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ICANNWiki could be first victim of budget cutbacks

Kevin Murphy, December 20, 2017, 06:27:02 (UTC), Domain Policy

ICANN is mulling whether to cut funding to ICANNWiki, the independent community encyclopedia, as part of its efforts to rein in spending.

There’s $100,000 at stake, more than half of the Oregon-based non-profit’s annual budget.

Ray King, the gTLD registry CEO who founded ICANNWiki in 2005, told DI today that ICANN has been providing funding for the last three years.

“While no decision has been made yet, there is a possibility that ICANN will not continue it,” he said in an email.

“We’ve poured our hearts and minds into this project for many years so this would be disappointing to say the least,” he said. “We believe in our mission and that it is in the community’s interest for this support to continue”.

An ICANN spokesperson said: “At this time, while it is highly unlikely that ICANN will be renewing its contract with ICANNWiki, we have not come to a final determination.”

ICANNWiki currently carries about 6,000 volunteer-edited articles covering many aspects of the ICANN community and the domain name industry in general.

George Clooney circa 1997It’s perhaps most recognizable for the frequently shared caricatures of community members it produces, such as this handsome devil, and the playing card decks handed out as freebies at ICANN meetings.

According to a letter (pdf) sent to ICANN earlier this month, ICANNWiki receives cash contributions of $161,000 a year, $61,000 of which comes from 10 corporate sponsors.

ICANNWiki estimates the 2,200 hours per year of volunteer work it benefits from is worth about $66,500. It says it has in-kind contributions worth about $40,000 from other companies.

It puts the value of its “reference services” at $339,959 a year.

That’s based on estimated visits to its site of 182,774 in 2017 (not including visits from its editors and staff) and a value per visit of $1.86 (based on an unrelated ROI calculation Texas Public Libraries used to justify its own existence earlier this year).

The ICANN $100,000 contribution is at risk now due to the organization’s plan to cut back on spending in the face of revenues that are coming in lower than expected due to a weak domain name market.

CEO Goran Marby said yesterday that its fiscal 2018 is currently running a million dollars short. Coupled with a perceived need to add an extra $80 million to its reserve budget, ICANN is looking for areas to cut costs.

ICANNWiki funding may be the low-hanging fruit in this endeavor; while it’s no doubt valuable (I probably use it two or three times per week on average), it’s perhaps not straightforward to quantify that value.

Even if the funding is cut, I would not expect ICANNWiki the web site to disappear, given the level of corporate sponsorship and in-kind services it receives and the low overheads suggested by its modest traffic numbers, but perhaps its growth and outreach ambitions would be curtailed.

UPDATE: This post was updated at 2307 UTC with a quote from ICANN.

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Comments (6)

  1. If hosting expenses are an issue then .CAM Registry is willing to sponsor the hosting of ICANNWiki.

  2. Probably yeah, it shouldn’t be much at all based on those specs. We personally don’t understand the fuss around this.
    Ah, and just to make it more clear, if they would accept, when i said sponsorship i didn’t mean give them the money they need to pay for hosting, but i meant to say we would offer the hosting, in terms of bandwidth and dedicated hardware for it. Right in the hearth of Amsterdam ! With love ! 😀

  3. Michael Oghia says:

    If this is true, it’s really a shame. Not only does ICANNWiki provide an invaluable, community-driven service that is applicable to the entire Internet governance community (not just ICANN), but the staff – namely Jackie and Dustin – work incredibly hard to improve the site and reach out to new members. They clearly love their work, and are always looking for ways to innovate and improve the platform. The caricatures as well are so unique, and really act as a passport to the community – a kind of initiation, if you will. I really hope and encourage other members of the community to stop up and support ICANNWiki should ICANN cut its funding.

  4. Jay Westerdal says:

    For the amount of money this cost ICANN, I think it is a no brainier to keep it funded. Just consider how much outreach and awareness is taking place on this wiki. ICANN could not spend this much internally and make this amount of impact externally. Every person that is in the industry benefits from the shared knowledge this wiki continually collects and gives back to people seeking knowledge about ICANN. ICANN doesn’t have a similar function on their website. So this site fits a great role for them.

  5. Olga Cavalli says:

    ICANNWIKI provides a very valuable service to the ICANN community.

    The key values that ICANNWiki provides are:

    -Making Internet governance easier to understand through accessible, easy to navigate content. Not only does it make it easier to understand, it also saves users valuable time that they would otherwise spend much longer looking for.

    -Build a sense of community and much deserved recognition of the volunteers through the Quick Guide and Playing Cards that improves productivity of the ICANN community.

    -Providing a track for newcomers to develop their skills, while they learn their way through ICANN.

    -Provide content in local languages and support local IG communities. Especially in Latin America and the Caribbean with Spanish and Portuguese content/communities.

    ICANN WIKI has participated in several editions of the South School on Internet Govrenance, promoting the importance of developing content about ICANN and Internet governance in local languages.

    They have also proved to find innovative ways to engage the community not only with content but also with the nice pictures and caricatures they create to all of us.

    We do hope they can continue with their activies.

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