October 30, 2006

ICANN Hires Karl Rove

No, ICANN didn't really hire Karl Rove.  But they must have a Rove wannabe somewhere in their ever ramifying staff.

ICANN, obviously reaching for ways to self-applaud itself, issued a press release with the title Greek and Egyptian Governments Applaud ICANN's Move Toward Autonomy

If anyone bothers to read ICANN's agreements with NTIA and other agencies of the US Government it is abundantly clear that ICANN is as much a puppet of the USG as it ever was.

Perhaps the diplomats of some countries no longer practice Realpolitik and, as do many in this world of internet governance, see the world through very rose colored glasses.

Or perhaps they were merely smoothly sliding over a difficult issue with a layer of oleaginous diplo-speak.

Posted by karl at 9:28 PM | TrackBack

Opening Ceremonies at IGF

I'm watching the video feed (English version) from the opening ceremony of the IGF.  The audio and video are of good quality.

I hear that nearly half of the attendees couldn't get a pass to go into the meeting room - 800 seats for 1400 people.  There seems to be grumbling abut the fairness of the system used to decide who got passes.

From the video I can see several things.  First is that the camera man is, indeed, a man - his eye (and camera) seem drawn to the younger women sitting in the audience as well as a group sitting at a table on the side of the room.  Second is that the number of people dressed in suits is rather larger than at ICANN meetings, and much larger than at IETF meetings - but about the same as at meetings of the California Intellectual property bar.

There are many faces in the audience that I do not recognize.

And as usual the microphones are left open during the breaks - which lets us overhear some interesting unscripted chatter.

The igf20006.intgovforum.org website keeps breaking and I haven't been able to raise anyone on its chats.

Is there any IRC or IM based chats out there?

As for the opening remarks themselves - nothing special (yet).  However, there have been several references to the the history of democracy in Athens and the issue of democracy in internet governance.  Whether this is mere wind or whether it represents a real pressure for something not much seen in internet governance, democracy, is yet to be seen.

Posted by karl at 1:41 AM | TrackBack

October 29, 2006

Boontling

I am very fond of the Anderson Valley, California.

The largest town is Boonville.  It's a beautiful place.  (And there are several very good wineries in the valley.)

They have a language there, Boontling, that was indended to be incompressible to outsiders.

I just read Vint Cerf's planned opening for the IGF

It would deny to the users of the internet their right to create their own Boontling.  Indeed the denial of such dialects in the domain name space has been one of the goals of ICANN policy.

This is misdirected and assigns attributes to domain names that simply do not exist.

I dealt with these widespread, and oft repeated (as Vint does) errors in my submissions to the US National Research Council.  For convenience I will restate them here.

Vint alludes to a concept that goes under the name "Global Uniform Internet Name Space".  Globally Uniform Internet Names are known as GUINs.

Are domain names and the domain name system powerful enough to provide GUINs?  Vint's talk seems to assume that they are.  My analysis, below, indicates that they are not.

The properties of a GUIN are these:

  • Universal validity or universal invalidity
  • Invariance:
    • Location invariance
    • Client invariance
    • Temporal invariance

Let's look at these in a bit more detail:

Universal Validity or Universal Invalidity requires:

  • Every name that is valid must be valid everywhere.
  • Every name that is invalid must be invalid everywhere.

Location invariance requires that every valid name must have the same meaning no matter where it may be uttered.

Client Invariance requires that every valid name must have the same meaning no matter by whom it may be uttered

Temporal Invariance requires that once a name becomes valid it must have the same meaning no matter when it may subsequently be uttered.

Under these requirements, domain names are inadequate to operate as GUINs.

Due to caching and the time to propagate changes domain names are not strictly universally valid, but they are not that far from meeting the criteria.  So we can fudge a bit and say that domain names meet the requirement of universal validity or invalidity.  (It is this property of validity/invalidity that was damaged by Verisign's "SiteFinder" proposals.)

Where domain names fall down badly is on the requirement of invariance.

Failure to meet client invariance: an example: Amazon.com uses returns different web content to different users even though they each provide the exact same URL containing the exact same domain name.

Failure to meet location invariance, an example: The domain name "www.google.com" when uttered via HTTP or HTTPs will result in different web pages depending on where the query comes from (e.g. if you are in Sweden you will be received the web page normally visible under "www.google.se" even though the user uttered "www.google.com".

Failure to meet temporal invariance: some examples. The IETF's "internet drafts" are visible via HTTP for a period of time, after which their content disappears.  We often call this URL rot.  Domain names are quickly recycled, one day they may result in useful content, the next they may have been transferred to a new operator and be filled with "domain monetization" advertisements.

The point of this is that Vint's talk, and that of others, is presuming too much of the domain name system.  They are assigning attributes that it simply does not have.

