Center for Internet and Society
The Debate Over Internet Governance:
A Snapshot in the Year 2000




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    Fred Baker

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    Dave Crocker
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    Carl Kaplan
    Michael Krieger
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    Charles Nesson

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    Joe Sims


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Dave Crocker

I.                   BIOGRAPHY

II.               THE INTERNET

III.             METHODOLOGY

IV.              GOVERNANCE

a.      Defining Governance

b.      The Impact of the Term ‘Governance’ on the                DNS Debate

c.      Is Formal Governance Necessary?

d.      Is ICANN Governance? (Part I | Part II)

e.       Regulating Content

V.                 ICANN

a.      Limits on ICANN’s Authority

b.      Keeping ICANN within its Scope of Authority

VI.             CONSENSUS

a.      Defining Consensus

b.      Is Consensus the Right Standard?

c.      The Difficulty of Using Consensus

VII.           THE FUTURE

February 16, 2000


Q: What is the internet’s greatest promise?

A: It’s greatest promise?  Well I think the classic response and I think it is a valid one is bringing people together.  It has a fascinating and unique ability to bring people together across vast distances so that specialized communities can be formed with people who could not otherwise practically get together.  The interesting counterpoint is that as well as it can serve small specialized, small distributed – I can’t think of the right word – communities, it equally can serve masses phenomenally well, as we have seen.  Let’s see.  It is also proving to be able to get rid of the middle people in a process, as well as introduce new kinds of middle people.  It’s greatest deficiency is that it can’t get rid of time zones.

Q: And language barriers?

A: Well it’s actually had quite an effect on that since it has sort of turned English into an Esperanto. However, there is a significant pushback that is starting to happen, as especially China but not just China comes up to speed more.  So we’re starting to see that there is an almost independent DNS that is Chinese based.

Q: Following on what you just said, what is this new breed of middle people that you see developing?

A: The concept in transactions between buyers and sellers or producers and consumers, the purpose of the people in the middle is to find, to know about and find, suppliers and consumers and to bring them together.  The common existing such people have needed to exist because of, primarily because of, certain technologies.  What does it take to ship produce around and figure out who wants to buy it?  What we’re now finding is collections of information middle brokers.  Also it’s middle people operating in different scale.  A friend of mine is just moving to a start up that will be brokering fresh seafood for small purchasers.  It turns out as base that is really an information processing task.  One could argue what most middle processors are about is processing information.  Think about it.  That’s what search engines are for.  The classic thing is that it is very easy to store lots of information; it’s very difficult to find it. 

GOVERNANCE: Is Formal Governance Necessary?

Q: So do you think a formal governance structure is a necessary component of this developing internet?

A: Slipping right into the major topic…Let’s see.  Governance…formal governance.  Formal governance comes in many forms.  The country kinds of governance is only one of them.  An example of what I mean by that is, I’ll use my standard example.  I’ve now had some contact with the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), which is about one hundred years old or so and does standards in the telecommunication area.  I have a lot of experience with the IETF, which is not as old and does standards in some telecommunications areas.  There is starting to be some overlap between them.  People have the image that the ITU is hugely formal and that the IETF is not formal at all.  The assessment of the ITU is mostly correct although there are some exceptions.  It even includes the fact that it is created by an international treaty under the U.N.  So there’s a tendency to say they count, they’re real, they’re formal and the IETF doesn’t.  But, in fact, the IETF has all sorts of rules, lots of formal structure, and quite a bit of leverage in the marketplace, which is where it counts.  We’ve even seen that standards that come out of the ITU have been ignored in some cases in favor of those from the IETF.  This is long winded.  The point behind it that when we talk about governance, there’s a tendency to think of it in a fairly narrow rigid way and I think the topic is a lot more complicated.  So do we need governance? Well, we need some governance in some ways.  Different kind of governance for different things.  So the real answer needs to be governance of what?

GOVERNANCE: Defining Governance

Q:  Another approach is how would you define governance?  This question has been posed to different people and maybe it is a question of semantics and that is what it comes down to.  But how would you define it?

