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Another Roadside Attraction

Phil Osborn, netizen

I attended the Sunday Workshop sponsored by the Berkman Center. At Sunday's 
end, I pointed out the inadequacies of the proposed voting model.  First, it 
excludes the majority constituency by default.  Most people are not on line, 
yet are impacted by ICANNís policies re future access.  On the other hand, 
the stake in the internet
varies, so why should everyone get an equal vote?

I prefaced this with - "who owns the internet?"  The tragedy of the commons 
looms, with all the possible related disasters discussed earlier on Sunday: 
intractable conflicts of interest, covert subversion/capture of ICANN by 
special interests, simple Board incompetance, etc.

I pointed out that perhaps a better solution is to create natural incentives 
as exist when those with a stake also have control.  Why not make ICANN a 
shareholding trust, with domain name holders getting one voting share each?  
Why not make it a profit-making trust, owned by the world?  Where then the 
conflict of interest?  With Martians?

There are many possibilities for structuring such an organization to avoid 
problems: capture by special-interest coalitions, monopoly-pricing concerns. 
  There is, however, a false premise implicit here.

ICANN does not have a true monopoly.  There is nothing preventing 
competitors from setting up their own systems of naming, and they have, are, 
and will be doing so, from AOL to company intranets.  A country wishing to 
keep its citizens isolated and controlled could set up an incompatible 
naming system, even incorporating
high-level state-enforced encryption to keep all communications segregated 
to that jurisdiction.

Should ICANNís pricing or regulation of domain name assignment become too 
onerous, anyone could start another internet, offering their own unique 
naming system, with all kinds of built-in features - e.g., backlinks as in 
Xanadu, or credibility-based filtering matrices, as I have suggested for 
decades, or a real social contract, as I have pushed since the Ď70ís - and 
surely with transparent links to
ICANNís version.

The bugaboos of ICANN taking over the world for the Borg or becoming so 
dispute-mired that it can no longer function are perhaps less important 
considerations than the potential benefits of doing things right.  If the 
current proposed structures are implemented, then perhaps they will work 
well enough.  There are many very good
people involved who are dedicated to that goal, and often good people of 
common will can surmount structural problems and stand fast against evil.

I would hope, however, that participants might think of themselves as 
sorcerers, as in ďAnother Roadside Attraction,Ē i.e., as those who deal with 
sources.  We all can recall numerous cases - any major computer hardware/OS 
design - verifying that an organization's founding forever determines its 
potential, its strengths, its weaknesses.

Let us not merely accept what might work.  Muddling through may make it for 
now, but it sets a poor standard.  As sorcerers we should aim higher - add 
some real magic.

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