January 30, 2005

ICANN and Its Fairy Tale

ICANN's recent Loyalty Oath, recites the tired old claim that "ICANN is responsible for ensuring the stable and secure operation of the Internet's unique identifier systems".

That claim is false and deceptive.

ICANN might recognize an Internet unique identifier one bit 'em and the IETF wrote an RFC about it.

But ICANN's role with regard to such identifiers is empty and without form.

ICANN does nothing about IP addresses.

ICANN does nothing about domain names except to regulate the domain name business place and define DNS products and prices.   ICANN engages in no DNS technical matters.  ICANN does nothing about DNS security.  ICANN has no role in or over DNS root operations or service standards.

IANA, not ICANN, writes numbers down in the big book of internet protocol numbers, and the IETF instructs IANA what to write.

ICANN's claim that it is "ICANN is responsible for ensuring the stable and secure operation of the Internet's unique identifier systems" is false on several grounds:

ICANN is neither responsible nor does it ensure anything beyond the business profits of DNS registries and registrars and protect a bloated assertion of intellectual property rights.

ICANN has no role with regard IP addresses, the single most important kind of internet identifier.  ICANN abandoned that part of its job years ago to the regional internet address registries.

ICANN has no role over the technical stability over DNS.  The root servers are operated by an entirely independent group over which ICANN has no authority.  ICANN has repeatedly avoided any role in establishing performance or security requirements for DNS root operations.  And ICANN doesn't have the mental horsepower, much less the willingness, to ask question and obtain answers, about changes in DNS operations, such as the deployment of anycast or the introduction of IPv6 records.  ICANN doesn't even bother to ask questions about why major failures - like last summer's outage of .org - have occurred, much less how they can be prevented in the future.

It is unsettling to hear ICANN repeat these falsehoods.  It is unsettling to know that ICANN, which was supposed to be our internet fireman to ensure that our DNS and IP address houses don't burn down has, instead, thrown away its hoses and axes and has decided to turn the firehouse into a stock brokerage.

We have been fortunate that the RIRs and root server operators are competent and that the internet has a lot of resilience.  However, ICANN's abandonment of its role of technical oversight and its assumption of the role of business regulator has weakened the internet and made the internet more vulnerable to failure and attack.

The Non-Commercial User Constituency - probably the smartest and most thoughtful of ICANN's appointed "constituencies" - has been sniffing ICANN's snake oil.  In its draft comment on ICANN's strategic plan the NCUC makes this statement:

At the same time, we recognize the dangers of overly intrusive and arbitrary forms of governmental (or intergovernmental) intervention in the management of Internet identifiers.

While I agree that in the abstract such a concern about governmental incompetence is valid, in the concrete situation of ICANN and its "strategic plan" there is no need to worry: ICANN has so far indicated absolutely no interest in actually engaging in the management of internet identifiers.

It is long past the time when we should be believing the fairy tale that ICANN manages internet identifiers or has any role in the technical stability of the internet.

We should by now all clearly recognize that ICANN has become nothing more than an industrial cartel that has as its goal the management of the domain name industry by defining the products offered by that industry, setting prices of those products, and selecting who may and who may not participate in that industry.

We should also clearly recognize the the ICANN cartel is opposed to any form of innovation that might disturb the profits of the domain name industry or that might tarnish its mutual assistance pact with the intellectual property industry.

Anybody who actually believes ICANN's claim that "ICANN is responsible for ensuring the stable and secure operation of the Internet's unique identifier systems" needs their head examined.

Posted by karl at January 30, 2005 1:10 PM