A: The term governance comes from Latin or Greek or something and means to steer.  So it has to do with guidance.  The idea behind having an entity that does governance formally is that other processes that are looser are presumed not to be able to the governance steering as well.  So there’s the phrase ‘let the market decide’ and that’s the thing that people who believe in competitive markets use to say that the process of having groups competing with each other will in a fairly mystical and in many cases surprisingly effective way determine what direction things should go.  You can’t do that everywhere.  There are cases of scarce resources or cases of resources that inherently need some process to regulate their allocation that require somebody to decide who gets this piece of the resource and who gets that piece.  DNS is just a classic example. It is a strictly hierarchical structure.  There is no technical way to administer that without the hierarchy.  By definition, it is a hierarchy.  The entries in it must be unique.  So how do you resolve the question of two different people wanting the same entry?  The only answer to that is that somebody needs to arbitrate.  There needs to be some independent mechanism for arbitrating.  That gets you into somebody sitting in the steering seat.  They point the entry in one direction and not another.  I think there are some limited cases like that where you do need a decision-making group to be empowered to keep that running.  It’s not clear in how many other cases we need it.  IP addresses are identical. It’s another hierarchical resources that needs to be uniquely assigned.  Therefore the needs to be similarly some process which could be called a governance process.  The internet is doing a wonderful job of calling into question where else we need governance.  There are many people who immediately invoke all of the lists of things that they want to have governed because they’ve been governed elsewhere.  We’ve got the question of how much do we really need them.  Should we regulate content so children don’t see pornography?  The premise behind that question – never mind the question of whether pornography hurts children – but the premise behind that is that we can, that it is possible to regulate it.  That becomes an interesting technical question.  In that particular case, I think we actually cannot effectively regulate it.  The concept of restricting what children see works in a closed environment.  The internet creates an open environment.  That’s a heck of a challenge. 

GOVERNANCE: Regulating Content

Q: What about content based zoning, like in real space?

A: What do you mean?

Q: There are a number of – I don’t want to get to formal about this – but there are a number of cases where essentially zoning regulation is based on whether or not an establishment is selling pornography or whether or not there is nudity and that can be done on the basis that you want to limit that to certain areas or you want to disperse it to certain areas and that has generally been acceptable.  Is that a possible scenario for the internet?

A: That’s a really good line of question because I think it makes it pretty easy to look at whether it is physically possible to put a mechanism in place that is effective.  I think the answer is that it isn’t possible.  To do the regulation you’re talking about, you have to be able to have choke points over which you can exercise control.  So there are two places to look at for putting choke points in – one is at the source and the other is at the destination.  You say ‘well ok, we will restrict what content will go into the computers in a school.  I’m a diligent parent so I will restrict what content will come into my home.’  So now we have effectively put in restrictions that effectively keep kids from seeing the bad stuff.  The only problem is that they walk next door to the home next door which doesn’t put those restrictions in and they get to see the stuff.  So I would claim that it is not realistically possible to put filters in at the destination.  It sure ain’t possible to put them in at the source because the source is the entire internet.  And I’m not presenting this as a matter of my personal opinion or preference.  I’m saying I think there is a technical barrier here to effective mechanisms.

GOVERNANCE: Is ICANN Governance? Part I

Q: Going back to what you said earlier about the inherently hierarchical nature of the DNS system, I would extrapolate from that the administration of the DNS system is, by definition, a form of governance.

A: Well, I have never appreciated…no I have appreciated.  I have never liked the use of that term in that context.  It has been used as an inflammatory term to get people all agitated.  In a very, very, very strict semantic sense, I think the term works just fine.  But it’s not used in a very, very, very strict semantic way.  It’s used to enflame people.  In the broad range of behaviors that are involved in the internet, the question of having a body that administers the allocation of domain names and IP addresses and some other parameters is such a miniscule piece of the behaviors on the net that using it as a touchstone to raise fears about governance to restrict everybody, which is the way it has been used, is just hopelessly misleading. 

Q: Is ICANN a form of internet governance?

A: You’ve got astonishingly rigid question here, given that I’ve already answered that question.  I am not starting to be a little worried that my answers are going to be synthesized down to being categorized to being yes or no, where the sequence of actions is the internet has to have governance and ICANN is governance.  And that will be the summary of my response. 


Q: Well, that is not what we intend to do at all.

