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ICANN 71 — now with added bearded men!

Kevin Murphy, June 3, 2021, Domain Policy

What’s better than a flabby, bearded, middle-aged man lecturing you about DNS policy in a Zoom window? Why, up to 25 flabby, bearded, middle-aged men lecturing you about DNS policy in the same Zoom window, of course!

That appears to be an added benefit (to beard fans, at least) of upgrades ICANN has made to its remote participation platform ahead of this month’s ICANN 71 public meeting, which will be taking place virtually.

The org has implemented a new Zoom feature called Immersive View, which permits the illusion that everyone on a given panel or committee is sitting in the same room, by pasting their images in real-time to the same fake background image.

From Zoom’s blog announcing the feature earlier this year:

Zoom

The feature supports up to 25 participants, which should be sufficient to accommodate every member of ICANN’s various committees and the board of directors.

While I’m making light of it, I do see some value to observers of being able to see all session speakers simultaneously. As an inveterate nose-picker, I’m not sure I’d be quite as happy about it as a participant.

Other useful features announced by senior engineering veep Ashwin Rangan yesterday include real-time captioning in English of non-English speakers and a return to one-on-one rooms for people wishing to have private meetings.

ICANN has also linked its meeting registration system with its regular web site login accounts, Rangan said.

ICANN rules out vaccine passports, kinda, but warns in-person meetings may be a long way off

Kevin Murphy, March 24, 2021, Domain Policy

The odds of a return to in-person ICANN meetings this year is “fifty-fifty”, but the Org has no plans to introduce so-called “vaccine passports” to hasten the process.

That’s what emerged during a session at ICANN 70, the fourth consecutive remote public meeting since the coronavirus pandemic began, yesterday.

ICANN’s mid-year meeting, originally slated for The Hague, was recently confirmed to be online-only this June, and the final meeting of the year, scheduled for October in-person in Seattle, is still far from certain.

Speaking to the Non-Commercial Stakeholders Group, CEO Göran Marby yesterday gave the odds of a Seattle meeting as 50:50, and said in-person meetings will only go ahead when global pandemic restrictions are at a point where people from all parts of the world are able to attend. He said:

We cannot go to a country or a region that sets up too many obstacles for ICANN people to travel there.

It could be technically possible for us to have a meeting somewhere with a very limited participation, but then we really have to ask “Should we have that?”, because if we can’t people into the meeting from different parts of the world, we probably shouldn’t do the meeting.

Since the beginning of this, we always said that the decisions are made by the people who come to the meetings, and if we can’t have enough participation from different stakeholder groups in different parts of the world, then there’s not going to be an ICANN meeting.

The return to normality will be dictated largely by vaccine roll-out worldwide, he indicated, but benchmarked against the slowest-to-jab nations.

While the US and UK are making rapid progress getting shots in arms, other nations are barely getting started with their programs.

But Marby ruled out the idea of ICANN-specific “vaccine passports”, saying: “It’s not for ICANN to set them up, it’s going to be the governments and the hotels and the airlines to set them up.”

The ICANN board and NCSG also acknowledged a certain degree of volunteer burnout and reduced participation over the last 12 months, which was broadly chalked down to the crippling time-zone problems online meetings entail.

Because ICANN rotates its meetings through broadly speaking three time zones (Americas, Europe, East Asia) with about eight hours between them, at any given meeting roughly two thirds of the community is going to be working well outside of their usual business hours for a week or more, which takes its toll.

ICANN 71 is online-only, because of course it is

Kevin Murphy, March 15, 2021, Domain Policy

ICANN has called off plans to conduct its 71st public meeting in the Netherlands this June.

Blaming the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, the risk to safety and travel restrictions, ICANN confirmed last week that the venue will again be Zoom, rather than The Hague.

It will be the fifth consecutive meeting to go online-only.

The dates will remain the same — June 14 to June 17 — and the European time zone of course means that folks at ICANN HQ in Los Angeles will once again be working throughout the night.

