Finally the .com discussion is over…

… well, at least one part of it.

As ICANN announced, the Board approved the VeriSign Settlement Agreement.

Here’s the full text of the ICANN note and my remarks:


Marina del Rey, California, 28 February 2006:
Today, ICANN’s Board of Directors approved, by a majority vote, a set of agreements settling a long time dispute between ICANN and VeriSign, the registry operator for the .COM registry.

These settlement documents include a new registry agreement relating to the operation of the .COM registry. The new .COM registry agreement will now proceed to the U.S. Department of Commerce for final approval, and the entire settlement is dependent upon this approval before it is finalized. USDOC approval is required due to the unique history of the .COM generic top-level domain and it is the only gTLD which requires such approval. If approved, this settlement will clear the way for a new and productive relationship between ICANN and VeriSign facilitating ICANN’s stewardship and technical coordination of the Internet’s domain name system.

ICANN’s Board voted 9 to 5 in favor of the settlement agreements with one director abstaining. Affirmative votes were cast by the following Board Members: Vint Cerf (Chairman), Alejandro Pisanty (Vice-Chairman), Mouhamet Diop, Demi Getschko, Hagen Hultzsch, Veni Markovski, Vanda Scartezini, Paul Twomey (President and CEO), and Hualin Qian. Directors who voted against the approval of the settlement documents were: Raimundo Beca, Susan Crawford, Joichi Ito, Njeri Rionge, and Peter Dengate Thrush. Director Michael Palage abstained. Statements by Board members on their votes will be posted on the ICANN website within the next two days.

In other business during today’s meeting, the ICANN Board approved seven separate recommendations by ICANN’s ccNSO (Country-Code Name Supporting Organization) regarding improvements and clarifications to the ICANN Bylaws. One recommendation was put over for additional discussion with the ccNSO at ICANN’s upcoming meeting in Wellington, New Zealand scheduled for the last week of March. These policy recommendations were presented to the ICANN Board from the first policy development process (ccPDP) conducted by the ccNSO. This successful policy development process generated from the ccTLD community was a significant milestone for ICANN’s technical coordination of the Internet’s domain name system.

About ICANN

ICANN is an internationally organised, non-profit corporation that has responsibility for Internet Protocol (IP) address space allocation, protocol identifier assignment, generic (gTLD) and country code (ccTLD) Top-Level Domain name system management, and root server system management functions. As a private-public partnership, ICANN is dedicated to preserving the operational stability of the Internet; to promoting competition; to achieving broad representation of global Internet communities; and to developing policy appropriate to its mission through bottom-up, consensus-based processes.

All media inquiries to press@icann.org or call:

Asia Pacific: Tony Blackie +61 417 743 142
Europe: Andrew Robertson: +44 7921 588770
Americas: Tanzanica King: +1 310 301 5804

Now, there will be many questions, many pros and contras, but for me the main question is that finally this discussion is over.

Here’s what I think about my vote and the agreement itself.

I think the agreement is a positive step forwards, as it puts an end to a long-lasting tension, which was driving ICANN away from its main job. I also think it’s important to note that now the agreement needs to be approved by the DoC, before it’s really enacted. That’s additional step, which makes sure that agreement by ICANN are taken in accordance with the laws. *

I don’t believe ICANN integrity will be undermined by this agreement. It is true that for some of the US-companies this agreement means less profits, and for some – more profits. But there’s no possibility to have both parties right and happy. But, what is more important – I don’t think the registrants will feel difference in pricing**. In some ways, it will actually encourage competition – with other top-level domains (TLDs), and hopefully – with the .us, which is not a very popular TLD in the USA.***

I think that the policy development in this case did not happen the way it should have (now, some question whether this was a policy development question). But I don’t think it’s ICANN’s fault. I think it’s a failure of the ICANN community, and the continuous processing in which it has been involved for quite a while. I told a number of times the ICANN community, during our meetings with them – don’t just tell us the problems, we know them. Suggest the solutions, participate in their formation. That didn’t happen ****. Further, we never heard from the ICANN community their conflicts of interests, and we could never be sure when someone speaks whose interests they represent.

I don’t think ICANN is betraying the people who genuinely supported ICANN throughout the years by settling this case. I think that we took a very difficult decision, but it’s the usual way – people expect the Board to give them solutions, so that they can criticize both them, and ICANN Board. I am already used to this…

I also think that the people we heard in the previous months are just the usual ICANN community. They do not cover all the global Internet community that ICANN is supposed to protect and make sure the Internet runs for them, too. We basically heard only the US-business, and the businesses that deal with .com domains. There are several explanations about it – a) the others are not so noisy, b) the others don’t care, c) the others agree with the a).