Q: Two things.  One, I think the entire length of this conversation is going to be linked on the site.  People can listen to everything that gets said.  We’re going to do some editing to make some text easier to compare to what other people have said on the certain points.  We’re not going to try to make you say things you didn’t tell us.

A: Let’s back up for a second.  I should ask a little more about your methodology, because having source material available is wonderful.  I applaud that, but in fact, especially in this topic, what we’ve seen is people don’t tend to do their homework.  I don’t mean you.  I mean the people who read your output.  They tend to read summaries.  They tend to take small pieces of statements and turn them into absolute and distorted meaning.  So I guess I’d like to understand a little more about the process you are planning on going through. 

Q: Well what we are going to do, if possible, is transcribe or have as an audio file the bulk of your interview.  What we would also like to do is put various quotes from the interviews from different people within specific topics that we’ve discussed so that you can get a sense of the varying viewpoints about different issues.  We’re not…what we will not be saying is ‘governance? Yes’ or ‘ICANN? Yes.’  We don’t want to boil it down to that because obviously the issues are much more complex than that, as you have pointed out.  The reason I ask ‘is ICANN a form of governance?’ is not put you on the spot or to pin you down to a yes/no answer, but just to move from a level of generality to talk about an issue that is of concern to people.  You don’t have to discuss it but I think it would be useful.

Q: Some of the precise forms of 20 the questions we’re using are driven by what other people have said to us.  For example, if we talk to someone who is officially representing ICANN and we try to understand what they mean when they say governance and then spend all their time trying to show you that ICANN isn’t anything like governance and that it is just a technical thing – that entire line of discussion that they put out tells us something about where they are coming from and those nuances are important.  We’re not trying to box anyone into anything, but we’re trying to see how each person kind of deals with the terms that are out in the debate, let them define them for themselves and use them for themselves. 

GOVERNANCE: The Impact of the Term ‘Governance’ on the DNS Debate

A: I hear you. That all sounds pretty reasonable.  I guess the point I am trying to make that the politics of this situation have been manipulated quite successfully by the introduction of the term governance.  It completely altered the nature and scope of the process.  What we had before was a very narrow, very limited administrative environment.  Think for a moment about how truly boring the idea of assigning numbers and registering names is and ask yourself whether – yes we know about trademarks conflicts – but whether if your were the registrar for names in a state, whether somehow that would be an exciting thing that would get people all up in arms.  The answer is no.  Yet somehow this equivalent task on the internet which is just – which for fifteen years has been an astonishingly boring backwater task – has now been turned into the electrifying question of internet governance.  The reason I am running on about this is because I would say that your questioning which focuses on the term governance and whether ICANN does governance shows the success of this particular misinformation campaign to politicize and distract. 

Q: Who began that campaign?

A: As near as I can tell, it came from probably three different places.  This is just an astonishingly rich terrain for certain kinds of people.  First of all, we do have a portion of the trademark community that wanted to delay things as best they could.  They’ve been very effective.  Interestingly enough, the formal trademark community, as represented by ITN, no ITN is a company…now I…sorry, this is called retroactive inhibition…I’ve been dealing with a company called ITN today so I can’t remember the international trademark association…INTA, there we go.  They were a constructive participant to try to navigate for growth in the GTLD space.  A few, a very few, very large companies independently maneuvered in the background to politicize and delay things and they succeeded.  A small portion of the trademark community sought to politicize this.  Certainly, NSI sought to politicize this to create delay and increase their leverage, because after all the government handed them quite a bit of largesse and NSI quite reasonably wanted to protect it.  Then as the snowball started going, we picked up a certain portion of the political spectrum which I guess includes people like libertarians, I guess. I don’t quite know what the right labels are…

Q: neither do we…

A: Then, of course,…I’m sorry I said three sectors and it is really more like four or five.  Then there’s some crazies.  They just like a good show.  Lastly, …I tend to put people with serious concerns last on the list because they’ve been given the least airtime.  The really sad thing about this is that when you’re creating processes like this, there should be honest debate because it synthesizes better outcomes.  And we haven’t been able to have honest debate.  We haven’t had people with serious intent and legitimate knowledge seeking serious improvement beating the tar out of the people trying to do the work to make a better outcome.  We had a little of that in the early days and there were some improvements, but mostly that hasn’t been where the energy has gone. 

Q: What happened?