ICANN 70, relocated from Cancun, begins next Monday.

ICANN 70 has virtual schwag, other new stuff

Kevin Murphy, March 10, 2021, Domain Policy

It may not make up for the lack of sun, sea, sand and sexual abstinence, but the ICANN 70 meeting, taking place this month on Zoom instead of Cancun, Mexico, does have a few new enticements that may tickle your fancy.

It’s also beginning to look like ICANN 70 won’t be the last of ICANN’s public meetings this year to be online-only.

At the trivial end of the spectrum, attendees get a virtual schwag bag containing unsponsored, printable collectibles including: two versions of a do-not-disturb door sign, a name badge, and two types of origami paper airplanes.

Equally trivially, ICANN appears to trying to foster a sense of remote community by encouraging attendees to take photographs of their food and post them to social media with the hashtag #icannchef. Because it’s 2009, apparently.

A bit more substance comes with the promise of private breakout rooms, which ICANN described in a blog post.

Apparently attendees will be able to create their own private rooms, containing multiple parties, whether it’s for social or business or policy-making purposes.

While ICANN 70 Prep Week started this week, that feature doesn’t appear to be live yet, or is so well-hidden that I couldn’t find it.

I can see this being potentially useful for meetings that take longer than the time allotment Zoom gives you for free, but I’m not sure I’d want to hold any super-sensitive meetings on a platform configured by ICANN, given its track record.

Other new features include the ability to listen in to live interpretation in the supported languages during the supported sessions, natively via the Zoom interface.

ICANN’s also turning on Zoom’s often hilarious, automated real-time transcription service, for sessions that don’t receive the usual human-assisted scribe service.

The Org has been adding features to its online platform bit-by-bit since the coronavirus pandemic forced the community into virtual mode a year ago.

It’s unlikely to be the last time ICANN meets in an online-only fashion. The board of directors is to meet tomorrow to consider the fate of ICANN 71, which is currently scheduled to take place in The Hague in June.

While some countries may well be approaching some level of pre-pandemic normality by then, ICANN is an international organization and the maxim “Nobody’s safe until we’re all safe” probably applies here.

ICANN 69 returning to YouTube

Kevin Murphy, September 25, 2020, Domain Policy

ICANN is to make its annual general meeting next month available streaming on YouTube, the org has announced.

That’s in addition to the Zoom rooms that have been used exclusively for meetings since the coronavirus pandemic hit at the start of the year.

The YouTube streams will be listen/view only and will have up to 30 seconds delay compared to the live Zoom rooms, which will of course continue to have interactivity.

The move will be a welcome return for those of us who need to listen in to sessions and not necessarily engage.

Unfortunately, only five “high-interest” sessions will be available, and there won’t be any live interpretation for the non-English speakers.

For the Zoom rooms, they’ll be mandatory registration before you can even view the meeting schedule. The links will be hidden behind a login screen.

This is largely due to repeated incidents of “Zoom-bombing”, where trolls interrupt proceedings with inflammatory off-topic material.

ICANN will spend $51,000 on your broadband

Kevin Murphy, September 2, 2020, Domain Policy

ICANN has set aside up to $51,000 to reimburse community members for their broadband costs during its next public meeting.

Under the newly agreed Pandemic Internet Access Reimbursement Program Pilot, participants in ICANN 69 will get a maximum of $60 each to cover the costs of increased bandwidth or data caps during the month of October.

The pilot is limited to only those who already have their travel funded from the ICANN budget, such as members of important committees and the Fellowship program.

They’ll have to provide receipts from a legit ISP showing how much they paid to participate in the meeting, which will be the third in a row to be carried out via Zoom.

Anyone who wants the reimbursement will have to apply before October 2, and payouts will be made in November.

ICANN will also publish the names of those who receive the payments, as it does with travel reimbursements, which should discourage abuse.

