At-Large Representative for Canada and the United States on the
ICANN Board of Directors
Karl Auerbach

Diary - November 15, 2001
(ICANN Annual Meeting)

This material was prepared over several days, mainly during the days after November 23.  (I'm doing the final proofing in early December.)

This meeting was ICANN's "annual meeting" and it was held over several days - I arrived in Marina del Rey (a part of Los Angeles) on Sunday November 11 and was engaged for most of my time through the actual public meeting of the Board of Directors on Wednesday November 15.

The preliminary minutes are posted at:

The subject matter of this meeting was mainly on security.  I had agreed to this change for three reasons:  First, security is an important issue.  Second, it was refreshing  to observe ICANN's undertaking something within its proper, and limited, role.  And third, I felt that the primary topic - that of public participation in ICANN - was not quite yet ready to stop being a chaotic and roiling liquid; I felt that a bit more time was needed before the At-Large issue was ready to cool and solidify.

ICANNDEX - Panem et circenses?  Or just a circus?  And what about those "sponsors"?

Based on last year's TLD circus I should not have been surprised at what actually happened this year:  ICANN's annual meeting turned into a trade show.  One writer, taking a cue from COMDEX, dubbed it "ICANNDEX".  Of course, since ICANN seems addicted to "big names" there were big name speakers.

Like any big trade show, sponsorship slots were sold - ICANN charged, and got, $15,000 each for six top level sponsorships.  And those top paying sponsors got to set up tables outside the meeting rooms that appeared just like the booths at any trade show.  And ICANN made it clear that only paying sponsors would be allowed to distribute printed materials in the hotel - that is until the ACLU complained.  In response ICANN's management did a rather ungraceful, but quick, morph of its policies to allow non-commercial materials.

And, like any trade show there were giveaways:  The .us folks gave away tote bags and baseballs - as a citizen of the United States, I didn't quite feel these were much of a compensation for the commercialization of my country's name - and the Verisign folks gave out bouncy illuminated balls - which also felt like a somewhat inadequate return on the years of privileged position that that corporation has obtained under the NSF/NTIA/ICANN dynasty.

Now tell me this:  Were these sponsors forking all this money to ICANN simply because it made them feel good?  Or perhaps were they thinking that this might lubricate some favorable treatment by ICANN or IANA?  Whatever the reality, the fact of paid sponsorships creates fodder for those who might conclude that  ICANN's favors are for sale.

The Security Program

My own contribution to the security discussion consisted of my "subversive screed".  It's not really subversive - but I like the alliteration.  The document is actually a collection of what I believe to be practical ideas for things that could readily and quickly be done by ICANN (and everyone else) to protect the Domain Name System.

Despite the long agenda and presentations by many "big names" no concrete security proposals ever bubbled up to the Board of Directors.  Are you surprised?  I wasn't.  This lack of specific actions left me with an general feeling that the security part of ICANN's Annual Meeting was, if I may be permitted to paraphrase Shakespeare's MacBeth:

a tale ... full of sound and fury,
Signifying nothing.

Various Meetings, Occurrences, and Other Events of Interest

Before I launch into the resolutions, let me lead you through a tour of a few of the many meetings, discussions, and events of the week.  As usual some of these, such as ICANN's GAC, were closed - even to members of ICANN's Board.

I don't know how many of you are familiar with the Edinburgh Festival - it's a big, fancy, highly structured event held every summer in Edinburgh, Scotland.  Well, there is also a Fringe Festival - much less structured and much more fun.  In Los Angeles ICANN had its own "official" program.  And across the street there was the "fringe" program.  In many respects the latter was rather more interesting and worthwhile than the official program.

A couple of meetings are worth particular mention:

Meeting the At-Large Directors

For the third time, ICANN's at-large Directors met in a small, informal setting to talk with anyone who wanted to talk.  As was true of all of the non-official program events, this was not one of those walk-up-to-the-microphone-and-talk-for-90-second kinds of things - instead it was a real dialog, person to person.

Now that I've had a chance to get to know many of the non at-large Directors, it is my feeling that much would be gained by having this kind of around-the-campfire kind of session with all of ICANN's Directors.

History of ICANN

This was an incredible event.  Becky Burr, Milton Mueller, and myself revisited the pre-history and early history of ICANN - and took many questions from the audience.  I hope someone in the audience will post a summary as this was probably the first time that several of the partisans from "the early days" had a chance to really and openly talk with one another.

