sponsored top level domains:

ICANN loves "sponsored" top level domains.  It has given us
TLDs for co-ops, Catalonian speakers, "professionals" (except for the
world's oldest profession), travel businesses, etc.

That world of "sponsored" TLDs is so exciting and vibrant! 
And so useful too!

So in a moment of unrestrained excitement over sponsored TLDs, I have come up
with some ideas for new sponsored TLDs.

I'll begin with ".family".  And by this I don't mean
some neutered and sterile Disneyesque kind of family.  Appropriate
residents under my .family would present content describing how families
are created, including biological details, and methods for keeping control of
family size (which would, of course, include those providing abortion services.)

And then I'd add ".christian" (and other TLDs for other
major religions.)  As sponsor I'd be able to say who is worthy to have a
name under .christian and who is not.  For starters, I'd make sure
that the list of excluded names includes "Robertson",
"Dobson", "Falwell" - they would be vectored over to the .ElmerGantry

And then there's ".fruitcake".  This TLD would give
free names to those who claim to have been kidnapped by space aliens, 
practice feline phrenology, or believe that "intelligent
" should be taught in schools.

What is ICANN's policy about "sponsored" TLDs doing to the
internet?  The best way to answer is to draw a parallel:  What ICANN
is doing to the internet is similar to what would have happened had some 16th
century ICANN forced Gutenburg to use his new printing press to print nothing
but Sharper Image catalogues and Wal Mart flyers.

December 09, 2005

ICANN: how to listen to the individual Internet user - Wendy Seltzer

ICANN: how to listen to the individual Internet user:

The recent ICANN meeting in Vancouver touched upon many issues important to ordinary Internet users: privacy in domain name registration; the cost and terms of .com domain names; internationalized domains; introduction of new domain suffixes. But there were few "ordinary Internet users" at the meeting. Few people can roam the globe to keep up with ICANN's travels, and not many more participate in online forums.

This doesn't mean that individuals are unaffected by ICANN or uninterested. Collectively, individual users have substantial legal and financial interests in ICANN policies; they are clearly the most numerous affected class. However, they tend to have many diffuse interests, not one sharp connection. Unlike those whose businesses depend on ICANN-related issues, many individuals may not feel their personal stakes justify high-intensity involvement with the ICANN process. How, then, does ICANN listen to those voices?

So far, not well. This question has been plaguing ICANN from the beginning, when it established then tore down an individual voting membership. In place of votes for board seats, it gave at-large parties the ALAC, but ALAC has been struggling to be heard within ICANN and working to get in better touch with the individuals.

Why don't we hear more from the individual Internet users? First, we should dismiss the impulse to say "if they don't speak up, it must not matter." It matters to the individual if her web-hosting-plus-domain-name package increases in price without changing in service offered; it matters to the individual if he can't register a domain name for his weblog without making his address and telephone number public; it matters to the (non-U.S.) individual if she can't type domain names in her native character set. But all these users all have other demands on their time, and we need to convince them it's worth their time at least to tell ICANN/ALAC about their concerns. To do that, we need to be able to say that ICANN is listening -- Not necessarily that every concern will lead to a change in policy, but that the aggregated concerns will at least inform policy discussions and form part of the "consensus" that's supposed to guide ICANN policy.

At the moment, I can't honestly encourage groups to join ALAC structures, but I can ask that they speak up so we can tell ICANN what it's failing to hear.

How to Listen to the Individual Internet User

How to Listen to the Individual Internet User:

The recent ICANN meeting in Vancouver touched upon many issues important to ordinary Internet users: privacy in domain name registration; the cost and terms of .com domain names; internationalized domains; introduction of new domain suffixes. But there were few "ordinary Internet users" at the meeting. Few people can roam the globe to keep up with ICANN's travels, and not many more participate in online forums.

A Specific, Concrete COMment - From Brent

A Specific, Concrete COMment:

Okay, I caved in to the pressure and sent ICANN one of those "concrete, actionable" proposals the Board has been seeking. I said that ICANN should(a) unbundle the four major issues (registry services, root publication, funding, and .COM), (b) move forward with the registry services and root publication aspects of the proposals, (c) create a special task force on funding, and (d) move forward on .COM under the renewal provision of the current agreement. Now the ball's in your court, ICANN.