As I’ve previously noted, ICANN is saving millions this year by eschewing in-person meetings, and $51,000 really is a drop in that ocean.

ICANN 69 runs from October 17 to October 22. It had originally been scheduled to run in Hamburg.

“Horrifying” Zoombombing attack on ICANN meeting, again

Kevin Murphy, June 22, 2020, Domain Policy

ICANN’s eleventh-hour decision to remove password requirements for ICANN 68 was proved wrong almost immediately after the meeting got underway on Zoom today.

According to participants and ICANN itself, several sessions were “zoombombed” this morning, with apparently pornographic content.

Zoombombing is where trolls disrupt public, open Zoom meetings with content designed to offend.

ICANN 68 is taking place on Zoom, but on Kuala Lumpur time. I was asleep during the attacks and ICANN has yet to post the recordings of any of today’s sessions, so I can’t give you any of the details first-hand.

But judging by a handful of social media posts that reference the attack, it seems to have been pornographic in nature. ICANN said it comprised “audio, images and video”.

One participant described it as “funny at first…until it was not”, while another said it was “horrifying” and left her feeling “completely vulnerable”.

ICANN said in a blog post that the trolls were swiftly removed from the sessions.

It added that it has changed the format of the remainder of ICANN 68, unplugging certain interactive components and requiring passwords to be entered before access is granted.

This means you’re going to have to register for each session and click emailed confirmation links, it appears.

Only the Governmental Advisory Committee is staying on the platform with its original vulnerable configuration.

ICANN had been planning to require passwords since a similar attack at an inter-sessional meeting in March, but changed its mind last week after security upgrades made by Zoom gave leaders a greater sense of confidence in the platform.

It appears that confidence was misplaced.

Coronavirus is saving ICANN millions of your money, but will it use the cash wisely?

Kevin Murphy, June 21, 2020, Domain Policy

ICANN is saving millions this year due to the coronavirus-related shift to online-only public meetings.

But it’s thinking about using some of the cash to do things like pay for broadband upgrades and hotel rooms for some of its community volunteers.

During a conference call on Thursday, CFO Xavier Calvez gave out figures suggesting that the switch from in-person to Zoom meetings could save as much as $8 million of your money in 2020.

Calvez said that ICANN meetings usually cost an average of $4 million, but that the virtual ICANN 67 in March only cost the org $1.5 million to $2 million.

Because the face-to-face component was canceled only at the last minute, ICANN had already incurred some costs associated with a physical meeting.

The ICANN 68 meeting, which begins tomorrow, is expected to cost $1 million to $1.5 million, Calvez said.

If we assume that October’s ICANN 69, recently moved from Hamburg to Zoom, will see similar savings, then the total 2020 meetings bill could be down by between $6 million and $8 million.

Calvez added that ICANN’s funding during the coronavirus crisis has so far been holding steady.

No sooner had Calvez finished speaking than a pre-submitted community member question was read out wondering whether some of this cash could be redistributed to participants who are usually travel-subsidized.

Intellectual property expert Jonathan Zuck said that money could be handed out to volunteers in order to pay for things such as broadband upgrades and “finding quiet places to participate in the middle of the night”.

Perhaps surprisingly, Calvez and senior VP of global stakeholder engagement Sally Costerton did not rule this out.

In fact, she said such ideas are currently under active discussion and may be floated for public comment after ICANN 68.

One idea, I suggest, might be to compensate the 200-odd people who tuned into Thursday’s “Q&A” session for their time.

The session was scheduled to be an hour long, but the first 45 minutes were devoted to the 12 members of the ICANN executive team introducing themselves and patting themselves on the back for all the awesome work they’ve been doing.

ICANN decision to cancel Hamburg was NOT unanimous

Kevin Murphy, June 19, 2020, Domain Policy

Surprisingly, ICANN’s decision last week to cancel its Hamburg annual general meeting in favor of Zoom did not receive the unanimous support of its board of directors.

