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Brussels’ biggest winner?

Kevin Murphy, March 10, 2011, 12:23:02 (UTC), Domain Policy

(Editor’s Note: This is a guest post by consultant Michael Palage).

Analyzing the aftermath of last week’s ICANN Board-GAC non-bylaws consultation in Brussels, the biggest winner may be Rod Beckstrom. Many who attended the meeting or followed it remotely may have found it unusual how little he spoke during the three-day session. Why was Rod so quiet in Brussels?

Soon Beckstrom will begin the third and final year of the contract that he executed in June 2009 – yes, it has been almost two years since Rod assumed the mantle as ICANN’s fourth President and CEO. He got off to a quick start with the successful expiration of the Joint Project Agreement (JPA), the execution of the Affirmation of Commitments (AoC), and the introduction of Internationalized Domain Names (IDN) in country code top-level domains (ccTLDs) earning the accolades of myself and others.

Then came the ICANN meeting in Kenya and Rod’s statement that “[t]he domain name system is more fragile and vulnerable today than it has ever been. It could stop at any given point in time, literally.” To say that this was not warmly received by many within the broader ICANN community would be an understatement. However, instead of back-tracking, Beckstrom doubled down with his high-profile DNS Vulnerabilities and Risk Management panel discussion in Brussels reinforcing his claims about the fragile nature of the Internet.

Some in the community have also voiced concern about the continued exodus of senior ICANN staff, while others have questioned some of Rod’s recent hires. While I have not yet had the opportunity to meet with John Nakamura, Advisor to the CEO on Government Affairs, and Elad Levinson, Vice-President of Organization Efficiency, these are two hires which I myself have a hard time reconciling while other key positions remain unfilled.

However, to Rod’s credit a number of his new senior hires appear to be making positive impacts and look to increase the overall professional skill set within ICANN staff. Although Paul Twomey’s original two senior staff hires, John Jeffrey and Kurt Pritz, continue to dominate important policy and operational matters within ICANN, this may be in part due to the fact that there is so little institutional knowledge left within the senior staff.

Since the June 2010 Brussels meeting, Rod has maintained a lower profile, focusing on ICANN’s continued accomplishments in the areas of new IDN ccTLDs being added to the root and the final allocation of IPv4 address space by IANA. Whether Rod would seek a second term is still an unknown. Of ICANN’s four Presidents, only Twomey ever made it to a second contract renewal, although the high churn rate can in large part be attributed to the stresses associated with the job.

This is why Beckstrom’s silence in Brussels was so interesting. While there were some pointed exchanges between ICANN Chair Peter Dengate Thrush and certain GAC members, Rod left the meeting unscathed. Over the next couple of months as the ICANN Board and GAC resolve their outstanding issues regarding the new gTLD implementation process, Beckstrom positions himself well for a potential contract extension as his Chairman continues to serve as a lightning rod in these consultations.

For the moment, only Beckstrom knows if he is actively seeking a contract extension. While he can go out on a high note listing the following high profile accomplishments during his three year tenure: AoC, IDN TLDs, new gTLDs, exhaustion of IPv4 address space, and a new IANA contract; Rod may wish to stick around and achieve some yet unknown additional accomplishments.

Michael Palage is an intellectual property attorney and an information technology consultant. He has been actively involved in ICANN operational and policy matters since its formation in both an individual and leadership role, including a three-year term on the ICANN Board of Directors.

Palage is President and CEO of Pharos Global, Inc, which provides consulting and management services to domain name registration authorities and other technology related companies.

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Comments (4)

  1. Bobolob says:

    The domain system is more fragile than ever? So what has Beckstrom been doing for the last two years? Distracted by his salary that has a bonus for getting newTLDs off the ground perhaps? Took his eye off the ball, and now it’s time ICANN was shut down permanently and Beckstrom is made to answer for his failings.

  2. MS says:

    IDN Work is far from done.
    Who is responsible for the loss of revenue to all those economies who today, 25+ years after .com was born still have no way to communicate to customers like English markets can, 100% in the native language and the excuse is because they are waiting on continuously delayed attempts to come to understanding concerning new gTLD’s (.gay,.Paris and others), which may offer greater choice but are in no way a necessity like IDN gTLD’s are.
    IDN ccTLD’s fast track process is a great accomplishment (unfortunately it took the Chinese and Russian governments to threaten ICANN in root splitting to become a reality) but it is not truly providing end users choices as many are still not live and/or in various sunrise stages for good reasons.

    It’s unfortunate ICANN continues to allow this ‘hostage’ situation effecting Billions of users who don’t speak English.
    It’s also apparently easy to forget who is funding the IDN ccTLD’s fast track process.
    At minimum ICANN needs to make the plans they are currently working on very clear to the various communities as continuing to officially announce nothing while not stopping various alternate root operations are causing confusion in several local markets.

  3. Brussels Biggest Winner…

    […]Then came the ICAN meting in Kenya and Rod's statement that ?he domain name system is more fragile and[…]…

  4. I’m not sure this post makes any sense.

    The key goal of the CEO, according to the logic laid out here, is to survive to a second term — even if that means not saying anything at a crucial meeting, and not supporting your own chair.

    That may be the author’s philosophy but I’m pretty sure the rest of the world thinks a CEO’s job is to represent and empower his organization, not their own standing.

    If what is outlined here was actually true – and I don’t think it is – far from the article actually supporting Beckstrom, it would paint him as someone more interested in his own well-being than that of the organization.

    Thank god the Internet community doesn’t all think like this.

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