Stefan Krempl on 6 Dec 2000 13:41:14 -0000

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[Nettime-bold] Vint Cerf wants to remind you that ICANN is still not a worldgovernment


here are some quotes from a talk I've had with the new-elected ICANN 
chairman right after ICANN's annual meeting in Marina del Rey last month.
The whole interview is online in Telepolis at


There was quite a silly economic effect for quite a while now on the stock
market. I think that particular phenomenon has begun to dissipate, in some
cases in a very dramatic way. But as much fun as it is to watch that kind of
craziness, I am very relieved to see that the Wall Street analysts are
starting to pay more attention to the business plans of companies that are
working in the Internet space. Itıs reassuring to know that at least some
believe itıs good to make more money than you spend.

Thereıs been quite a lively discussion about content related gTLDs like
dot-kids. That brings us to the point that many people think about ICANN as
some sort of a world government.


What? Canıt you hear it any more?

This is not a good way to think about ICANN. Many people want it to be. I
think I understand whatıs going on. People see this Internet, and they see a
lot of its power and effects. And they recognize, it can be abused. And they
want somehow to have a place to go to deal with problems and their different
policies. Now they see ICANN over here and it has a fairly international
profile. So they want to load up ICANN with anything that might have to do
with either regulation of the Net or with somehow addressing complaints.
This is probably not a very fruitful idea in my opinion.

ICANN will function best if itıs very constrained in its responsibility.
This does not mean that the board or the staff are insensitive to some of
the issues raised, but rather that ICANN is not the right place to resolve
these issues. So I would much rather prefer to see these matters raised in
forums where those issues are commonly handled so that ICANN can stay pretty
focussed on things like: does the registry work properly? Does it interwork
with the root? Does it interwork with clients, registrars? Do you have a way
of backing it up in case something goes wrong? There are pretty straight
forward technical requirements that you have to meet. And to meet those we
shouldnıt have to assess so much more, like dig into our funding for

Could you please elaborate on the role governments have within ICANN or what
role you want them to play in the future?

Well, at the moment the GAC has no role in the selection of the board
members. That might conceivable change. I could easily understand a
government saying: we have responsibility for a top-level domain and the
decisions made by ICANN could have an effect on our top-level domain, an
important countrywide infrastructure. And so they want some representation.
So I can imagine the GAC becoming more like a support organization. GAC can
also be a very good avenue for discussing various issues associated with
Internet operation, because government and the private sector do have to
work together in this field. They may disagree with each other. Thatıs not
unusual. But at least there would be a forum for having a debate.

Right now itıs a little less structured than that. A top-level domain is
typically run out of the governmentıs authority, often it is run by a
university, but more often it is run by a government sanctioned operation
which might or might not be for profit.

What role do you see for the At Large community now?

I think we have to have a way for communicating with people who use the Net.
It is really important that we hear what they have to say. So I canıt
imagine that we should suspend the At Large list. What isnıt so clear is
whether we need to manage that group of people as if it were part of the
ICANN structure like another support organization or whether it is a more
informal source of interaction. Itıs just so big compared to all the other
support organizations that it could consume a lot of overhead just to manage
it alone. We have to wait what the study says thatıs being launched soon to
look at the whole process.

Do you think that the so-called "boardsquatters² -- the four interim
directors still in place -- should resign and hand over their positions to
the At Large community?


Well, didnıt you see quite a lot of guys with buttons at the annual meeting
demonstrating against the "boardsquatting²?

Oh, I must have missed that one. But now I know what you mean. In Cairo we
had a lot of debate about the method of how to integrate the At Large
members. In the course of this sometimes noisy debate a compromise was
reached not to elect nine, but five of the At Large directors by direct
elections as opposed to an indirect process. And at the same time the
agreement was made that only five new board members would be elected in this
first go. Then there was a debate whether we should keep the other four
seats open. And there was some discussion about what the bylaws said about
that point and I came away thinking that if we didnıt keep someone in that
position somehow we might have shrunk the size of the At Large group. So I
took the view -- which I think was relatively well received -- that we
needed to make sure that there was no question in anyoneıs mind that there
were nine At Large positions, not five. So leaving four people in place was
a way to make sure that these slots didnıt disappear.

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