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Finally the .com Discussion is Over…

Veni Markovski

Well, at least one part of it. As ICANN has announced, the Board approved the VeriSign Settlement Agreement.

Now, there will be many questions, many pros and contras, but for me the main question is that finally this discussion is over.

Here's what I think about my vote and the agreement itself.

I think the agreement is a positive step forwards, as it puts an end to a long-lasting tension, which was driving ICANN away from its main job. I also think it's important to note that now the agreement needs to be approved by the DoC, before it's really enacted. That's additional step, which makes sure that agreement by ICANN are taken in accordance with the laws.

I don't believe ICANN integrity will be undermined by this agreement. It is true that for some of the US-companies this agreement means less profits, and for some - more profits. But there's no possibility to have both parties right and happy. But, what is more important? I don't think the registrants will feel difference in pricing. In some ways, it will actually encourage competition with other top-level domains (TLDs), and hopefully with the .us, which is not a very popular TLD in the USA.

I think that the policy development in this case did not happen the way it should have (now, some question whether this was a policy development question). But I don't think it's ICANN's fault. I think it's a failure of the ICANN community, and the continuous processing in which it has been involved for quite a while. I told a number of times the ICANN community, during our meetings with them, don't just tell us the problems, we know them. Suggest the solutions, participate in their formation. That didn't happen. Further, we never heard from the ICANN community their conflicts of interests, and we could never be sure when someone speaks whose interests they represent.

I don't think ICANN is betraying the people who genuinely supported ICANN throughout the years by settling this case. I think that we took a very difficult decision, but it's the usual way - people expect the Board to give them solutions, so that they can criticize both them, and ICANN Board. I am already used to this…

I also think that the people we heard in the previous months are just the usual ICANN community. They do not cover all the global internet community that ICANN is supposed to protect and make sure the Internet runs for them, too. We basically heard only the US-business, and the businesses that deal with .com domains. There are several explanations about it: a) the others are not so noisy, b) the others don't care, c) the others agree with the a).

I am not concerned about the budget that ICANN would/might have. Actually the Board is the one to approve the budget. I would urge the community to pay close attention to the structure of the budget, and participate actively in its formation. That's the way to deal with it, and make sure that if there is any excess money, it should be used for projects in developing countries.

And I don't think that the big achievement of this agreement is the saving of USD Millions for litigation, although it's still a feature, not a bug.

The agreement is not a victory for VeriSign or for ICANN, it's a common sense in action. To blame ICANN with the words, "VeriSign wins" or "it's a victory for VeriSign", or "ICANN lost" means not to have in mind all aspects of the agreement but only one. That's not fair to ICANN, to ICANN Board, and to ICANN staff.

I agree with Susan that we need to start talking about ICANN and its role in a changing environment. Although again I think this is probably one of the wrong ways to do it — top-bottom, instead of bottom-up process.

I fully agree with the following by Susan, "Most importantly, we will need to evaluate how ICANN should be structured and should operate for the future, so that crises of confidence like that created by this proposed agreement can be avoided. We should take this opportunity to engage together to make ICANN into a "city on the hill" ­ a model of private self-governance. This is the most pragmatic approach available, and it is in the best interests of ICANN."

I hope it's a good day for the Internet, and I hope now that it's over, we'll be able to focus again on the important issues, which have been put on the second stage by the urgent ones.

P.S. After reading my notes again, and seeing some of the comments on the vote, I need to make some edits; instead of changing my notes above, I'd rather add some here.

My decision was not easy; it would have been much easier to abstain or vote against it - I wouldn't need to explain anything, certain people would love me for my position… And for sure, if I have been thinking of running again for the Board this year, a negative vote would have made my chances higher I think though, that the fact all of the people whose term expires this year, have voted in favour of the agreement should signal the critics that either none of us wants to run again, or that we are taking our duty as directors more seriously than people believed we were able to. Because exactly that fact signals that we were freer to take the decision, not having to carry the burden of thinking, "Oh, how are we going to live with this until the end of my term." And, by the way, I don't think this decision solves only the litigation (regardless of my belief that even the bad out-of-court agreement is better than the good court verdict). It solves many problems, and the solution is in the interest of the development of the Internet.

But at the same time, knowing it would have been a very popular vote, I have to admit I am not fighting for glory, and certainly not for glory in the ICANN environment. What I want from ICANN is the Internet to run smoothly, the DNS to work, and to be able to get an IP address for my servers. And for every user that is on line.

However, every person around ICANN has their own opinion on every issue discussed by the Board. And everyone believes their opinion is the right one.