From the point of view of internet Governance the point to be taken is that we ought not to try to build a system of governance based on an incomplete appreciation of what a technology such as DNS does and does not do.

And finally: What is wrong with local dialects anyway?  Vint's presentation presumes that everyone has a right to reach out and communicate with everyone else.  Why?  Don't people have the right to chose to be unreachable and to interact only with their chosen group?

In other words, what is wrong with internet Boontling?

Update: I am being a bit imprecise about the difference between a domain name, a URL, and how these are used by various protocols, such as HTTP.  But that does not diminish the force of my argument that domain names are being shopped around as having properties that they simply do not have.

Posted by karl at 9:33 PM | TrackBack

On the Eve of the IGF/Athens

Today (or rather, from my time zone, last night) the preliminaries got underway at the Internet Governance Forum in Athens.

I remain totally miffed that medical necessity has required me to stay here in Santa Cruz.

The big event was the GIGAnet day - which I completely missed due my brain skipping a gear and getting the dates confused.  This group usually has a pretty decent system for interacting with folks over the net.

GIGAnet - the Global Internet Governance Academic Network - has nothing to do with gigabit, as in 1000 megabit, networking.  Rather it is the academic and civil society viewpoint.  And from what I can see it is where the really important material is being addressed.  I can say that from the notes that I've seen that several people spoke of ideas that resonated sympathetically with several of my own ideas. Dang, I wish I could have been there!  I particularly want to meet and speak with Dr. Peng Hwa Ang.

However, from the initial noises - and there are far too few noises - coming from Athens, it seems that for the rest of the week that I'm going to be missing material that can be characterized as "same o', same o'"

The IGF, being a spin-out from the UN is a government-o-crat playground.  And from what I've seen it seems that one characteristic that cuts across all government-o-crats, from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe, is that they hardly deign to consider mere humans as much more than ants at a picnic.  They do, however, seem to have rather more esteem for industrial interests.  Indeed, for some governmental delegations, particularly that of the US, the question of whether industry is government's marionette or vice versa is very much open to question, with the smart money being on industry as the master of puppetry.

So it seems that for the rest of the weak we will have something that seems much like a trade show - panels packed with similar-speakers speaking similar sycophantic words to an audience that is well instructed that its role is to sit, listen, and accept.

I hope I'm wrong.

But the signs are not good.  The lead discussion - "Setting the Scene: Multi-stakeholder policy dialogue" appears to simply accept the dangerous idea of stakeholderism, a matter that I referenced in my previous entry in this blog as well as in my paper Stakeholderism - The Wrong Road For Internet Governance (5 pages pdf).

And the manipulative role of the US government, particularly the Bush administration, is quite apparent - from the former Bush appointed head of NTIA, and premier exponent of the theory that "ICANN can do no wrong" being the north American male member on the IGF's steering committee - to the presence of a Bush contributor being the head of the US gov't delegation.

And to throw sand into the sheets - Word has it that at the opening ceremony there won't be enough passes available for people attending under the Civil Society banner.

Is there any similar shortage of passes for people attending under the government or industrial banners?

And, since I'm signed up to attend as an unaffiliated individual, would I have been simply out of luck with no pass whatsoever available to me, or any of my 6,500,000,000 fellow individuals, had any of those chosen to attend?

An idea came to me as I sat here in Santa Cruz, annoyed the news from Athens (and also by the fact that I am cut off from an entire floor of my house due to a kitchen remodelling that started this past week.)

That idea is that we, the community of internet users, ought to form a Congress of Internet Governance (CIG) as a kind of tennis court (a la June 20, 1789) where we can respond to the government-industrial alliance that seems to perfade ICANN and, unfortunately, the IGF.

We are far from powerless.  Ultimately the members of the CIG are the same people who elect governments and we are the same people who own the industrial interests.  That hardly means that we can control them - the community of internet users is far too diffuse, and often more concerned with daily life, to become organized enough to use their potential power.  But it does mean that we have a place to stand and make ourselves heard with effect.

So I'm thinking of hosting a small meeting to explore the possibility of a CIG.  I'll write on that anon.

Posted by karl at 11:00 AM | TrackBack

October 27, 2006

Papers for IGF Meeting in Athens

I've written two relatively short papers for the Internet Governance Forum (IGF) meeting in Athens.

The first addresses stakeholderism - a concept that I find extremely dangerous and mutually exclusive with the idea of accountable governance.

The second deals with the question of how to structure bodies of internet governance.  Most people seem to be locked into questions of "what should be governed".  My concern is "how should we structure bodies of governance".

Posted by karl at 4:49 PM | TrackBack

October 23, 2006

Answering Bret's Comment on .name

Bret Fausett's blog contains an item today about .name and its operators asking ICANN for permission to allow two character names within .name.

Now normally I would not have any objection to the idea that a TLD operator can run its business as it sees fit.