Two directors — Ihab Osman and Ron da Silva — voted against the majority in the June 11 resolution, minutes published last night show.

The resolution noted that the global path of the coronavirus pandemic is currently too unpredictable to ensure that an in-person ICANN 69 could go ahead safely or legally in October.

But the two directors dissented, pushing instead for a “hybrid” model meeting, with a greatly reduced in-person attendance propped up with online participation.

According to the minutes:

Ron expressed concerns that the decision to conduct ICANN69 as a purely virtual meeting is premature and indicated a preference for the President and CEO to explore with the SO and AC leadership the implications, costs and logistics around a hybrid approach for ICANN69. Ihab expressed concerns that the proposed resolution does not allow for the possibility of some sort of physical hybrid model for ICANN69.

Osman went further, arguing that ICANN should set an example by going ahead with Hamburg:

Ihab Osman pointed out that large parts of the world are moving towards opening up, and that ICANN, as global community and global player, has a responsibility to do its part to bring the world back to some level of normalcy.

While CEO Göran Marby came back with a bunch of reasons a physical meeting would be impractical and potentially unsafe, both directors were unconvinced and voted against the 13-person majority anyway.

Notes released alongside the minutes reveal that ICANN stands to save a lot of money by remaining online-only.

Not only will it not have to pay for hundreds of flights and hotel rooms for staff and subsidized community members, but it had not yet signed contracts with the venue or local hotels, so it won’t be losing any deposits either.

Virtual cocktails coming to ICANN meetings. Really.

Kevin Murphy, June 18, 2020, Domain Policy

Fancy a virtual coffee? How about a virtual cocktail? These are both real events coming to ICANN’s public meetings, which for the rest of the year are online-only due to coronavirus restrictions.

It’s part of an effort to better capture the sense of socializing and community-building found at normal, in-person ICANN meetings.

The schedule for ICANN 68, which kicks off on Monday, has just been updated to include several 30-minute “virtual coffee” sessions, which of course will be conducted over Zoom.

ICANN’s calling these “Fika” sessions.

It’s not an acronym, but rather a reference to the Swedish workplace tradition of taking a break to drink coffee, eat cake, and chat with colleagues. I’m guessing Swedish CEO Göran Marby had a hand in the naming.

Each Fika session comes with a number of sub-rooms, in which participants can discuss issues such as “Bingeworthy: My Favorite Shows and Movies During Quarantine” or “I’ve Got the Time Now: Quarantine DIY Projects”.

It’s all very sweet and cuddly.

There’s no confirmed “virtual cocktail” sessions (which strike me as an exceptional excuse for day-drinking, depending on your time zone) on the ICANN 68 schedule yet, but the idea has been floated as part of ICANN org’s plan for enhancing its virtual meetings.

This plan is part of a draft four-phase plan to eventually re-open physical meetings when it becomes safe and permitted.

In the current Phase 0, ICANN’s going to encourage greater use of remote video — by all participants, not just the ICANN hosts — and sponsorship opportunities in a virtual “exhibition hall”.

ICANN’s even thinking about arranging for the shipping of schwag bags filled with sponsor loot.

Phase 1 would see the return of in-person meetings, but only at the local or regional level, Phase 2 would see a return to in-person ICANN public meetings, but with a “hybrid” approach that would retain the current online components.

Phase 3 would be essentially a return to business as usual.

The decision to enter a new phase would be guided by issues such as pandemic status, government guidelines, venue safety, and so on.

There’s no chance of up-phasing public meetings this year. ICANN has already confirmed that ICANN 69, originally set for Hamburg, will also be online-only.

But it does seem that this year’s meetings will be slightly friendlier affairs.

Fortunately for female participants, haptic technology has not sufficiently advanced to accurately replicate the experience of being sexually harassed in a hotel bar by a bearded middle-aged man who stinks of virtual vodka.

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