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An Open Letter to ICANN’s New CEO, Fadi Chehadé

Dear Mr. Chehadé,

Congratulations on your appointment as the next CEO of ICANN, and welcome to our little rogues’ gallery. Some denizens of this domain (your humble author included) may strike you as a little odd at first, but we’re mostly harmless.

We usually steer first-timers onto the Newcomers track, but in your case, that may be… inadequate. And while we would never presume to tell you how to do your job—which may be one of the world’s hardest—we thought we might offer a few pieces of friendly advice, based on our time here.

Hazing: Most ICANNistas are genuinely nice people, but that doesn’t put them above a little bit of light hazing. The most common form of hazing comes in the form of speaking exclusively in “ICANNeese”. We’re impressed that you’re fluent in Arabic, English, French and Italian, but no amount of linguistic proficiency can adequately prepare you for the bizarre pidgin of jargon and acronyms spoken by ICANN lifers. So just take it in stride if someone grabs your arm and breathlessly asks where you stand on the “GNSO PDP on the IRTP-C”

Food: You’ve surely been to lots of extended business meetings and industry conferences, but the food situation at ICANN is something entirely different. By some strange flux in the space/time continuum, every ICANN meeting, anywhere in the world, serves the same delicious pastries—three times a day. Watch out, they’re addictive, so most of us in the ICANNiverse save our carb quotas for the next bit of advice…

Drink: For evidence of ICANN’s profound impact on the global economy, one need look no further than the hotel bartenders at ICANN venues, who have been known to retire in comfort after a full week serving drinks before, during, and after meeting sessions. The bars in and around ICANN venues are bad for your health, but a good place to pick up sensitive information, which is often shouted over shots of local libations.

Sleep: Most of the people you’ll pass in the ICANN hallways are operating on 3 hours of sleep, which puts them ahead of most of your staff, who only got 2 hours.

The Gala: The Wednesday Gala is usually fun and almost always held someplace beautiful and historic, but our advice is similar to what they say about Passover Seders, which is: eat before you go. Although the problem with ICANN meetings is usually too much food, the meal at the Gala rarely shows up before 10 pm, and you don’t want to get in the way of the stampeding horde at the buffet table.

As for the actual work of running the most unique non-governmental organization/corporation/quasi-regulatory body in history, we wish the advice were so simple.

The already-enormous challenges before ICANN will grow exponentially larger with the upcoming addition of 1400 new gTLDs. Complicating matters further is that ICANN is the subject-by-proxy of a decade-long global debate over who should “control the Internet.” A growing number of inter-governmental groups and governments treat ICANN as a political football.

If we could recommend one thing it would be to focus on… Focus. We used to talk about ICANN and its “narrow technical mission.” It’s hard to find someone willing to say those words with a straight face today, but it’s still the right way to think about ICANN’s role.

There are many people both inside and outside the ICANN process, who would like to broaden its mission and obligations, but the more ICANN behaves like a technical management body, the less it will be treated like a global policy body, and that’s a desirable outcome for everyone.

We’re sure you’ll get lots of unsolicited advice—most of it more substantive than ours. But we just wanted to spare you a few unnecessary calories and share some insider tips. Welcome to the family.

The ICANNosphere

By Steve DelBianco, Executive Director at NetChoice

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