Time to let a thousand domains bloom?

Bill Thompson explores some interesting points in his BBC article on the introduction of new TLDs following ICANN’s most recent meeting in San Juan, Puerto Rico. These include:

  • many question ICANN’s “legitimacy, since it derives its authority from the US rather than the worldwide network community. Others question its commitment to openness and dialogue, especially in relation to the UN-run Internet Governance Forum.” Bill also says “others wonder if Icann is really up to the job, pointing to its cumbersome bureaucracy, exemplified by the disastrous way it handled the proposal to create a new top level domain, .xxx, for sex sites”
  • “trying to engage with [ICANN and making] it more effective is the only real option for those concerned with the net’s future. It is therefore reassuring that much of the discussion in San Juan was related to transparency and accountability, looking at how the organisation can be improved”
  • quoting Wendy Seltzer, Bill notes she “has argued persuasively that we need more openness, more experimentation and more risk-taking with gTLDs as part of the policy-making process.” Seltzer “believes that ICANN should set technical standards but stay away from acting as a moral guardian of the network” and “any control over what is acceptable or not should be imposed at local level, by countries or even institutions.”
  • using Wendy Seltzer’s arguments, Bill Thompson surmises that “[i]f Saudi Arabia objects to the .allah domain or the Vatican city dislikes .jesus then they will be free to block them, but we should not limit the capabilities of the network just because of these sectional interests”
  • another point made by Thompson is, “The core architecture should be as open as possible, both in terms of the technology and in terms of any restrictions on freedom of expression”
  • Thompson concludes that we should expect from ICANN what the United Nations Universal Declaration on Human Rights gives us, and “[t]he rules governing the internet should be universal and support freedom from the start, rather than giving every interest group, lobbying organisation and corrupt government a veto. If we give in over domain names we will find it impossible to argue effectively over new developments in networking as they emerge. Further, “[r]egulating the network to confirm with community standards and local laws is one thing, but limiting what it can do just in case it upsets someone is short-sighted, dangerous and indefensible. And while I may not like what you are saying, I’ll fight for your right to give it a domain name.”

See the full article at http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/technology/6262386.stm or on Bill Thompson’s own blog at http://thebillblog.com/billblog/index.php/2007/07/04/let-a-thousand-domains-bloom/

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