Today, Friday April 27, ICANN had promised an update on the problems that led to its TLD Registration System (TAS) being taken offline on April 12.
As the working day ends in Europe, that update has yet to come. Even if it does, I would not expect anything more concrete than the "we are still working on the issue, thanks for your patience" message of recent days.
So what's really going on here? Does anyone at ICANN seriously expect us to believe that the tech team is "still reviewing the TAS data and checking the integrity of each and every application"?
TAS is a purpose-built system designed to allow users to input data in simple text format. It doesn't really do much more. It's not rocket science. It's far simpler than the systems that control, say, air traffic in the US. Yet if those systems went offline (and I understand there are frequent problems with what is basically an ad-hoc mix of antiques), you can bet it wouldn't take much more than a few hours to get them back up. No-one would expect the US to grind to a halt for a month because its air traffic computer experts are taking their time "carefully reviewing all the data"…
So who can we blame? The obvious candidate is ICANN CEO Rod Beckstrom. But can this really be his doing? Although he is no doubt bitter about the Board not renewing his employment contract beyond July, I just do not see him scuppering the ship this badly.
True, some of his recent comments have felt a little too anti-ICANN to me. His speech at the Costa Rica meeting opening ceremony against industry knowledge on the Board for example. And if anything, the TAS glitch only serves to highlight the need for a balanced Board, with both non-industry and industry experts.
I mean, who isn't thankful that we have Steve Crocker as ICANN Chair at the moment? Having one of the creators of the Internet at the helm is reassuring at the best of times. Right now, it feels like a godsend. And the Board Vice Chair Bruce Tonkin, a domain industry insider, has proven invaluable over the years as an anchor for a Board that didn't always have the full facts on domain name practices.
Right now, because of this problem, I actually wish we had more industry insiders and computer experts on the Board to act as counterweights to an existing ICANN management that is clearly letting this problem go on too long. And making it harder and harder for anyone to believe the official ICANN line on TAS.
If something else really is happening here, then the real question we should all be asking ourselves is not "when will TAS go back up?", but "who is keeping TAS down?"
That is a question I'd like to ask Beckstrom. He's been unusually quiet since the start of this debacle, but I just cannot see how he can avoid speaking publicly on this for much longer. Until he does, all we have is conjecture. The US government, Doctor Evil, extremely well organised lobbyists, little green men...? At this point, I think I'd actually prefer it to be the Martians' fault. Because if TAS really is being held up this long to do some data checking, then I fear ICANN may never be taken seriously again.
By Stéphane Van Gelder, Chairman, MILATHAN
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