08 April 2009

Time to Get Rid of ICANN

ICANN has always been something of a disaster area, showing scant understanding of what the Internet really is, contemptuous of its users, and largely indifferent to ICANN's responsibilities as guardian of a key part of its infrastructure. Here's the latest proof that ICANN is not fit for its purpose:

The familiar .com, .net, .org and 18 other suffixes — officially "generic top-level domains" — could be joined by a seemingly endless stream of new ones next year under a landmark change approved last summer by the Internet Corp. for Assigned Names and Numbers, the entity that oversees the Web's address system.

Tourists might find information about the Liberty Bell, for example, at a site ending in .philly. A rapper might apply for a Web address ending in .hiphop.

"Whatever is open to the imagination can be applied for," says Paul Levins, ICANN's vice president of corporate affairs. "It could translate into one of the largest marketing and branding opportunities in history."

Got that? This change is purely about "marketing and branding opportunities"...the fact that it will fragment the Internet, sow confusion among hundreds of millions of users everywhere, and lead to the biggest explosion of speculative domain squatting and hoarding by parasites who see the Internet purely as a system to be gamed, is apparently a matter of supreme indifference to those behind ICANN: the main thing is that it's a juicy business opportunity.

Time to sack the lot, and put control of the domain name system where it belongs: in the hands of engineers who care.

Follow me on Twitter @glynmoody


Alt+Left said...

The TLDs have to be aproved by a ICANN board and cost like 10.000 USD each. And you also have to have you own DNS server to be aproved.

Glyn Moody said...

To be honest, those seem like very low barriers to entry.

Anonymous said...

Not that ICANN is innocent of related sins, but might it eventually decrease the problem of domain squatting by having a larger namespace? Or is your primary concern the cybersquatting of "hot words" as TLDs?

Glyn Moody said...

My main problem is that it's far too cheap for people to register speculatively thousands of domain names in the hope of selling a few for huge sums later. It's a classic tragedy of the commons.

I'd like to see a system changed so that it's harder to get a domain name, and harder to sell on. Not too hard, obviously, but as you know, domain tasting means that it's possible to register huge numbers for zero cost.

Unknown said...

Hi Glyn,

You've missed out several vital steps that have been put in place precisely to prevent the kind of abuse you seem to be worried about.

This process is building on the two previous expansions of the domain namespace and the lessons learnt from that have been pulled in.

Also re: domain tasting, the ICANN community - which includes everyone from the registries and registrars to governments, business, the technical community and individual Internet users - came up with a solution to that a few months ago and domain tasting has slumped ever since.

If you want to be heard however, it is very simple, it is the last day of the public comment period for the Applicant Guidebook that outlines the whole process.

Go here: http://tiny.cc/2ntIN

Within two minutes you can send an email outlining your concerns and views and it will be picked up and included in a summary and analysis of all the views expressed over the past 60 days.


Kieren McCarthy
General manager of public participation, ICANN

Glyn Moody said...

@kieren: thanks for the comments. Do you have a link to your solution for domain tasting - I'd be interested to see the details.

The fact that ICANN has a "General manager of public participation" is a good sign, although I still remain sceptical (but then, as a journalist, that's obligatory)...

Unknown said...

Hi Glyn,

This is probably the best single link re: domain tasting.

It is to the Board resolution approving a recommendation from the main policy-making body within ICANN, the GNSO, with a link to that recommendation.


But here is also the implementation plan for that recommendation/resolution with extar information:



Glyn Moody said...

OK, the domain tasting idea seems reasonable: it will be interesting to see how it pans out.

My other main concerns are that there will nevertheless be a huge rush to register obvious words in the new domains, and that users are going to get very confused about what is a valid domain and what isn't as the number of possibilities multiplies. Again, we'll have to see how it works out.