Home / Blogs

ICANN Turning 25 - It’s the People that Make a Difference

Ali’s invitation to post reflections on the past 25 years of ICANN is very welcome. No doubt, some will write about major shifts in how ICANN is governed, for example, the end of United States government oversight. While others will write about changes to the industry that ICANN has catalyzed, for example, the 2012 round of new gTLDs and the upcoming next application process. Inevitably, someone will take the opportunity to gripe about ICANN instead of celebrating it—something that is entirely consistent with ICANN’s core values and free speech ethos. But I’m going to write about something a bit more day-to-day, but in my opinion equally or perhaps even more important than all of those other things. For me, the thing to celebrate about ICANN is the people. Let me share my favorite example.

I arrived at my first ICANN meeting in Lisbon. It was, in fact, my first international trip (I’m not sure a couple of previous visits to Toronto count, so I won’t count them, since Toronto has more in common with Chicago than Chicago has with Cheyenne). I had just spent a few days in London being mesmerized by the sights and sounds, if not the food. After a short flight, I arrived at the ICANN hotel in Lisbon and checked into my room. It was in the late afternoon, before dinner time, and I literally knew no one, so I did what many travelers do, and I headed to the hotel bar, expecting an anonymous drink and dinner.

There was a kindly fellow sitting next to me at the bar, drinking the local brew (which I now know is an ICANN cultural touchstone—try new things!). He said hello, introduced himself, and asked if I was in town for the ICANN meeting. I told him I was and that this was my first meeting and I was looking forward to learning about ICANN. Up until that point my experience included a mountain of UDRP complaints and working on getting a brand-side registrar up and running, but the policy making process was all quite new. Without skipping a beat, and with no economic incentive to help me acclimate, this man welcomed me and started orienting me to the community generally and that specific meeting.

He explained the primary structures of ICANN, filled me in on who were the leaders, whether elected, appointed, or simply leaders because they did the homework and picked up the pen. He highlighted the important policy issues that would be discussed that week. He did his best to walk through the maze of acronyms that form ICANN’s own dialect. While the ICANN community, like any community, has its share of disgruntled or difficult people, he exhibited for me what ICANN is truly all about—a group of well-meaning people trying to hand a better Internet to the next generation all the while caring for each other in the process.

For anyone who knows him, the man’s identity is obvious. Jothan Frakes. Thank you, Jothan, for helping out the new kid.

Thank you, ICANN, for creating the environment that has created so many lifelong friendships. Thank you for not only encouraging the community to exchange ideas but setting up a model that depends on us to do so.

Happy 25th!

This post is part of a series presented by CircleID in collaboration with the ICANN community, celebrating ICANN’s 25th anniversary. We’ve partnered with ICANN to amplify this milestone and actively encourage contributions. We warmly welcome you to share your essays for potential publication.

By Paul McGrady, Attorney / Author

Filed Under


Yes indeed Ali Farshchian  –  Oct 3, 2023 10:00 AM

Paul, thank you for sharing your memory. I would imagine many have a story about their first ICANN meeting.

And I certainly attest to your positive experience with Jothan. I’ve known him from the very early days, and he has always been a gracious member of the ICANN community.

ICANN Still Does Not Get It - Rick Lane  –  Oct 3, 2023 1:14 PM

My first ICANN meeting:  ICANN06 13-17 July 2000 Yokohama

My first public quote on ICANN: February 5, 2001 https://www.computerworld.com/article/2590738/icann-faces-hearing-in-congress-over-domain-selections.html
“But Rick Lane, director of e-commerce and Internet technology at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, said a resumption of government control over the domain name process wouldn’t be supported by the businesses it represents. The system “has been moving in a very positive direction, and we haven’t heard or seen anything out there yet that could replace ICANN,” he said. “You don’t want to destroy something unless you have something to replace it.”“

Still having hope for ICANN
CNET Nov. 3, 2005
Business groups have long expressed worry that greater U.N. control could usher in higher taxes, curbs on free speech and reams of new regulations. “That is one of our biggest concerns, that politics that have nothing to do with ICANN start trickling into how the Internet is going to be run,” said Rick Lane, vice president for government affairs at News Corp.

Losing faith in ICANN as a multi-stakeholder entity

Finally lost all faith in the ICANN process: Oct. 27, 2022
Preserving a globally interoperable Internet benefits the public interest — corrupt Internet plumbing monopolies do not.

Wow Jothan Frakes  –  Oct 4, 2023 9:20 AM

Was having a rough, brisk and busy day when I had this article pointed out to me, and it was absolutely a joy to read.

I hate the math on how long ago this was, I think it was two or three whois WG cylcles (aka dog years) ago. 

I know from witnessing Paul in dozens of meetings since then and noticing him paying this forward that the time spent in helping newcomers find their way as they arrive to the shores of ICANN is one of the rich and rewarding aspects that exist in the spaces between the meetings.

For the most part, I agree that many/most people involved in the industry are there to lift others and pursue objectives honorably.

Paul, Ali, you both are incredibly addative to this industry.  Like so many others that are with us and no longer with us.

Sure, many also witness that there are also lobbyists that never miss an opportunity to bring up their client’s perspective truth or commercial objectives with the grace and elegance of a loud fart on a crowded elevator.  And some gotta hit all the dang buttons for all the floors when doing it.  What is noteworthy is having the integrity to not do so from behind a cowardly anonymous posting and being personally accountable for it, so even though Rick earned five Kendrick Lamars for killing my vibe, I have to commend it being done with some honor.

A DARK WHOIS Rick Lane  –  Oct 4, 2023 11:31 AM

As someone with no client interests and volunteering my time to “fix” the Dark WHOIS issue, I have no qualms about corporate lobbyists doing their jobs on both sides of the WHOIS debate. The other advantage of not having a client is that it frees me up to say what I want without checking with corporate communications.

I greatly respect all the hardworking individuals who have devoted countless hours to resolving the Dark WHOIS problem. Unfortunately, after five years of effort, as the ICANN CEO stated, “ICANN cannot fix the WHOIS problem,” (https://bit.ly/ICANNCEOWhois), which was apparent from the outset. Now, many of these same individuals must spend more of their time on a “WHOIS Request System” that is bound to fail because it does not address the fundamental problem created by the Dark WHOIS.

As an early supporter of ICANN, I trusted it would remain a true multi-stakeholder process. However, I am now reminded of the line from Animal House, “Flounder You F ked Up You Trust Us.”



Jothan Frakes  –  Oct 4, 2023 2:37 PM

OK, so pivoting to awarding five “Nedermeyers” so it lands

Comment Title:

  Notify me of follow-up comments

We encourage you to post comments and engage in discussions that advance this post through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can report it using the link at the end of each comment. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of CircleID. For more information on our comment policy, see Codes of Conduct.

CircleID Newsletter The Weekly Wrap

More and more professionals are choosing to publish critical posts on CircleID from all corners of the Internet industry. If you find it hard to keep up daily, consider subscribing to our weekly digest. We will provide you a convenient summary report once a week sent directly to your inbox. It's a quick and easy read.

I make a point of reading CircleID. There is no getting around the utility of knowing what thoughtful people are thinking and saying about our industry.

Co-designer of the TCP/IP Protocols & the Architecture of the Internet




Sponsored byDNIB.com

IPv4 Markets

Sponsored byIPv4.Global


Sponsored byVerisign

New TLDs

Sponsored byRadix

Domain Names

Sponsored byVerisign

Brand Protection

Sponsored byCSC

Threat Intelligence

Sponsored byWhoisXML API