The following text is copyright 1998 by Network World, permission is hearby given for reproduction, as long as attribution is given and this notice is included.
A glass 7/8ths full
By Scott Bradner
Most of the time I think that Mark Gibbs knows what he is talking about but in the case of his November 30 article on ICANN I'm quite sure he does not.
I may be biased since I've been involved with this issue for the last two or so years but my view of ICANN is rather different than Mark's.
As Mark reported, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) is a private non-profit corporation which has been created to privatize the functions of the Internet Assigned Number Authority (IANA) which was managed by Jon Postel until his recent death. (see "The Internet is not dead, NWW October 26, 1998 - p38)
The current form of ICANN is the result of negations between Jon Postel, Network Solutions, and the U.S. government. Like most products of extensive negation the purity of design is sometimes hard to find, but ICANN is basically true to Jon's vision of having the management of some of the Internet's technical infrastructure be done with input from technical experts for the benefit of the Internet community.
The discussions over the form of ICANN have involved three different groups of people: The people, usually from the technical and Internet service provider communities who were in quite strong agreement with what Jon was trying to accomplish. The people who supported the basic ideas but have had issues with some of the implementation details. And the people who did not like the basic concept itself. Too many commentators seem to confuse the last two groups.
The best way to summarize my difference of view from Mark's is to look at the mid November ICANN meeting that Mark mentions in his column. (See http://cyber.law.harvard.edu/icann/archive/ for a transcript.) I was at that meeting, as were about 200 other people with quite varied backgrounds. Attendees were from each of the above groups and quite a few people who wanted to see what was going on.
As Mark implies, there was quite a bit of dissension at that meeting but most of it was from a handful of the attendees, a number of whom came to the mike repeatedly.
It seems to have been missed that by far the most applause came when Mark Luker of EDUCAUSE, a non-profit association of sixteen hundred colleges and universities, said "Our members believe that the present Board, the interim Board and the by-laws are an excellent start. We would urge that we get on with this business." I prefer to hear that applause and Mark prefers to hear the repeated complaints of a small minority.
Even though the board made a number of changes in the ICANN bylaws to address much of the concerns of the group of people who were worried about specific details I would not claim that ICANN is perfect, it is a glass 7/8ths full. Its unfortunate that Mark aligns himself with those who see the glass as empty because they disagree with the basic concept of an Internet run for the benefit of the community rather than the benefit of a few.
disclaimer: Some Harvard people were involved in the ICANN meeting, in spite of that the above is my own opinion.