The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers was formed in September 1998 after intensive discussions throughout the Internet community that involved national governments, including the White House. ICANN has policy development responsibilities for the Internets Domain Name System and Internet address space. It also supports the development of Internet standards by maintaining Internet protocol reference tables.
ICANNs stewardship is international, bottom-up and multistakeholder. ICANN promotes user choice, predictability and a stable technological environment in which innovation is encouraged. ICANN relies on the Governmental Advisory Community for counsel on public policy.
Policy development is necessarily a noisy process, but taking into account all perspectives takes time. Last year, ICANN put timelines into place because in the preceding three years, these processes were not converging quickly enough.
When VeriSign initiated its so-called SiteFinder service, it caught the technical and operational community by surprise. Surprise is almost always inimical to stability. ICANN immediately requested review of this fundamental change to the operation of the .com and .net domain name service by its Security and Stability Advisory Committee. This committee is served by uncompensated volunteers. The committee strongly recommended that the service be suspended until careful analysis of its side effects could be completed. At ICANNs insistence, VeriSign suspended this service.
The report of the SSAC has indeed taken much longer than anyone, including its volunteer chairperson, would have wished. Some full-time work was required to prepare the final report, which has just been published.
ICANN formed a Governmental Advisory Committee early in its history and works with more than 100 governments. It is a gross mischaracterization to assert that, as Jonathan Zuck, president of the Association for Competitive Technology, stated in this space, "National governments are accusing ICANN of playing politics with domain names" without observing that only a handful of government representatives have expressed such a view.
ICANNs directors endorsed VeriSigns proposed Wait Listing Service some months ago. Despite having asked ICANN for approval and having waited for ICANN to complete its processes to approve the Wait Listing Service, VeriSign now says this service is not governed by its contract with ICANN and will not agree to sign an amendment stating the service falls within the contract. Everyone involved in the operation of a portion of the Internet has a responsibility to do so in a manner that preserves the stability, security and integrity of the system. That is as true for VeriSign as it is for ICANN and all others upon whom the operation of the Internet depends. ´
Vinton Cerf is chairman of the board of ICANN and senior vice president for Technology Strategy at MCI. Free Spectrum is a forum for the IT community. Send submissions to email@example.com.