I am not concerned about the budget that ICANN would / might have. Actually the Board is the one to approve the budget. I would urge the community to pay close attention to the structure of the budget, and participate actively in its formation. That’s the way to deal with it, and make sure that if there is any excess money, it should be used for projects in developing countries.

And I don’t think that the big achievement of this agreement is the saving of USD Millions for litigation, although it’s still a feature, not a bug.

The agreement is not a victory for VeriSign or for ICANN, it’s a common sense in action. To blame ICANN with the words, “VeriSign wins” or “it’s a victory for VeriSign”, or “ICANN lost” means not to have in mind all aspects of the agreement but only one. That’s not fair to ICANN, to ICANN Board, and to ICANN staff.

I agree with Susan that we need to start to talk about ICANN and its role in a changing environment – although again I think this is probably one of the wrong ways to do it – top-bottom, instead of bottom-up process.
I fully agree with the following by her, “Most importantly, we will need to evaluate how ICANN should be structured and should operate for the future, so that crises of confidence like that created by this proposed agreement can be avoided. We should take this opportunity to engage together to make ICANN into a “city on the hill” ­ a model of private self-governance. This is the most pragmatic approach available, and it is in the best interests of ICANN.

I hope it’s a good day for the Internet, and I hope that now it’s over, we’ll be able to focus again on the important issues, which have been put on the second stage by the urgent ones.

P.S. After reading my notes again, and seeing some of the comments on the vote, I need to make some edits; instead of changing my notes above, I’d rather add some here.

My decision was not easy; it would have been much easier to abstain or vote against it – I wouldn’t need to explain anything, certain people would love me for my position… And for sure, if I have been thinking of running again for the Board this year, a negative vote would have made my chances higher 😉 I think though, that the fact all of the people whose term expires this year, have voted in favour of the agreement should signal the critics that either none of us wants to run again, or that we are taking our duty as directors more seriously than people believed we were able to. Because exactly that fact signals that we were more free to take the decision, not having to carry the burden of thinking, “Oh, how are we going to live with this until the end of my term.” And, by the way, I don’t think this decision solves only the litigation (regardless of my belief that even the bad out-of-court agreement is better than the good court verdict). It solves many problems, and the solution is in the interest of the development of the Internet.

But at the same time, knowing it would have been a very popular vote, I have to admit I am not fighting for glory, and certainly not for glory in the ICANN environment. What I want from ICANN is the Internet to run smoothly, the DNS to work, and to be able to get an IP address for my servers. And for every user that is on line.
However, every person around ICANN has their own opinion on every issue discussed by the Board. And everyone believes their opinion is the right one.
Some people blame the Board as if it is working in conspiracy – regardless of the fact that there are 15 Board directors, some of them famous bloggers, with active blogs, and no one has stopped a director from publishing anything, afaik.
Some people claim that the Board follows staff recommendations without challenging them.
And some people believe that ICANN is not needed at all, and it should not exist.
I am not so sure all of the above is right.
Well, it has always been easier to criticize than to send positive contribution to ICANN. Why not, I can criticize ICANN on my own quite well!

Note that I always use “some” – because I don’t believe all people around ICANN are thinking the same way.

In anycase, we’ll see soon whether this was a “good day for the Internet”, or a “death sentence” for ICANN.

____

Some notes and explanations:

* – In the ideal world, when ICANN is fully in charge, this “protection” should be made by the community; may be even by the international community (not necessarily the ITU or the UN, though). This security feature does unfortunately not exist today in full extent. If I was not on the Board today, I’d actually start such a process, enter in negotiations with all interested parties to make sure this happens soon.

** – Why the registrants will not pay too much? Because they have a number of options, starting from moving away from their current registrar, which decides to charge them more. Some of the registrars charge even today $ 35 / year, which gives them enough room for not increasing the price. In fact, the increase of prices at the registry level (if such exists), will make the different registrars matter more. We’ll see soon what will happen – perhaps next year. The only registrants, who will suffer, are the ones who have millions of TLDs registered. But that’s a business risk; they’ll manage to deal with it – increase prices for domains they sell, e.g.

*** – I understand some people didn’t understand my English here (I need to improve it, damn it!!). What I mean here is that today the .us is not popular; however, if the .com prices go high, the .us will have an opportunity – regardless of how they work today – to become a competitor to .com. If they don’t, someone else will – perhaps a new gTLD, too.

**** – Some people say “We gave you solutions. Actually we only got a response to one of the problems – the case in the court. I don’t really accept that the litigation, which the registrars said they will fund, is the only outcome of the agreement. Yes, it’s important, but it’s not the most important one.

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3 Responses to Finally the .com discussion is over…

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  2. Pingback: Blogs of Internet Society - Bulgaria » Blog Archive » .eu hits the sky

  3. I think that reading this made my day complete. Actually I may sound little dummy, but i didn’t know that Veni Markovski has something to do with ICANN

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