To all future ICANN directors – the hidden, secret part of ICANN’s life

Many people ask me “What is it to be on the Board of ICANN?”

Here is my response, with some astonishing data.

From the outside it looks great – lots of travel, business class, good hotels.

From the inside: lot of work. You travel to New Zealand – two nights on planes, and you don’t have even an extra day to see anything. Why not having an extra day? You will see below.

Let’s take a closer look at the time we spent on ICANN…
The ICANN Board list has 16217 messages since I joined (June 25, 2003) until a couple of weeks ago, when I did the calculations below.
The different committees I am in have the following number of mails:

Meetings Committee – 365
Audit – 234
Board Governance – 106
Board only – 142
General Assembly – 265 (since january 2006)
GAC WG – 94
ICANN- 4152 (directly related)
ICANN media – 615
ICANN other – appr. 2000
total: 24190

Or on average I received 23 messages a day.

This number does not include all messages I wrote (they are in several different directories, and difficult to count).

Reading an e-mail takes on average 5 minutes.

That’s about 115 minutes / day, or 2 hours. Every day. Or 60 hours / month, which equals between 7 and 8 working days. (Note, that’s without calculating reading the different documents, sometimes hundred of pages!).

Or for one year it’s exactly 90 working days (60 hours by 12 months = 720 hours, the working day consists of 8 hours, so it makes 90).
That is 18 weeks (5 working days each).

Plus the 30 days we go for the conferences (on average we spent at the conference venues 8 days, plus 2 days travel), plus 8 days for two board retreats (2 day-retreat + 2 days travel). They include Saturdays and Sundays, which in my own country Bulgaria has to be calculated twice, but I will not do it here.

Then we have the monthly conference calls – 2 hours each, which adds to this another 2 working days.

That’s actually 40 days, or another 8 working weeks.
The total account comes to 26 (twenty six) working weeks.

Without counting the reading of the different documents we are supposed to read. E.g. the “.xxx” had about 2000 pages.
Without counting all the people who we meet at different places, and they talk to us about ICANN.

And last, but not least, without counting that whatever decision you will vote, you’ll be always blamed by more than half of the people coming to the ICANN conferences.

That’s the calculation. Now, some may say that they don’t spend, or don’t need to spend on average 5 minutes per e-mail. True. But there are e-mails where you have to spend 50 minutes, and there are such, which will take you a minute. That’s why on average it’s 5.

If you find an error in my calculations, please, leave a comment. Thanks.

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9 Responses to To all future ICANN directors – the hidden, secret part of ICANN’s life

  1. Michael Palage says:


    I can confirm these numbers as well based upon my three years on the Board. In the months leading up to my decision to step down from the ICANN Board, I calculated that I was spending on average between 15 and 20 hours a week on ICANN board related issues, and this did not include the 40 days a year which the ICANN Board must set aside for in person meetings and retreats.

    People like yourself, Joi and Susan that maintain blogs provide an important insight into the inner workings of an organization that still needs some work on the open and transparency aspect of its operations, but then again you have three years worth of my insights on this matter.

    Hopefully my successor from the GNSO, as well as the Nonominating Committee appointments this year, will join you and your fellow Board members in bring about this needed change.

    Best regards,


  2. Michael Palage says:

    P.S. Following the Louis Touton tradition, for the record I never flew Business Class only coach.

  3. I also concur with the load – although I think your estimates understate the level of effort.

    Jonathon Cohen (another board member) once estimated that the costs of being on the board were several hundred thousands of dollars per year in lost opportunities. I also found that to be the case.

    The situation is not helped by ICANN’s staff. A well-run staff would be preparing well considered, and balanced, summaries of issues. What I saw from “staff”, when they bothered to create them, were simplistic, biased, and useless.

    For example, with respect to the Verisign contract “staff” should have prepared materials that showed the costs of running a registry – that way we could have known that Versign was getting a 25,000% profit margin when ICANN approved the $7 registry fee.

    And ICANN’s law firm was of no help – I often found the legal advice that was given the board to be completely wrong or based on egotistical fantasies. That’s why I recommended that ICANN find a replacement law firm.

    But the biggest reason of all is this: ICANN is doing too much. ICANN has undertaken to establish social, economic, and moral policy onto the internet when all that it should be doing is to do a very few tasks of strictly technical coordination.

    Were ICANN to stick to that mission, the one it was created to do, it would have a staff that could be counted on the fingers of two hands, (with probably several fingers left.) And ICANN’s budget, rather than rising to the level of several tens of millions of dollars per year would in the sub-million dollar per year range (a good chunk of which would be go to the proper running of the L root server.)


    For the record – I always used ICANN’s business class option. But that put me one class below ICANN’s lawyers, who tended to fly first class.

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  6. forgive my ignorance, but do you get paid for being on the ICANN board?

  7. No, the directors do not get paid for being on the Board.

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