A: Everything got politicized and then you spend all your time being personally attacked and, in the case of some of us unfortunately, responding in kind.  You spend your time maneuvering on political issues and none on really making the thing work better.  

There was one more group I wanted to list.  That is the publicity seekers and I distinguish them from crazies.  Crazies are just plain crazy.  The publicity seekers are people who take benefit from having a public platform and from the game going on longer.  So they not only don’t benefit from progress, progress is to their detriment because they lose their platform.  This topic has been wonderful at getting a few such people.  OK, that’s my list.

Q: I just wanted to ask you if you could one or two examples of what you would consider serious concerns that have gone under-discussed.

A: Sure.  I think that the question about whether a registry should be for profit or not for profit is a serious question.  It involves subtleties and it ought to be explored carefully.  I think that efforts to explore it carefully on both sides have mostly been ignored. 

Q: So going back to this growing politicized issue of governance, why is ….[check this?]

As I said, there were… I have a slight glib summary of this as a piece of my eulogy for Jon Postel.  It’s on the IANA web page and also on mine.  We had the economic forces of NSI trying to protect their position – oh and I did leave out one more…we have some people who want to make money because they looked at NSI and they said ‘oh they’re making money. I want to do the same thing.  NSI was granted a monopoly.  I think the government or somebody, ICANN or whoever, should grant me a monopoly because then I will make a lot of money.’  So we have some economic forces pushing to politicize this in the hope that the politicization would grant people some sort of hegemony and we’ve had some people wanting anything that will delay things, so the trademark community.  The more they can increase the scope, instead of this being a boring little backwater administrative activity, let’s make it internet governance because then everyone in the world will get involved and jump up and down and delay things, which is exactly what they’ve done.  So the instant they opened that door, it caused a floodwater of people who really are worried about lots of very important issues.  The only trouble is that those important issues are not relevant to ICANN. 

Q: The writing you just referred to is that is in honor of Jon Postel is that “A Malaysian Journal”?

A: Yeah.  Well the Malaysian Journal is a series of notes.  This particularly one was called “Changing the World Quietly.” 

GOVERNANCE: Is ICANN Governance? Part II

Q: Going back to the question I asked…

A: With that rather extensive background, the question I think was ‘is ICANN internet governance?’.  I am going to continue to play a bit of a cantankerous here.  I will play a semantic game back. Internet governance means governing the internet.   ICANN does not govern the internet.  It is not going to govern the internet.  It is not supposed to govern the internet.  ICANN is a body for administering a few internet related functions.  To the extent that that administration process can be called governing, then one might say that ICANN provides governance over some very restricted internet activities.  Very narrow, rather than restricted, I like the word narrow.

ICANN: Limits on ICANN’s Authority

Q: What are the limits on what ICANN can do?

A: I don’t claim to be an expert in the articles of incorporation and other legal documents.  My recollection is that it is restricted to names and numbers and protocol parameters, to the administration of tables of names and numbers and protocol parameters.  So the instant somebody says ‘oh they are going to restrict what content you are going to get,’ that’s an example of something which I can’t find in any of the articles.  Yet there’s pretty heated debate from people who claim ‘oh yes they are absolutely going to do that.’  They have truly impressive contortion of logic to justify it. 

Q: Looking at specifically at what ICANN was mandated to do, which in part is to internationalize and democratize the DNS and promote competition…

A: I’m sorry. Was that the language from the White Paper?

Q: I think so.  Internationalize and democratize the domain name system and promote competition. 

A: I’m sorry where does that language come from?  It does come from the White Paper?

Q: It might.  Either there or its from an ICC survey that picked up that language. 

A: I’m sorry a survey that was put out?

Q: Yes.  I think that is where we found it.  It was posted to our class website – a set of questions in a survey by ICC.

A: So this is a bunch of opinions about what ICANN should be rather than what ICANN is defined to be.  Let me explain why I am pushing back on this.  What is it mean to internationalize the DNS? I am not sure I actually know what that means.  I could come up with my own answers, but it isn’t immediately obvious.  I certainly don’t know what it means to democratize.  I know what it means to add competition to the registration process and that actually means a range of things.  But again the terms internationalize and democratize – those are good terms.  I like those things to show up as real activities in many situations but I am not sure what they mean in this case. 

