ICANN, VERISIGN, AND AMERICAN CONTROL OF THE “WORLD WIDE” WEB

ICANN was intended to be an autonomous, independent body charged with making decisions about the World Wide Web, particularly concerning registration of domain names.

Its main benefactor is Verisign, formerly Network Solutions, the company that at one time had a monopoly on registering domain names. It lost the monopoly by making such mind-numbingly stupid decisions that it earned a special place in people’s hearts as perhaps the worst company in the world. (In a typical move, last year it sent out completely false and misleading emails to domain owners conning them into re-registering their domain with VeriSign. It was sued over the deceptive mailing, and lost. I wrote about it on June 6, 2002.)

Here’s an article about ICANN’s decision to give exclusive rights to all expiring domain names to Verisign, which kindly agreed to handle them as a monopoly for an extortionate fee. ICANN followed its own procedures for obtaining feedback on the idea – they sent it out to one group that rejected it soundly, so they sent it out to another group that rejected it, so they sent it out to another group that rejected it, so the board adopted the plan anyway. (Turns out that ICANN has changed its own rules to exclude anybody from its board that isn’t part of the club.)

Two senators from Washington state have introduced legislation to prevent damage to companies based in Washington that might be damaged by ICANN’s actions, which is all well and good. But as The Register points out:

“However, whether the whole thing comes to nothing or if it ends up destroying ICANN, there is only one real loser and that is the Internet. The Internet is supposed to live above geographical boundaries, it is supposed to be a medium that empowers everyone, provides everyone with freedom and allows everyone access to everyone else.

“But in a sad reflection of current global politics, despite everything that is said and all the calming words that come from the US, the Internet is run by America and it will not let it go.

“When, despite hundreds of critical voices from all over the world over several years, the only change that can be made to an organisation that is running the World Wide Web is one that is run through the United States legal system because of the fear of loss of jobs in Washington State, well, then we have a situation that is never going to be right.”