I’ve been thinking of writing about ICANN for some time now, and since I’ve had to deal (and still have to) with its almost cretin policy I’m guessing this is the best time to write this.
ICANN, for us mortals that use the internet and don’t know what that acronym stands for but know that it’s mainly the internet TLD registry, stands for Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers. That’s a long ass name with not so much logic behind it.
Let’s just paste an excerpt from their front page stating what ICANN is and what it does, we’ll go on from there.
The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) is based in Los Angeles, California, and has offices in Singapore, Istanbul, Geneva, Brussels and Washington DC as well as staff working around the world in 22 other countries. We have a sophisticated, highly educated workforce that shares a global point of view and works independently in a collegial environment and meets at least three times a year at annual meetings which are conducted in major cities around the globe.
ICANN is a nonprofit public benefit corporation responsible for the global coordination of the Internet’s system of unique identifiers. These include top-level domain names (like .org, or .museum)
The mission of ICANN is to coordinate, at the overall level, the global Internet’s systems of unique identifiers, and in particular to ensure the stable and secure operation of the Internet’s unique identifier systems. In particular, ICANN:
- Coordinates the allocation and assignment of the three sets of unique identifiers for the Internet, which are
- Domain names (forming a system referred to as “DNS”);
- Internet protocol (“IP”) addresses and autonomous system (“AS”) numbers; and
- Protocol port and parameter numbers.
- Coordinates the operation and evolution of the DNS root name server system.
- Coordinates policy development reasonably* and appropriately related to these technical functions.
*what a joke.
Basically ICANN takes care of everything from domain names (ccTLDs as well as gTLD) to IP addresses.
The issue that I find deep in the organization roots is the fact that although they brag about having a team composed of people from 30+ countries, it is still a company based in the US, so it’s prone to a bias.
Independence doesn’t reside in a state
ICANN is based in California and was “organized from the Secretary of the State of California” and until October 2009 it was also under somewhat of a control of the U.S. Department of Commerce. In 2004 ICANN wanted to basically hit the jackpot and increase its spending from $8.27 million to $15.83 million – by introducing new TLDs, charges to domain registries and a fee for some domain names, renewals and transfers.
CENTR(Council of European National Top Level Domain Registries) which is basically an alliance for 39 countries’ worth of TLDs opposed this and described the fact as “unrealistic political and operational targets”. After the short drama the .jobs and .travel still have a $2 fee for registrars that sell or renew the domains. Because who cares about fairness.
Another example of its overpowered ambitions can be seen in the VeriSign “Site Finder” case in which the ICANN issued an ultimatum to VeriSign to cease the activities of the DNS finder, only to reach a point of VeriSign suing ICANN for overstepping its authority. Three years later ICANN’s board approved a settlement regarding the lawsuit through which it allowed VeriSign to increase the cost of registration fees by up to 7%. “Some people in the US House of Representatives’ Small Business comittee” criticised this. (See where I’m going with this ?)
Running the world
Up until not so long ago there weren’t a literal plethora of domains to choose from, but then the great organisation decided to make a move regarded as a “commercial landgrab” by introducing hundreds of new TLDs ranging from .abc to .xxx. Why is this a problem?
Think of it like this – you have a small business in your town called Martha’s Orange Juice and you decide to make an online brand for yourself. You happily employ a webdesigner to create you a nice website and you buy the domain MarthasOJ.com. You’re all happy and joyful. After a while you start seeing domains such as Marthas.oj or MarthasOJ.sucks(we’ll get back to the .sucks later), this basically forces you to buy all of the domains that seem relevant to you – albeit sometimes cybersquatters will request ridiculous amounts of money for the domain. If it was HP the company that you owned and a .invent domain would come out, you’d obviously buy the HP.invent domain.
This forced everyone to grab multiple domains that were relevant to them at the time, thus for the “commercial landgrab” description.
The (ICANN) .sucks
Ever since the ideea of the .sucks TLD there were some disputes regarding it and its utility. If we take Martha’s OJ into account again, that domain can’t possibly host good reviews of the business, can it ?
Well, let’s say Martha wants to protect its property and image and decides to buy the .sucks domain, let’s see how many oranges she has to squeeze…
Yeah, Martha has to squeeze 112 kilograms of oranges to make sure she won’t have an awful page telling people lies about the great juice she’s making. The pricing scheme is ridiculous, and again it forces brands to respond to this by buying domains to protect their intellectual property and image (WIPO works together with ICANN sometimes, albeit it’s basically useless from the looks of it). The price for famous brands and trademark holders (Nike, Porsche, BMW, etc) to register such a domain was about $2500, while for everyone else the price was 10$. The move was regarded as so shitty that even US Congressman Bob Goodlatte (really ?) said that “trademark holders are being shaken down” by the registry’s fees. Even Jay Rockefeller said that it’s “a predatory shakedown scheme”. It must suck for your parents to criticize you in public.
Not really running anything
I’m not a big fan of the French, yeah I’m really sorry for the terrible things that went down over there, but generally speaking – I’m not a fan of the majority of their culture/country/people. I’ve got to admit that I agreed with them when in 2014 they said that ICANN is not a fit venue for Internet governance and alternatives should be sought.
While running their business they never once actually tried to protect the “net neutrality” concept or condemn/stop mass surveillance.
The main reason for which I wrote this article is their ridiculous procedures regarding re-buying expired domains (I went through this)
So, your domain expires – you forgot to pay, it happens to the best of us. WELL YOU’RE SHIT OUT OF LUCK MATE.
This is the moment when you’re faced with the option of paying $80 to redeem your trademark (in my case it’s my name, so my trademark) and if not – hope to god no one will actually buy your domain at the first auction and second one. After 43 days of pain the domain goes back to ICANN for an unlimited time to be scheduled for deletion (yeah, I know their site says 45 days from expiry to deletion, I waited 72 days) and only after it’s deleted by ICANN can you actually re-buy your domain.
The ICANN was a good initiative that was meant to help develop, support, help, whatver the internet, instead it only helped develop the ICANN business. The “multicultural multigovernance” they praise on their website is a joke, CENTR would not be needed if the guys in Playa Vista were doing their job properly. I’m actually curious how much money they siphon through different far-away-islands bank accounts.