Why ICANN failed
Milton Mueller
Associate Professor, Syracuse University
School of Information Studies
Internet Governance
• Governance definition:
– the exploitation of technical bottlenecks or access to
technical resources to regulate socio-economic conduct.
– E.g., broadcasting
• ICANN is in the business of governance, not
technical coordination
– dispute resolution policy and famous marks
– imposing a business model on domain name
– WG discussions
– Sovereignty claims to TLDs
ICANN’s Pre-history
• Internet Architecture Board (IAB) 1990; Internet
Society (ISOC), 1992
• IANA’s attempt to privatize itself, 1995-6
– 150 new gTLDs, $2000 + 2% of revenues
• The IAHC and the gTLD-MoU
ISOC-IANA, WIPO, ITU, new registrars
shared registry model
cartel-ized top-level domain space
links domain name assignment to trademark protection
The White Paper and ICANN
• White Paper abdicates direct government action
• Behind-the-scenes agreement with US Govt,
Europeans, IBM, WIPO, and ISOC-IANA on
governance agenda
– essentially the same as gTLD-MoU
• Initial Board gives complete control of ICANN to
gTLD-MoU faction
 The rhetoric of “industry self-regulation” was a
mask that allowed a specific coalition of actors,
led by the Internet Society, IBM, and a small
number of European allies, to take over the
administration of the Internet.
 Administration concentrated exclusively on ecommerce and ignored implications of handing
governance power to an unaccountable private
 ICANN’s initial board was controlled by a single
faction with a specific governance agenda that did
not command consensus.
 The determination of that faction to implement its
agenda as quickly as possible fatally undermined
the new corporation’s ability to:
 function as a vehicle for consensual “self-regulation”
 develop durable, trusted processes
Difficult questions for the future
• Can ICANN be fixed or should we start over?
• How much globalization is appropriate?

similar documents