[At-Large] Auction Proceeds - where we are and what you can help

Evan Leibovitch evan at telly.org
Tue May 16 14:57:48 UTC 2017

On 15 May 2017 at 04:21, parminder <parminder at itforchange.net> wrote:

> I think people here see it but dont do anything bec perhaps they think
> that the potential of damage by ICANN isnt that much,
​Not sure that I agree with that.

Most of the people I know who are involved seem very well aware of the
major role that ICANN *could* play in the evolution of Internet governance.
But over the years At-Large has been cowed into not ruffling the party line
too much for fear of being deemed antisocial and cut off from resources.

For the longest time the issue was in-person participation; for many years
every ICANN meeting would feature a closed session at which ALAC leadership
would essentially beg for the ability to even be physically at the table.
To this day most of the domain industry sees ICANN's paying for At-Large
leadership to attend its meetings as a needless act of charity. As a
result, there was long an implicit fear of our being too independent in
thought, lest we be deemed antisocial and unworthy of the charity.

​Then there was the first ALAC Review​ that recommended two Board seats
elected by At-Large. For many years, while that was going on we dared not
anger the industry capture lest we be judged unfit and the Board seats
denied. I guess even so we weren't sufficiently subservient, because we
only got one of the two seats requested by the Review.

​Now the travel funding and Board seat issues are stable, so the nexus has
shifted to the funding of outreach and capacity-building fantasies.​ Much
effort is spent assailing our lack of diversity and outreach, comfortably
forgetting that once all these voices are brought together and trained,
 they still don't have much to say and when they do it falls on deaf ears.
Meanwhile, there continues an implicit rule to not stray too far from
orthodoxy, we don't want to irritate the power brokers to the point that we
get shunned. So ... we get to participate in the new gTLD development
process, but don't DARE entertain the notion of demanding that ICANN
refrain from new rounds until it assesses the damage done by the last one.
We might upset them!

> ending_dysfunctional_pricing_to_cyberspace/  to see how ICANN by
> allocating crucial digital name-posts to vested interests and big business
> (largely US based) can cause enormous damage that we have not even begun to
> think about, lost that we remain in petty issues that ICANN throws at us,
> and for which even it doesnt listen to us.

At-Large fought for Public Interest Commitments that were permanent,
enforceable and had community input. We had no allies and many opponents
and the effort died silently.

But I disagree that the situation is as bad as you suggest, because
ultimately there just isn't enough trust in domains for the public to
confer upon them any role as as regulators, gatekeepers, or even curators.
I think you actually overstate the importance of ICANN, and even to a point
play the industry's game.

The .cars domain has no reason to earn public trust as a general
destination. Neither does *any* TLD that is a word from the dictionary (or
atlas, for that matter). We learned long ago that cars.com (or
cars.anything) was not a trustworthy starting place for a search, but owned
by a single destination. That car.com and cars.com go to different private
destinations​ furthers the confusion. The elevation of the string "cars" to
a TLD merely continues the trend.

But the good news is that, in this respect, there is competition. Typing
"cars" into Google offers up cars.com, but it also provides names of auto
dealers in my neighborhood, a definition of the automobile, and other
stuff. Type "cars" into Facebook or Reddit and get discussion groups. The
utility of typing a generic word into a search engine is generally far
greater than going to that-word. <http://that-word.com>anything.
(​Ironically, .pharmacy was painted as one of the "good" non-brand gTLDs
because it's one of the few to have any curation at all.​)

Sure, that means that Google (and Microsoft, Facebook etc) are the curators
and gatekeepers and are hardly altruistic. But at least they have served a
function that attracts people voluntarily and that registries, by and
large, have abdicated. All that's left is to hasten public awareness that
gTLDs are generally not trusted category managers, and move on from that.

​So far ICANN has resisted any notion that "memorable domain names"​ are in
competition for public trust with search engines, social media pages etc.
Awareness of competition might spur registries into better service to
registrants and better consideration of end users. But whether the domain
industry acknowledges the alternatives or not, end-users do. What this
means for ICANN's long term I don't know. But the Internet is great at
working around obstacles, and a publicly-useless network of "memorable"
domain names can also be (and is being) circumvented.

Would then the section of global civil society that was supposed to be
> protecting public interest wrt issues pertaining to ICANN not be called
> upon to account for how it let all this happen? Does such a prospect bother
> anyone here?

​Feel free to ask the civil society component of the GNSO, where it was
when we were fighting the lonely battle for strong Public Interest
Commitments by registries. Maybe you'll get a better answer than I. From my
perspective the deck has been stacked against the public interest at ICANN
ever since it changed public election to the Board to an elitist, industry
serving NomCom.

- Evan
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