ICANN ICANN Email List Archives


<<< Chronological Index >>>    <<< Thread Index >>>

Comment on gTLD auction proceeds

  • To: comments-new-gtld-auction-proceeds-08sep15@xxxxxxxxx
  • Subject: Comment on gTLD auction proceeds
  • From: Michiel Leenaars <michiel@xxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Mon, 09 Nov 2015 01:00:52 +0100

Dear all,

I agree with those that have commented before me that it may be wise to
treat these proceeds as a one time opportunity to strengthen the
operational stability, reliability, security, and global
interoperability of the Internet. There is technical debt in many of
these areas, and it is in the interest of the entire global internet
community that there is a budget to identify and efficiently address issues.

ICANN's Articles of Incorporation mention that it in case of dissolution
it would seek to distribute its assets (if possible), to a charitable
organization "organized and operated exclusively to lessen the burdens
of government and promote the global public interest in the operational
stability of the Internet". For a surplus ICANN does not need, a similar
destination seems logical.

Please allow me to share the experiences of NLnet foundation, a
charitable trust fund entirely dedicated to the open internet since the
mid nineties derived from a similar unique opportunity at the time.

[ I will not go into a lot of detail on NLnet history, for those who are
interested in how Dutch internet pioneers selflessly made our endowment
possible see below [1]. ]

Our original endowment was about half of the sum that would be available
now, and I believe it has served the internet well and made a
difference disproportionate to the amount of money. The design choice of
the NLnet board was to keep the organisation very small and not create
big projects ourselves which would make oversight very complex, but to
focus on (micro)grants through a global open call designed to be
lightweight and with very small administrative burden to the submitters.

NLnet operationalized its mission by financially supporting those with
great ideas to improve the internet that do not have large
organisational backup, and that are willing to share them with the world
in a way everyone can contribute to their work). Not large abstract
projects with huge consortia but knowledgable SME's, not-for-profits,
open source projects and individuals with concrete ideas convincingly
showing the urgency for their work. As with the original ARPA work,
NLnet chose to put a high trust in its projects, and it pays off.

Technical work typically fits into the following categories (between
brackets I give some examples of projects NLnet funded in these
categories, but I would think that the organisation that ICANN would
support/create would see similar input to an open call) :

 * research and development into important internet-related standards
and their maturation (NLnet examples: DNSSEC, RPKI, TLS, DKIM, DMARC,
SIP, XMPP, HIP, WebRTC, Real Time Text, PPSPP, SCTP)

 * funding new tools and/or improvements in the core of important open
source platforms where lack of adoption of new standards is harming the
collective interest (NLnet examples: the IPv6 implementation in FreeBSD,
Linux Kernel netfilter, OpenDKIM, OpenDMARC, NAT64, NSD, OpenMSRP, BIND,
DNSCCM, etc)

 * Proof of concept/reference implementations created during the
research into a standard (NLnet examples: the Comprehensive Queue
Management Made Easy (CAKE) in CeroWRT, OpenFlow NBI, GNUnet,

 * Advanced security

 * Quality assurance activities such as interoperability testing events,
EFF's SSL observatory.

 * The occasional travel support for senior standards contributors that
are temporarily without means to attend e.g. IETF, W3C TAG meetings or
interop events.

 * In addition, there are many small but very useful projects that
result from an open call that one could never predict or fit into a
meaningful category beforehand - yet clearly benefit the whole internet
ecosystem. Examples from our experience include rebootless kernel
updates for Linux (which allow live kernel patching of systems running
on the internet, which reduces vulnerability to botnet harvesting),
tools for systematic firmware analysis (allowing discovery of unknown
shared bugs in firmware of networked devices) or the
internationalisation of the GPLv3 open source license (removing a lot of
legal uncertainty for users outside of its country of origin), anti-DDoS
tooling, intrusion prevention and security testing. These were all small
projects but with very interesting output. Put in another way: there are
many things that the internet needs but does not know it needs,
something which the funds now available to ICANN could facilitate.

These are some of the lessons we learned from our work:

 * there are very few organisations that pay for cleaning up 'garbage',
as in proving that technologies are no longer secure and need to be
phased out. This is vital in the technology lifecycle.

 * there is an asymmetry in the cost and benefits of individual
investments into the security and stability of the internet. If other
organisations benefit just as much, many organisations - even those with
enough means - will just wait for others to solve something

 * if you want to progress technology at an internet scale, this at some
point involves open source software that allows permissive-less
deployment and incremental innovation.

* there is a real world gap between the way academics are funded (based
on citations, publications and student numbers) and the work they do on
internet standardisation - and that needs to be solved.

* deployment of new technologies on the internet is really hard,
especially when born in a small organisation. Small actors need some
help with it.

There is a lot of value to society we get for free. The internet and the
world wide web are part of what makes our modern world run, yet none of
us can't buy or own them. They were handed down to us, generously, by
the people who created them. These pioneers had no business model in
mind when they created the technologies we now use, and that made just
about everything else that happened possible.

With the money ICANN has in its hands, it can do great things. I wish
the board of ICANN a lot of wisdom in its decision what to do, and hope
it will benefit the internet in the way NLnet's board decided for its
endowment to benefit the global internet society.

Michiel Leenaars
Dorector or Strategy
NLnet foundation

Science Park 400 (Matrix 2)
1098 XH Amsterdam
The Netherlands

sip/xmpp: michiel [@t] nlnet.nl

[1] The history of NLnet goes back to in the early eighties, to Dutch
internet pioneers like Teus Hagen, Ted Lindgreen, Jaap Akkerhuis,
Frances Brazier and Wytze van Raay who played an active role in setting
up the European pre-internet computer networks with the national
research institute for mathematics and computer science CWI as its
center point under the auspices of the national Unix user association.
Together with many volunteers they bootstrapped a low cost grass roots
network infrastructure with national coverage by all kinds of unusual
and creative means - for instance leveraging the signaling
infrastructure of the national rail network to accommodate modem banks -
that consumed 25% of the traffic of the EUnet. Steep growth put an
enormous pressure on the small organisation and in 1997 NLnet decided to
sell off all operational activities. The proceeds of the sale were
dedicated to the maintenance and health of the internet.

Attachment: signature.asc
Description: OpenPGP digital signature

<<< Chronological Index >>>    <<< Thread Index >>>

Privacy Policy | Terms of Service | Cookies Policy