ICANN: Keeping ICANN within its Scope of Authority

Q: I guess I want to explore something else.  ICANN may have set up with a very specific mandate but, as we all know, paper policies aren’t necessarily a reality after an agency has been given authority to try to follow those policies.  To say that ICANN was given a very specific mandate doesn’t necessarily mean that the real scope of their authority is so narrowly tailored. 

A: So the question you’re asking, the premise you have is that institutions tend to take onto a life of their own and very often go off in directions that weren’t what was intended.  I certainly agree with that. 

Q: And certainly that’s a major criticism of ICANN from some of the constituencies you named.

A: But in fact it’s a criticism of any institution.  It is true of all institutions.  There is nothing at all interesting about laying the charge on ICANN, unless it is followed by first of all what are the examples of transgression that it has already shown and or what are the mechanisms that will correct any tendency ICANN shows for going in the wrong directions.  I don’t know that I’ve seen anything that ICANN has done that has been out of scope.  I’ve certainly heard many people claim it has done things out of scope.  Mostly they are wrong. 

As to what I think is the more interesting and much more important question which is what are the processes that will keep ICANN in place, and I think that’s the important question to ask about any institution.  The degree of transparency that ICANN has in its processes and in its results is really quite extraordinary when compared with most global organizations.  I think that…I mean I know the IETF might be claimed to be more open.   We could debate that point.  At this point, given that the working groups are useless and the board needs to make decisions, I suppose one could argue it is not as open as the IETF.  But show me operations related body that works on global services that are more open in the world and I’d be real surprised if you found one.  So there’s an enormous amount of visibility into ICANN and there’s a rather diffused process for creating, for filling the positions on the board.  The people who fill the board come from lots of different places and one could argue about the details of that.  Does it exactly represent everybody who should be represented?  My experience is that you can’t represent everybody fully.  You can’t do the statistics on that.  Taking a mechanical approach which somehow tries to mathematically decide all the constituencies which need to be represented isn’t viable if you are going to have a body that actually does anything.  The body would need to be too large.  So my experience is that there is this remarkable process that takes place as long as you have a sufficient diversity of source material – in this case people.  If you’re body of twelve, or whatever the right number is, happens to come from lots of different places through a whole series of independent decision processes, what you tend to come up with is a body that represents a community larger than its statistics. 

CONSENSUS: Defining Consensus

Q: It seems like consensus is the standard that ICANN uses.  How would you define consensus?

A: I’ve grown up – quite literally grown up – in the internet technical community and therefore the last fifteen or so years the IETF.  So I have a particularly pragmatic view of the term consensus and the IETF term is rough consensus, just to make sure no one thinks it requires unanimity.  I like to point out that the word rough has two different meanings in English.  One of them is approximate and the other is difficult or painful. It turns out we mean both of them.  Consensus is…I think the language is that…there are a couple of IETF documents that you might want to take a look at.  One is the standards process document.  My name isn’t on it but I contributed to early drafts.  The other one is the guideline for working group chairs.  The reason that’s an interesting document is that that tries to help people who run real working groups doing real work to give them some guidance about how to do it.  Another guy and I wrote the original of that.  The guidance we give for figuring out when you have consensus is when you have – I think the term we use is – a strongly dominant view.  Try and reduce that to mathematics. 

CONSENSUS: Is Consensus the Right Standard?

Q: Is consensus a feasible goal for an organization like ICANN?  Is it the right goal?

A: That actually is a real question.  A serious and important question.  At the moment, things don’t look great.  The noisemakers, the people who are more interested in making noise than in making progress, are so loud and so obnoxious and so pervasive that it would seem that the answer to your question is no.  I believe that the real answer that pursuing consensus processes for ICANN is reasonable and appropriate and feasible.  The challenge, I believe, is in learning how to assess consensus.  How to define it and how to assess it.  The real challenge there is learning not to be distracted by noise.  The way you get a sense of the community is not by measuring volume. 

Q:  Then how do you do it?