However, .name, like its six siblings of year 2000, got to play as a TLD while its 40's lesser cousins have had to sit for six years in limbo (with a $50,000 application fee for each of those 40 still sitting on the ICANN table.)

It seems to me that it is only fair and proper that the .name folks be held to exactly their original terms until each of those remaining 40 gets its approval to be a TLD.

Posted by karl at 3:30 PM | TrackBack

October 22, 2006

I Have To Miss the Internet Governance Forum (IGF) In Athens

The Internet Governance Forum (IGF) meeting is in Athens at the end of the month.

I'm all signed up and ready to go - except I can't go.

I'm having some medical difficulties that make it hard for me to travel.  (And given the current security paranoia I'm not keen on dragging quantities of prescription pain killers through airports and across national borders.)

I'm preparing a couple of papers to send in my stead.  And I'll be online.  But I am very sorry that I'm not going to be there in person.

Dang!

Posted by karl at 7:51 PM | TrackBack

Election Day - My Choice for Sect'y of State: Debra Bown

(You know that this entry is not about ICANN - this item is about voting in elections and ICANN has removed elections and voting from its vocabulary.)

Election day comes on November 7.  Make sure that you vote!

For me the most important race is that of the California Secretary of State.  And I'm going to be voting for Debra Bowen.

Now, being a resident of Santa Cruz, the real "Surf City", I ought to look askance upon someone from Huntington Beach, the artificial "Surf City" that has brought trademark claims against Santa Cruz merchants.  And the current Sect'y of State is my neighbor.

But Debra Bowen is on "the right side" of a matter that is of great importance to me - modern voting systems.  (I am on the board of directors of the Open Voting Consortium.)

She understands the issues and is not going to be bowled over by techno-babble or overreaching claims of vendors of un-inspectable voting systems.

Posted by karl at 7:35 PM | TrackBack

October 4, 2006

Beyond Whois - Data Mining IANA Protocol Numbers

We all know about how the "whois" database is being mined by spammers and other scum.

This morning I woke up to find a scam email in my inbox, nothing odd about that.  What was odd, however, was that it was very clear that this email was created by mining the IANA protocol number assignments.

Posted by karl at 12:26 PM | TrackBack

The Rule Against Digital Perpetuities - A Reprise

I see from Wendy Seltzer that today (OK, yesterday) is (was) the Day Against DRM.

That reminds me of something I wrote a while back - The Rule Against Digital Perpetuities:

The Rule Against Digital Perpetuities:

No Digital Rights Management (DRM) limitation or anti-copying mechanism may endure longer than the original copyright in the protected work.

The Pledge:

I pledge to neither specify nor standardize nor implement any system that does not conform to the Rule Against Digital Perpetuities.

Sure, with the Supreme Court allowing copyright to exist almost forever, the effect of this might be minimal.  But consider what DRM technology would be if it had to self-destruct when it was no longer wrapped around a work no longer covered by copyright?

And consider the value for librarians, archivists, and historians of the future if DRM mechanisms were required to self-destruct when the clock on the copyright runs out.

Posted by karl at 12:46 AM | TrackBack

October 3, 2006

What Universe Are They Living In?

I see the news filled with articles, many from Europe, proclaiming that that the United States government is finally releasing ICANN.

Nonesense.  The US Government is doing no such thing.

In the 1950's the damning phrase (and book title) was "The Man who Lost China".

People in the United States government are terrified of being labeled as the man (or woman) who lost the internet - it would end their careers faster than a lewd instant message to a Congressional page.

And the folks in the present US administration view the US hegemony as a national security issue.  Not only do they believe that retention of control over ICANN is necessary to protect US security, but they fear the attacks that would come from their political opposition if they should do anything that could be perceived or characterized as weak on security.

In addition, the new agreement between ICANN and the US Government is really only a cosmetic change.  Yes, ICANN can skip a few reports - which were mainly self congratulatory lists of how many numbers IANA has assigned and which were one of the few windows into the interior life of ICANN.  Don't forget that the main part of ICANN's work is not performed under this new agreement but under a separate purchase order for "the IANA function" - and that agreement has not significantly changed.

But the real kicker is the way that NTIA simply overturned one of the few policies in ICANN that was developed through a wide process, the policy regarding "whois" data.  In so doing, NTIA signaled quite clearly that it is the Alpha male in the NTIA-ICANN relationship.  And to add insult to injury, in so doing, NTIA has, without as much as a by-your-leave negated the privacy laws of Europe, Canada, and much of the civilized world.

ICANN benefits from this infinitely deferred emancipation.  The moment that the US Government is clearly no longer interfused with ICANN will be moment that ICANN will begin to feel the heat as denied entrepreneurs and ICANN-taxed consumers begin to ask whether ICANN is, under the laws of their countries, an illegal combination in restraint of trade.

Posted by karl at 1:39 AM | TrackBack