Transition: Done!

Jordan CarterA blog post from Jordan Carter, InternetNZ's Chief Executive
4 October 2016 

Eighteen years after the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) was founded, the contractual apron strings between ICANN and the United States government finally expired over the weekend. This means that the US Commerce Department no longer has contractual leverage or a formal role in the management of the Internet's DNS – responsibility for ICANN's future now rests with the global Internet community.

With some joy, we can now say that "transition has happened" and in this brave new world, Internet users should notice...exactly nothing.

It's fair to say that the ending of the contract was never really about short term practicalities. ICANN will keep administering the vital functions at the core of the Internet's system of names and numbers. True, it will do so through a new subsidiary company, but it remains responsible.

What this transition was about was symbolism. In the face of concerns about one single government retaining a unique role, there was always an element of risk. The risk was that other governments, some with less than benign motives, would seek to move responsibility for this core Internet technology into the hands of the International Telecommunications Union or some other United Nations body.

Why do I call that a risk? Imagine technology being determined by diplomats haggling around the corridors in New York. Simply put: the multistakeholder model blending tech, business, government and civil society expertise and influence has worked well, does work well – and will continue to. The notion of putting the creative effort to maintain and develop these technologies in the hands of an organisation run by, and for, diplomats was not an appealing one.

So to save the system it inspired, the United States had to let it go. Larry Strickling, Fiona Alexander and their colleagues at the U.S. National Telecommunications and Information Administration deserve great credit for sticking with the plan. Alongside that praise, I have to say that certain elements of the American political establishment deserve great criticism for their blatantly untruthful arguments about why the whole process should not have happened.

Success is sweet and this moment of independence is one to savour, for all the efforts put in by hundreds of people around the world – over many years – to get ready for the change.

I've written elsewhere about the contributions of people from this part of the world in this process. Today it suffices to say that it was real, and it mattered – but it mattered because it was part of a bigger conversation and a bigger effort to build something magic. An independent, private sector led governance structure for the core of the Internet. Unlikely, but fantastic. Today it's in place.

To all those involved in the debates that have brought us to this success, I offer InternetNZ's thanks. It wasn't always easy but we have a workable outcome.

The challenge now: let's get on with it. The community has taken on an important responsibility. It is our duty to discharge it with energy and propriety. Let's do it.


Here are some links to previous blogs written by Jordan about this transistion process: