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ICANN Reloaded - Will They Ever Learn?

Less than a week ago, I posted a short blog piece entitled “Can ICANN Please Stop Shooting Itself in the Foot?” in which I questioned ICANN’s actions in connection with the recently announced key signing ceremony. At the end of this piece I asked the question: “While it seems that ICANN continues it propensity to shoot itself in the foot, does the community need to start worrying about when ICANN takes aim at other more vital organizational body parts?” Well it looks like I only had to wait five days to get the answer to that question.

Earlier this week I noticed an announcement on the ICANN website about a report and public comment period in connection with an External Review of ICANN/IANA Root Zone Management Process. This report was prepared by JAS Communication. I briefly scanned the document and made three initial comments which I happened to write down while discussing the document with a colleague on the phone: pre-IANA contract posturing - ICANN does such a great job; DNS-CERT self justification collateral pre-Brussels; and why expose security risks to the public.

Let me save everyone some time before heading over to the ICANN website to read this document. Its gone! In the URL where this document used to appear, you now get the following text from ICANN: “The IANA report was posted before reviews were done. Our desire is to complete the reviews and post the report as soon as possible.”

While I eagerly await the ICANN spin doctors attempt to explain this one to the world, here is the likely truth. A light bulb went off in someone’s head that it is not smart to publicly expose security flaws in the DNS infrastructure, notwithstanding ICANN’s self serving goal of positioning themselves for the IANA contract rebid and justifying their grand DNS CERT ambitions, OR a further indication that ICANN has not properly handled the transition of new senior management as smooth as the community expects in connection with ICANN’s crown jewel.

So in less than five days, ICANN has managed to turn in its single action revolver and decide to douse itself in gasoline and start flicking a lighter. MESSAGE TO ICANN BOARD - WAKE UP AND SMELL THE COFFEE - YOU HAVE A PROBLEM AND IF YOU DO NOT ACT QUICKLY THERE MIGHT NOT BE AN ICANN AROUND MUCH LONGER.

If there are any ICANN Board members reading this blog post, please help save the organization from self implosion. I have invested over eleven years of my life in trying to make the ICANN model work. Until the ICANN Board remembers that ICANN is primarily a technical coordinating body, it will continue to get itself into trouble every time it insists on sticking its fingers into operational issues. One of the first lessons I learned as a young engineer was K.I.S.S. (Keep It Simple Stupid). ICANN needs to keep it simple by focusing on technical coordination and leaving operational issues to other more qualified bodies.

By Michael D. Palage, Intellectual Property Attorney and IT Consultant

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Calm down Kieren McCarthy  –  Jun 11, 2010 7:07 PM

You may be asking the ICANN Board to smell the coffee but I fear you may have drunk it all judging by this and the previous high velocity rant, Mike.

It has always been an impossible task to get communication around IANA and ICANN right. On the one hand you have people urging the organization to be open in traditional Internet style; on the other you have engineers and security professionals worrying about the impact of sharing information. And surrounding all that is a political minefield - one aspect of which is people writing fire-and-brimstone posts like this one before taking the time to talk to people.

I’m sure there were some hurried phonecalls when someone realised a report that should not have been published yet appeared, and I think you’re probably right to pinpoint this on the fact that there are an enormous number of changes going on at ICANN/IANA at the moment.

But two positive signs here: one, despite the big changes in management, the report did get published i.e. ICANN hasn’t gone into bunker-mode which is used to do at the first sign of trouble; and two, the CEO admitted the error as soon as the community asked why it had gone. These two things are of far greater importance re: ICANN’s functioning than a report that will be completely forgotten about in a few months time.

I didn’t grab a copy of the report before it was pulled, but I very much doubt anything in it is so damaging as to justify your ALL CAPS plea to the Board to go into lockdown.

The Internet, as we are constantly reminded every day, is exceptionally resilient. Yes there are plenty of flaws - most of them human - but all DNS engineers accept that as a part of their job having worked with open protocols and standards their whole lives.

Communication around these high-level technical issues is always going to be a problem but as history has told us on this, openness is the best policy, even if that occasionally causes scrambles.

Frustrated Rant - Do Not Deny Michael D. Palage  –  Jun 11, 2010 7:44 PM


Fully agree this was a very passionate piece.  However, just like I wear many hats within the ICANN process, I have many different writing styles.

I do believe the CAPS were fully justified. Everyone should be asking themselves this question - what value does ICANN have if its loses the IANA contract? The MoU, JPA and AoC are all ancillary agreements, the IANA contract is the primarily source (aka crown jewel) of how ICANN extracts 60+ million out of the community.

Having spent 11 years within the organization both at the bottom and the top, I am tired of endless excuses for acts that should have never happened in the first place. The Board needs to hold staff accountable - FULL STOP (yes CAPS intended again).

Now the funny part about your comment about my “rant” was I actually remembered your heated rant about Denise Michel, which I totally disagreed with. That is when I deleted some text from the original draft, so thanks.

If your looking for one of my more boring legal pieces, you may be interested in a piece I am working on for how the USG should rebid the IANA contract, so as to save ICANN from future acts of self-destruction.

Amused Kieren McCarthy  –  Jun 11, 2010 9:36 PM

Very amusing response. I remain concerned though that you don't know exactly what is going on inside ICANN, yet you still urge people to act against it. As I recall, I did the opposite.

Scared Michael D. Palage  –  Jun 11, 2010 9:57 PM


I am always glad when I can bring a smile to someone’s face, we live in such a stress filled world sometimes people go days without smiling or laughing. However, my call to action was not to have people act against ICANN, but to prevent ICANN from enduring additional self inflicted wounds.

I have a fairly decent idea of what is going on inside ICANN, and it does not amuse me but in fact scares the hell out of me. But to end on one last comical note for your enjoyment, perhaps this would make for an ideal TV series “ICANN Insider.” I heard they were going to build out a TV studio in the Palo Alto offices but the green HVAC build-out costs kind of put that on hold.

Have a good weekend and I look forward to seeing you in Brussels.  I guess this is one issue we will choose to disagree on.

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