This story was written by Keith Dawson for the Industry Standard's Media Grok email newsletter. It is archived here for informational purposes only because The Standard's site is no more. This material is Copyright 1999-2001 by Standard Media.

Sleepless in Stockholm

Jun 05 2001 08:46 AM PDT

It's ICANN-bashing time again, and this time the secretive organization takes a hard line against alternate domains.

Gather 'round, boys and girls, for your quarterly heaping helping of ICANN abuse. Four times a year, the quango (quasi non-governmental organization) that nearly everybody loves to hate holds a public meeting in some usually far-flung locale. The just-concluded meeting in Stockholm stimulated a full measure of controversy and coverage.

For a good overview of the gnarly issues on ICANN's agenda, turn to Jim Wagner's report in InternetNews. Wagner touched on ICANN's budget (it's increasing - surprised?), the search for a new home for the .org domain, alternate roots and the polite international revolt against ICANN's legitimacy. A sound bite from an Australian delegate summed up this last beef: "ICANN is basically an American intranet" holding the, .net, .org and country code top-level domains.

ZDNet's Interactive Week ran two stories on the issue of alternate roots, one from Reuters and one by staffer Juliana Gruenwald. The Reuters piece took the point of view of the renegade name providers who will happily sell you names ending in .xxx, .biz, or hundreds of other unsanctioned choices. Gruenwald concentrated on ICANN's hard-line stand against the legitimacy of such alternate roots.

Pretty much everybody who touched on alternate roots quoted Karl Auerbach, one of the newly seated board-members-at-large. Unlike most on the ICANN board, Auerbach has long professional experience in network architecture. "Competing roots are no threat," Reuters quoted Auerbach. "ICANN uses the threat of Internet destability to scare people away. ... But in practice it is not in the interest of competing root companies to ... guide people to the wrong places on the Web."

Wired carried another Reuters story, a look askance at the dense thicket of jargon that has grown up around ICANN in the few brief years of its existence. The piece quoted ICANN board member Amadeu Abril I Abril grumbling, "We speak ICANNese, not English."