Trouble Ahead for New ICANN Chair

  |  November 20, 2000   |  Comments

You think the Florida secretary of state has problems? Look at what Vinton Cerf, the new chair of ICANN, faces. How he deals with them might affect us all.

In the last week, many kind-hearted Americans were feeling sorry for the Florida secretary of state, the lady who approved the Palm Beach "butterfly ballot," or the judges who woke up to find the U.S. presidency in their laps. (I am not so kind-hearted; I was feeling sorry for myself.)

Well it's time to ditch that crew like the cast of a canceled sitcom. Let's talk about someone with real problems worth feeling real sorry for -- Vinton Cerf.

Cerf, sometimes called the "Father of the Internet" for his early work on TCP/IP, may want to drop the whole thing at an orphanage soon. (I just don't want to see the Internet lying on my front door with a note stuck to its carrier.) This is because Cerf is the new chair of ICANN, replacing Esther Dyson.

Before Esther left (she was replaced by ICANN critic Karl Auerbach, one of five elected members), she chaired the meeting that created seven new top-level domains (TLDs) to go alongside .com, .net, and .org. These are .biz (for businesses), .info (for information), .name (for personal sites), .pro (for professionals), .aero (for air transport), .museum (for museums), and .coop (for cooperative businesses such as credit unions). The new TLDs should be in operation by spring.

In theory, only the .info TLD is open to anyone; the others are restricted to specific applicants. But that was true (in theory) for the older domains, and companies now routinely grab their names in all TLDs to protect copyright (or prevent others from getting it).

Some of the minutes of the ICANN meeting are posted on the Harvard Law web site, and they are revealing.

Cerf wants assurances that any new registry be "viable," that it be an operating business not wholly dependent on registrations for its business model. "Failure of either registrar or registry would put at risk the whole TLD," he is quoted as saying.

This would seem to put Cerf squarely on the side of big businesses (he does work for MCI WorldCom), but hold on a moment. The minutes show him as instrumental in quashing an attempt by Afilias, a new registry in which Network Solutions holds a stake, to take over .web, part of a "fringe" system of web addressing run by Image Online Design in California. Afilias had asked for .web; it wound up with .info.

I "continue to be concerned about assigning .web to Afilias," Cerf is quoted as saying. I "[w]ould be more comfortable if we assigned them a different string and reserved .web." After some disagreement, Cerf's idea carried.

There is trouble ahead as well as behind. Will the new registrars enforce the "restrictions" on who can register these new TLDs? What will ICANN do if they don't? And what of Auerbach's point that, technically, the Internet's address space can be open to anyone, not just to big outfits supported by Network Solutions?

Don't expect Cerf's attempts at Solomon-like compromise to win him any friends. As radio show host Jim Hightower has observed, "There's nothing in the middle of the road but yellow stripes and dead armadillos."

ClickZ Live Chicago Join the Industry's Leading eCommerce & Direct Marketing Experts in Chicago
ClickZ Live Chicago (Nov 3-6) will deliver over 50 sessions across 4 days and 10 individual tracks, including Data-Driven Marketing, Social, Mobile, Display, Search and Email. Check out the full agenda and register by Friday, Oct 3 to take advantage of Early Bird Rates!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Dana Blankenhorn

Dana Blankenhorn has been a business reporter for more than 20 years. He has written parts of five books and currently contributes to Advertising Age, Business Marketing, NetMarketing, the Chicago Tribune, Boardwatch, CLEC Magazine, and other publications. His own newsletter, A-Clue.Com, is published weekly.

COMMENTSCommenting policy

comments powered by Disqus

ClickZ Today is our #1 newsletter.
Get a daily dose of digital marketing.

COMMENTS

UPCOMING EVENTS

Featured White Papers

IBM: Social Analytics - The Science Behind Social Media Marketing

IBM Social Analytics: The Science Behind Social Media Marketing
80% of internet users say they prefer to connect with brands via Facebook. 65% of social media users say they use it to learn more about brands, products and services. Learn about how to find more about customers' attitudes, preferences and buying habits from what they say on social media channels.

An Introduction to Marketing Attribution: Selecting the Right Model for Search, Display & Social Advertising

An Introduction to Marketing Attribution: Selecting the Right Model for Search, Display & Social Advertising
If you're considering implementing a marketing attribution model to measure and optimize your programs, this paper is a great introduction. It also includes real-life tips from marketers who have successfully implemented attribution in their organizations.

Jobs

    • Recent Grads: Customer Service Representative
      Recent Grads: Customer Service Representative (Agora Financial) - BaltimoreAgora Financial, one of the nation's largest independent publishers...
    • Managing Editor
      Managing Editor (Common Sense Publishing) - BaltimoreWE’RE HIRING: WE NEED AN AMAZING EDITOR TO POLISH WORLD-CLASS CONTENT   The Palm...
    • Senior Paid Search & Advertising Manager
      Senior Paid Search & Advertising Manager (Smarty Had A Party) - St. LouisCompany Description: A warm, loving, [slightly wacky] startup, we view...