Richi Jennings

ICANN & Verisign & China & ICANN (and a podcast anthology of SF stories)

March 02, 2006 6:49 AM EST
In today's IT Blogwatch, we look at ICANN & China,  ICANN & Verisign.  Not to mention a podcast anthology of  SF stories  ...

ICANN pops up in several blogs today ranging from what is happening in China to what Verisign is up to.  I misstyped this initially as 'verisigh' and I think that is what a lot of people will be doing. Starting with the China story, as Eric Bangeman put it, "ICANN, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, has been in charge of the Internet's TLD (Top Level Domain) system since its creation. Chartered by the US Department of Commerce, the fact that the nonprofit corporation is based in the US has led to concerns about the US having too much control ... China believes that the current system is broken, and is  doing something to fix it ... In a move that could have enormous ramifications for how the Internet works ... In addition to the .cn TLD, China will have three new Chinese-character TLDs equating to 'dot China,' 'dot com,' and 'dot net.' ...  Ah, another nation clawing its ways out from under the icy clutches of American imperialism! ... Given the existence of the 'Great Firewall of China' and the country's desire to keep certain parts of the Internet off limits to its citizens, anything that keeps Chinese surfers reliant on the country's infrastructure is a good thing in the eyes of the government. China's decision to unilaterally implement a new set of TLDs has grave implications for the openness of the Internet ... Over the past year or so, concerns have been growing over ICANN's control of the TLD system ...  At last fall's World Summit of the Information Society, the discussion about who should be responsible for regulating the Internet's infrastructure grew heated.  Proposals for a reconfiguration of the governance structure, perhaps under the auspices of the UN's International Telecommunications Union (ITU), failed to gain any widespread consensus. Would China have made this decision if the Internet was 'run' by the ITU or some other non-US, intergovernmental agency? It seems likely ...  it has proposed its own  wireless networking standard ... it announced its own  entry into the next-gen optical disc wars ...  China does have a point when it comes to ICANN's slowness to support non-Roman characters in TLDs, but creating its own, parallel  system is not ultimately going to help things out ... If China truly intends to administer all of its own TLDs and operate its own root servers, it could mark the beginning of Internet fragmentation. It opens up the possibility of multiple versions of the same domain, each with its own root server. Ultimately, that's not going to help solve any of the current problems with the 'Net."

» Kai Liu, On the Soapbox:  "Admittedly, the articles were vague, and I think that the translator should have been fired, but it seems that Slashdotters had no idea what they were talking about ... most people thought that China was going to set up their own DNS system to handle domain names with Chinese characters ... After reading the article, it seems that all that the Chinese government is doing is setting up three new TLDs whose lingustic translations are .cn, .com, and .net ... Just to make sure, I picked out a random Chinese-based domain registrar, and sure enough, these were just new TLDs that are listed alongside existing TLDs ... adding new TLDs without getting ICANN's blessing is not quite kosher, but ICANN's power is not legally binding, and since these involve adding new namespaces that other countries could care less about, it doesn't really matter that much ...  Screwing ICANN isn't quite the same as screwing the IANA; remember, this is only DNS that we're talking about; the network is still interconnected (and firewalled) ...  Yes, the government has control over the registrations under these new TLDs, but that was already the case with the original .cn, and all the other TLDs in the world are unaffected. Also, if they wanted to censor access via DNS, they could do so without any of this. Second, there are some legitimate benefits. It widens the cramped DNS namespace a little bit, and it is also convenient to not have to switch the keyboard input between the Latin and Chinese character sets, which is genuinely confusing for some people (including me at first)."

» Michael Geist explains some of the technicalities: "The U.S. control would accordingly prove illusory since a new domain name system situated elsewhere would be subject to its own rules.  While the two could theoretically co-exist by having ISPs simply recognize both roots, the system could 'break' if both roots contained identical extensions.  In other words, one root can have dot-com and other ... can have dot-corp, but they can't both have dot-com ... Starting tomorrow, China's Ministry of Information Industry plans to begin offering four country-code domains ...  As the People's Daily Online notes this 'means Internet users don't have to surf the Web via the servers under the management of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) of the United States.'  In other words, the Chinese Internet becomes a reality tomorrow ...  the rules of the game may change as 110 million Internet users will suddenly have access to a competing dot-com ... will no longer rely exclusively on ICANN for the resolution of Internet domain name queries ...  some might note that while Congress has been criticizing U.S. companies for harming Internet freedoms by cooperating with Chinese law enforcement, those same Congressional leaders may have done the same by refusing to even consider surrendering some control over the Internet root to the international community and thereby opening the door to an alternate root that could prove even worse from a freedom perspective. ... This week's announcement certainly doesn't mark the end of a global interoperable Internet.  It does move one step further toward that path since in Internet governance terms, the credible threat is now real."

» Now to what is happening with Verisign. As Bob Parsons puts it very firmly:  "C'mon Vint — Please say it ain't so! ...  ICANN announced that its Board of Directors met and approved the pending deal with VeriSign for the .COM registry. The deal was approved by a majority vote with nine voting in favor and five voting against ... To my extreme disappointment, Vinton Cerf, who is the Chairman of ICANN and also now an employee of Google, voted in favor of the give away ... The fact that this deal was approved is a loud signal that major changes are needed at ICANN ...  before the deal becomes final, the Department of Commerce ('DOC') will still need to approve it  ... So we are not giving up yet. Members of Congress have already expressed concerns and we at Go Daddy, and the other registrars who have been fighting this deal from the beginning, will be doing all we can to convince Congress, the Department of Justice and the Department of Commerce that it is anti-competitive and simply a bad deal for the industry and registrants everywhere ... We are doing everything we can to make them aware of how important it is to stop this deal, and to clean the inept leadership at ICANN."

» Peter Sayer's article on Computerworld.com indicates "Internet domain name registrars have slammed Internet regulators for a proposal that would allow VeriSign Inc. to increase the cost of registering .com domain names by as much as 7% annually."

» ZeeShan shows the figures:  "The settlement, which arose out of a lawsuit filed by VeriSign against ICANN after the Site Finder flap in 2003, will be lucrative for both organizations. Based on the 48.1 million .com domains currently active at $6 per year, VeriSign is guaranteed at least $288.6 million in annual revenue -- with price hikes at a rate that far outpaces inflation .... It has to be approved by the U.S. Commerce Department, and some members of Congress are already urging that it be rejected ...  VeriSign said in a statement that the .com registry agreement is similar to one already approved last year relating to .net ... It's also drawing fire from the registrars that sell .com domains, who allege that ICANN and VeriSign get to cash in -- at the general public's expense ... The Coalition for ICANN Transparency (CFIT), a group set up after details of the settlement became public last fall, blasted Tuesday's vote ...  CFIT has sued VeriSign and ICANN ...  ICANN has said that it needed to accept the agreement to settle the lawsuit with VeriSign ... VeriSign would have a presumptive right to have its monopoly renewed after the agreement expires in 2012."

Buffer overflow:
And finally...  Anthology of podcast SF stories launches
Richi Jennings (has been taken down by a flu - but he assures me he hasn't been near any birds, so I'm (Judi) blogging until he's 'all better') is an independent technology and marketing consultant, specializing in email, blogging, Linux, and computer security. A 20 year, cross-functional IT veteran, he is also an analyst at Ferris Research. Contact Richi at blogwatch@richi.co.uk. Also contributing to today's post: Judi Dey, our very own Antipodean.