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[I-coordination] The self correcting nature of the American system? Judge rules against NSA tapping program. Snowden vindicated?

Andrew Sullivan ajs at
Tue Dec 17 15:26:44 CET 2013


On Tue, Dec 17, 2013 at 03:57:28PM +0300, Ali Hussein wrote:
> ICANN plays a major role in this. Who really controls ICANN? 

As a fairly long-time observer of ICANN[1], I have often been dismayed
by ICANN's apparent unwillingness to make any decision at all.  It
seems to me that the most recent gTLD expansion is an example of this:
because ICANN isn't able to say, "No," all manner of bad ideas have
been permitted into this round of root expansion, and the timelines
have been far more sacred than technical considerations.  So I'm not
actually convinced that ICANN plays a "major" role at all.

The "real" control of ICANN, in my opinion, is the DNS name industry,
with two secondary brakes coming from the
trademark/intellectual-property interests and the GAC.  I have a
mighty hard time believing that the jurisdictional home of ICANN makes
any difference whatever to this sort of thing; if it does, I would
like some kind of argument beyond, "This is obvious."  It is not
obvious, and if one wants others to accept that conclusion one's going
to need some premises.  The actual evidence of ICANN's behaviour with
respect to management of the root zone is that it is almost completely
permissive.  And there is certainly no evidence of any kind of
interference in the operation of or continued presence in the root of
any ccTLD.  Those have been operated entirely according to the
principle of reflecting the ISO country codes.  There is a controversy
about string similarity in a few cases.  But such controversies would
emerge no matter what the management regime of the root zone, because
they inhere in the tension between internationalization and

The other roles of ICANN are again different.  ICANN's role as the
very top-level manager of the number space has been slightly rocky in
the past, but the kinks appear to me to have worked out and the RIRs
are clearly collaborating well in the NRO.  ICANN's role as the IANA
operator also places in its hands the protocol number registries, and
while one can argue pretty easily that the protocol number registries
could trivially be delivered to another organization, there's no
evidence of any kind that ICANN has ever behaved even remotely
improperly in the operation of that function.

I have plenty of complaints about ICANN, but I'm not convinced that it
is "central" to Internet governance.  I think it would be nice to cope
with the issue of a single legal jurisdiction, but I don't really
think it's urgent and I think it far from plain that the alternatives
are dramatically better.  Moreover, as several others have suggested,
the unanalysed premise that ICANN is fundamental in this discussion
conflates several dimensions of the term "governance" (and may be

Again, I'd like to know what people mean by "governance" in this

Best regards,


[1] Full disclosure: I was employed once by an ICANN-contracted
registry.  I personally turned on the first of the new gTLDs back in
2001.  I had contracts to perform work for ICANN in 2011 and 2012, and
I was one of the principal authors of the Variant Issues Project
report and the TLD Label Generation Rules procedures document.  I am
currently employed by an ICANN-accredited registrar.  I'm currently
the IAB's liaison shepherd for the IETF liaison manager to ICANN.  In
all of this message, I am speaking only for myself.

Andrew Sullivan
ajs at

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