December 07, 2005

9/11 Commissioners Criticize Lack of Cybersecurity Progress...

But wait a minute! Isn't ICANN supposed to be dealing with the technical management of the Internet, which obviously includes security? Am I missing something?

9/11 Commissioners Criticize Lack of Cybersecurity Progress...:

9/11 Commissioners Criticize Lack of Cybersecurity Progress

December 06, 2005

Is a Domain Name Property?

Is a Domain Name Property?:

In an article by Sheldon Burshtein, published in the Journal of Intellectual Property Law & Practice, the author examines the view on whether domain names are properties. The following is the abstract of this article: "...Domain names have become increasingly valuable assets, in some respects more valuable than trade marks. A domain name may identify not only the source of the goods, services, business or information, but also the virtual location of the source, much as an address or telephone number does. However, there is still a significant unresolved issue as to whether a domain name is a form of intangible property or merely a contractual right."

December 05, 2005

The XXX Train Wreck in Vancouver

The XXX Train Wreck in Vancouver:

It is now clear that by sending its letter of August 12 blocking approval of the .XXX domain, the US Government has done more to undermine ICANN's status as a non-governmental, multi-stakeholder policy body than any of its Internet governance "enemies" in the ITU, China, Brazil, or Iran. And despite all the calls for a government role that would ensure "rule of law" and "accountability" of ICANN, the interventions of governments are making this aspect of Internet governance more arbitrary and less accountable.

December 02, 2005

ICANN: ALAC meets the ICANN Board

ICANN: ALAC meets the ICANN Board:

For three years, I've been a member of ICANN's "Interim" At-Large Advisory Committee, ALAC. At this Vancouver meeting, for the first time, the ICANN Board met with us, and Bret captured it on mp3 for podcast.

ALAC criticized ICANN's proposed settlement with Verisign, and then spoke about the problems with the current structure for at-large participation.

See, if you're an individual interested in the management of domain names and Internet infrastructure, you can't participate directly in ICANN, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers. Instead, you have to form an organization to apply to ALAC for recognition as an "at-large structure"; gather with other such structures to form a "regional at-large organization"; and as a RALO, elect members to the advisory committee that can make statements it's not clear anyone listens to. Although individual board members assured us that they do listen to ALAC statements, it's not a terribly attractive prospect for individuals or organizations looking to deploy scarce time and resources.

ICANN, however, has been using the ALAC to say that it offers representation to individual Internet users. If it wants to claim public support, it must offer the public a more meaningful opportunity for participation. ALAC, as currently structured, is not that public voice. As I said to the Board, I would rather see ALAC disbanded than used as this type of window-dressing. Better still would be to restructure so that the Internet-using public had a real role in ICANN process.

Update: Susan Crawford was listening, and as a newly-selected member of ICANN's Board, will be in a position to help untangle the knots.

The "Parked Domain Monetization" Business

The "Parked Domain Monetization" Business:

I think that a large number of people buying domains can't get their first choice name because some "parked domain monetization" operation (cyber-squatter) owns it and is making money running ads on the page. The trick is to sign up for millions of domain names; set up pages and run ads on them; after 1 day delete domains that have no traffic; after 3 days delete names that have some traffic; after 5 days delete pages with marginal traffic; keep the 1% of pages that have enough traffic to be worth keeping the domain. Because of the refund policy, the 99% of pages deleted before the 5 day grace period are refunded in full and the "monetizer" gets to keep the ad revenue generated over those 5 days. ...Interestingly, I think Google AdSense probably has boosted the viability of this business.

Lawsuits Filed Against ICANN-VeriSign Settlement

Lawsuits Filed Against ICANN-VeriSign Settlement:

The new organization called Coalition for ICANN Transparency (CFIT) has filed a lawsuit against ICANN and VeriSign in order to stop implementation of the proposed .com registry agreement. According to its description, "CFIT is a not-for-profit Delaware corporation based in Washington, D.C. CFIT’s supporters include individuals, organizations, institutions and companies who are committed to the core principles on which ICANN, the internet governing body is founded."