Some people blame the Board as if it is working in conspiracy - regardless of the fact that there are 15 Board directors, some of them famous bloggers, with active blogs, and no one has stopped a director from publishing anything, as far as I know.

Some people claim that the Board follows staff recommendations without challenging them. And some people believe that ICANN is not needed at all, and it should not exist. I am not so sure all of the above is right. Well, it has always been easier to criticize than to send positive contribution to ICANN. Why not, I can criticize ICANN on my own quite well!

Note that I always use "some" - because I don't believe all people around ICANN are thinking the same way.

In any case, we'll see soon whether this was a "good day for the Internet", or a "death sentence" for ICANN.

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Re: Finally the .com Discussion is Over... Veni Markovski  –  Mar 07, 2006 8:07 PM PDT

I had to make some explanations, due to questions I was getting. In order not to copy & paste, please, see the footnotes at my blog www.foss.bg/blog/?p=32

Re: Finally the .com Discussion is Over... Karl Auerbach  –  Mar 09, 2006 12:04 AM PDT

Your comments surprise me.

You seem to be blaiming the community.  Yet the internet community, particularly the part involved with ICANN, was very vocal in its opinions (largely negative) about the ICANN-Verisign agreement.

Not only has the community been very loud and very vocal in its complaints but it has also put forth many specific proposals to improve the situation.

At the meeting on the agreement in Vancouver the number of board members who bothered to show up could be counted on the fingers of one hand, with several fingers to spare.  It was quite clear that for the most part the members of the ICANN board simply did not care to listen.

Every Director of ICANN is obligated to make independent and informed decisions.  These are heavy and serious burdens; any Director who can't meet both of those obligations ought to resign from the board.

If you felt that you had insufficient information your obligation was to cure the lack by asking questions until you got satisfactory answers.

If a Director feels that he or she has insufficient information it would be a violation of his/her obligations to go along with whatever Jones Day or other directors say to do.

The failure of ICANN board members to exercise independent and informed judgement has been one of ICANN's major failures over the years.

And this time the failure of ICANN's board - which comes from the failure of ICANN's Directors to do their job of making informed independent decisions - is going to cost the community of internet users billions upon billions of dollars over the years as Verisign enjoys its ICANN-granted eternal monopoly over .com.

Re: Finally the .com Discussion is Over... Tim Ruiz  –  Mar 13, 2006 11:36 AM PDT

Veni, your comments about the failure of the ICANN community are, well, scary to say the least.  ICANN IS the community and you were put on the Board by that community.

You are right that "the policy development in this case did not happen the way it should have." This had nothing to do with the community and everything to do with Board not taking its own commitment to openness and transparency serious, and its disregard for the community's concerns.

It had nothing to do with the community not making its voice heard, or not offering solutions.  It did both voluminously.  Did you take time to look at the comment archives before making your decision?  Did you listen to the comments in the meetings and forums in Vancouver?  If you did, I cannot understand how you could make such statements.  The community participated in every way it could.  There was even a GNSO PDP initiated *before* the Board voted.

You now try to explain all of that away by saying. "we never heard from the ICANN community their conflicts of interests, and we could never be sure when someone speaks whose interests they represent." It seems to me you are really saying that anytime the Board does not like what it hears from the community you can simply dismiss it by questioning their sincerity.

Death sentence or not, this was not a good day for ICANN.  Not because the community has failed, but because the Board has failed the community.

Re: Finally the .com Discussion is Over... Chris McElroy  –  May 23, 2006 9:11 PM PDT

Veni if you bothered to read the ga mailing list even just once or twice you would have seen that Karl, Danny, Sotiris, Jeffsey, and many others put forth proposals and solutions and none of them would have benefitted from them in any way.

It was even pointed out that "someone" had hired a PR firm to post comments in the public forum that werre pro-settlement. This was even proved.

If someone at ICANN is blocking you from reading that list you should subscribe to it under an anonymous email. If you are just having trouble reading it, ask for help.

If you would like to read the archives, they are available. Because by what I just read in your article, you haven't bothered to read the comments that were made.

If you discount all that disagrees with ICANN's position as unworthy, then you would have very little to read.

You stated in the article that those of us who do participate in the process and who do comment are not representative of the global community, yet we are there for years trying to make ICANN a better organization despite the boards attempt to keep it from improving at all.

You seem to think there are some millions of people out there who actually agree with ICANN's policies and decisions but are just not speaking up. This is fantasy.

If you multiplied the number of people who are participating now by a million, then the percentage that disagrees with the decisions and who are critical of ICANN would remain roughly the same.

The settlement was a cop-out. Admit it and lets work from there.

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