A: Heuristically.  There is no easy answer to that…

Q:  Hold on. We’ve got vacuuming…

A: Well, let’s see it’s 9 o clock where you are…

I was on a roll on consensus and measuring it.  This gets into increasingly sticky ground because the way you measure consensus is by some sticking your finger in the wind and seeing which way the breeze is tending to blow.  Boy, you can go really dangerous directions with that imagery.  What that really hinges  on though is whether you trust the person doing the measuring.  So you go, ‘well, no, I don’t trust any one person to measure it right, no matter how I trust them today something could happen.’  So you make it be a group, as if somehow groups don’t screw up also.  But the idea behind making it a group really is that there is more diversity to the measurement and there’s an averaging process that takes place. I think all that is pretty valid.  That’s why many of the people who are seeking to…

Q: Hang on one second.  We’ve got more vacuuming here.

A: I know.

Q: Now we’re having a fight.  We don’t have consensus on this end. 

A: Yeah right.

Q: Now we have yelling…

Q: Sorry about that. 

Q: Domestic dispute…

A: You’re not in an office building?

Q: Yes we are. Actually we’re in the Berkman Center offices.

A: That’s what I thought. That’s what I expected.

So there are two points to a consensus process.  One is that any kind of community sense of what it means to have consensus…I’ll wait.  I just wish I could hear better….

Q: Sorry.

A: Are you sure it is over? Because I was going to give you a piece of advice. 

Q: I think he’s done. You were talking about…

A: No, no. It’s OK.  The tough thing about an encounter like that is that the power dynamics are really weird.  Yes, anyhow…Those kind of interactions are real good teaching exercises for learning how not to be distracted and I don’t mean from the noise.

CONSENSUS: The Difficulty of Using Consensus

A: I mean I think that a consensus process hinges on two things.  One is a reasonable community consensus about what consensus means.  It’s reflexive and all of that bad stuff.  The other is having trust in the people who are assigned to assess consensus.  That’s why one of the disruption processes we’ve seen in the last couple of years with respect to ICANN and related forces is attacking credibility.  If you can attack the credibility of the decision makers, of the people who are supposed to assess consensus, then you undermine the whole process.  That’s exactly what they’ve done.  It’s why we’ve had all these conspiracy theorists.  I mean one after another.  The tie into IBM or they are trying to put NSI out of business.  It just goes on and on and on.  Some of the really creative souls have come up with conspiracy scenarios that were just fabulous.  I’ll give you one anecdote just because I love this anecdote.  In the earliest days, which is to say two years into the process when I was on the GTLD MOU activity, the group of us who were trying to – and the thing to remember is that there had been two years of activity, there had been proposals, there was not yet community consensus, except that there was consensus that they wanted something to happen so they created the so-called blue ribbon panel, which is what the IHC was supposed to be.  There was this range of people on it – some trademark community, some bureaucrats, some internet geeks and so on.  We sat around and discussed this point over a series of meetings and email.  We were wrapping up two solid days of meetings in Geneva in the basement of the ITU building – no windows, no nothing – and things had gotten quite agitated. It was a pretty serious debating and resolution process.  What was astonishing was that given the range of views – we had a formal representative from the INTA, we had somebody from ITU and WIPO and about half the committee was hard core internet geeks.  The attorneys there all thought they were going to have a horrible time with the geeks and, of course, what really happened was that the horrible time was between the attorneys.  Make of that whatever you want. Those of us who are the geeks really enjoyed that. 

Q: Sounds about right actually…

A: In retrospect, I am not all that surprised but I hadn’t been in a process like this before so it was really strange.  In fact, all of us who were geeks had been around for a long time.  We’ve had lots of contact with business and a broad range of business processes.  Whether we think lawyers are wonderful or not, they are part of the real world and we deal with it.  At any rate, we were right at the end of those two days. We had resolved just about everything we needed to work on and we were down to one last thing.  I don’t remember what it was but it somehow involved the ITU.  The ITU participant Bob Shaw, who is by the way a good friend of mine – I like him a lot, he is at least on that committee, he was intensely non-political in his behavior.  There was nothing maneuvering in his style.  I have a long history of not liking ITU so saying positive things about an ITU person came pretty hard for me back then.  On the other hand, he had sort of a negative tone about some stuff, not in the political sense but on the order of ‘I don’t know if this will work.’  That kind of concern.  We get to the end and are debating this point.  Some concession or other was made to try to help facilitate because, after all, we had come so far.  This had to do with ITU and Bob was going ‘well, I don’t know if that will really take care of it or not.’ Bob was sitting to my left and the WIPO guy who was intensely political was on the other side.  He was political positive and political negative. It depended on the situation, by which I mean constructive or not so.  In this case, he was trying to be really helpful and make progress.  He’s going, ‘Bob, they made a huge concession to you. You should say yes.’  Bob is going, ‘I don’t know.’ At which point, the WIPO guy gets up, comes around the table, passes back behind me, comes over to Bob, puts his hands on Bob’s head, and starts moving his head in an up and down position, going ‘Bob, this is the answer you want to give.’  All the conspiracy theorists talked about was how the ITU was trying to take over.  This was the image that those of us who had been there kept in mind.   That’s the end of the anecdote.