This meeting, like the gathering of the at-large Directors, was not part of ICANN's official program.

The Board Meeting

Since the event in Marina del Rey was in fact ICANN's "annual meeting" there was a meeting of the Board of Directors.

There was, of course, the Board's usual dinner gathering.  And, as usual the public was not invited.  There were, however, the usual non-Board outsiders.  This dinner meeting was somewhat different than its predecessors - For one thing, the outsiders generally kept quiet.  For another, I left the meeting feeling that no significant policy issues had been decided.  This was, to my way of thinking, a very good thing: it meant that the public meeting would be more than a display of performance art.

As has become rather common for ICANN, the actual resolutions didn't appear until shortly before the meeting - Although in this case I had paper copies of most of 'em the day prior to the actual meeting.

Chairman of the Board

I voted yes.  I feel that Vint Cerf does a very good job with the procedural aspects of meetings.  My only wish is that he would take a stronger position vis a vis ICANN's staff and more strongly assert the dominance of the Board of Directors over management.

Vice-Chairman of the Board

I voted yes.

Election of Officers

For some reason my notes are blank on this one - however, my memory tells me that I voted against these resolutions.  I do not consider the candidate for Chief Financial Officer to be qualified for the job.

Executive Committee

I voted no - Given the excessive power of the Executive Committee I consider it unwise to let any one person continue on that committee for more than a single term.  In addition, I consider it unwise to have the President of ICANN on the committee because doing so concentrates too much power into the hands of a single person.

It should be recognized that the some important procedural changes were made - that of requiring the Executive committee to give the rest of the board notice of its activities.

Conflicts of Interest Committee

I abstained - I am not sure about whether it is a conflict to vote for myself particularly when my assignment to this committee role is pretty much an exile to the lowest and one of the most powerless of ICANN's committees.

Audit Committee

I voted yes, but I do wish that the Audit Committee would actually audit ICANN's activities, particularly ICANN's strange dance around the IANA Maypole, the lack of adequate definition of employee procedures and policies, the apparent duplication of effort (and costs) by staff and professional services providers, the ad hoc-racy of ICANN's procedures, etc etc rather than acting as management's tool for muzzling Directors who do not hew to the Corporate line.

Finance Committee

I voted yes.  I believe that ICANN's budgeting process is improving and this committee is part of that improvement.

Meetings Committee

I voted yes.  This committee appears to be functioning quite well.

Reconsideration Committee

I voted no - I have grown exceedingly tired of the knee-jerk rejections that, with one exception, have constituted the entire output of the Reconsideration Committee.  It is my sense that this committee has constituted itself as a kind of Protector of the Faith rather than as a body that actually "reconsiders" things.  I voted against this resolution because it is my strong belief that this committee must be 100% reconstituted with no holdovers - including no staff holdovers - from its prior instantiations.

Standing Committee on Security and Stability

My notes do not show this resolution as having been presented or voted upon.  Nor do I remember voting on it.

We have already seen ICANN use the word "stability" as a self-propelling justification for ICANN to stick its intrusive nose into things that have absolutely no rational or reasonable relationship to the actual technical workings of the Internet.  I fear that this committee could grow to be an Internet version of the French revolutionary  "Committee of Public Safety".

IDN Committee

I moved a successful amendment to the original resolution - and thus removed a seat on the committee for one of ICANN's historically favored special interests - WIPO.

With that item corrected, I voted yes.

Geographic and Geopolitical Names in .info

I abstained - Given the whirlpool of activity surrounding the ALSC, not to mention other matters, such as my continuing quest to examine corporate records against the stonewalling of corporate management, I simply did not have time to read the proposed action play on geographic names in .info.

At Large Study Committee Report

I voted against "accepting" the report.  I might have voted yes had we merely acknowledged the receipt of the report, but I felt that "acceptance" was too close to an endorsement of the contents of the report.

As for the contents of that report - I find them unacceptable.  I'll be writing about that separately.

Restructuring Committee

I voted no.  While I feel that ICANN is in need of fundamental, indeed radical restructuring, I felt that the committee membership was not sufficiently broadly based.

Thanks to Program Committee, Speakers, and Panelists

I was suffering from a lot of brain-fade by this point and I failed to note my thoughts in my notes.

Thanks to Sponsors

I voted yes.

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2001 Karl Auerbach, All Rights Reserved.
Updated: Monday, December 03, 2001 02:41:23 AM