Q: Going on to a different line of thought here, what’s your vision of what the DNS should look like in 10 years time?

A: Can you clarify the question a bit.

Q: Look into the crystal ball and tell us what you think about where the debate will be in ten years time. What issues will be important? What kind of progress…

A: I don’t think the debate about the DNS will last that long.  The DNS is a boring topic.  It really shouldn’t be all that interesting.  There’s a couple things to take care of on the technical side.  There’s a business question….

[tape breaks off]

Telegraph. Telephone.  Those are all technologies.  There were debates and concerns about the Salk vaccine.  I don’t know enough history to answer these questions.  But we have introduced massive changes into society many, many times.  They are important and they should be debated.  Most of the time, I think, what we’ll find is that the debate that took place early in the experience was probably off the mark because we are so distracted by the fears of the change and the misunderstanding of what will happen. 

Q: Shifting gears again, reviewing your postings to the names listserv, there was a statement you made that I kind of would like to hear a little more on. You wrote at the end of an email that was under the subject ‘the rigging of ICANN board elections’. The last two lines of the email were: “To repeat, the failure to meet expectations is due to having expectations that postulate a narrow and ideal style of participation by us flawed humans.”  How do you think that statement relates to everything we’ve been talking about?

A: God, I wrote that?  Could you give me a little more context from the note?  That’s the problem with having posted so many notes, I just don’t remember…

Q: Sure.  The first part of the email is something that Joe Sims wrote and then there’s an unidentified comment from someone else to that.  Those two comments are kind of talking about a utopian vision versus the pressure to do something in the real world.  You write: “The internet is different.  What is not different is that a range of human motivations and behaviors.  We are in the process of forming a global organization with massive global input and responsiveness.  As horrendously flawed as this process is, it is nonetheless more open than any such activity in the past and is being done through private, not state, mechanisms.  There is state presence but it is not the prime force.  Please cite anything in history to match this.”  There’s another unidentified clip from another person’s posting.  I am not quite sure whose. Again it’s comparing what ICANN actually is to more idealistic visions of what it might be.  Then you write: “This list and many other related lists is an example that the belief is valid.” You’re referring to the belief that “this incredible medium makes possible new kinds of interactions, including the ability to create a new kind of…” And then it is cut off.  Then there is the statement I read you to begin with: “To repeat, the failure to meet expectations is due to having expectations that postulate a narrow and ideal style of participation by us flawed humans.” 

A: Most of what I said in that note that you’ve quoted, over the course of this phone call, I’ve said similar things. Back when I made reference to libertarians, among the participants there are some people who are idealists. I use that term not to say that they have bad ideals, but rather to say that they are rigid in their willingness to negotiate.  They require to be a certain way and only a certain way and do not bring to the table a desire to negotiate and compromise among a broad range of interests and needs and all the rest of that.  They know the one true way. I like to comment that living in Malaysia where first of all whites don’t even count as a significant percentage, never mind being in the minority, Christianity doesn’t either and they have three major religions.  The idea of the one true belief, the one true religion, I find increasingly humorous.  Not that I find it inappropriate to have ideals. I think they are real important.  They motivate you but to think that my ideals are inherently and automatically better than yours just because they are mine and that you must lose and I must win just isn’t realistic for making progress in a global, open, etc cetera, etc cetera world.  So my comment there in that note is trying to refer to the fact that we have some people in this process who bring an excessively rigid and very, very narrow view of what is acceptable.   They have no willingness to negotiate in good faith and make meaningful compromises. 



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