Still Time to Join ICANN

I have finally succeeded in signing up for a public, at-large membership at ICANN, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, after multiple attempts to get through to the organization’s overloaded membership server. You should sign up, too.

ICANN is the body responsible for governing the domain-name system on the Internet. Its decisions, which go to the core of the Net’s inner workings, are important to us all.

The public is allowed to participate in a small way, through the election of at-large board members. The value of being an at-large public member is debatable, I concede, given the ICANN board’s tendency to make autocratic decisions, and the organization’s strong tilt toward the powerful interests that are dominating the system today, namely big companies, governments and trademark holders, is another less-than-positive sign.

But we make a mistake if we throw up our hands and decide it’s not worth the trouble even to try. That’s why I implore you to sign up, if you haven’t already, on the ICANN membership site.

Registration ends on Monday. The servers have been grossly overloaded, but several people have written me to say they were able to sign up after several attempts.

Please register, if you care about the future of the Internet.

Old Media Opening Up?

The traditional media are notorious for their resistance to change. We are especially challenged by the Net’s multi-faceted nature, and in particular its many-to-many communications capabilities. Traditional journalism is a lecture. The Net is a conversation.

Many of us have discussion forums on our Web sites, which are useful beginnings into a more conversational style of journalism. One place that does this well, by dint of its international readership, is the “Gray Lady,” aka the New York Times. Its ambitious Web site — one of the best, IMO — includes discussion groups where readers argue about major topics selected by the Times online editors.

But a more interesting, if largely unknown, part of the Times’ online services is Abuzz, a question-and-answer site, where the general public asks and answers the questions. The staff’s editorial function is to keep things running smoothly, as far as I can tell.

Now, this kind of thing isn’t new. Other sites do it just as well if not better. And you tend to find the best answers in a given topic by going to topic-specific sites.

Still, I’m glad that the august New York Times has seen fit to do this. “All the News That’s Fit to Print” no longer fits into the pages of the newspaper, as the Times has learned. It doesn’t even fit on the official NYT Web site. Maybe there’s a lesson there for all of us.

Some Weekend Reading

  • Bob Metcalfe: What’s next for TCP/IP? Instead of HTML over HTTP over TCP over IP over ATM over SONet (Synchronous Optical Network), how about some real protocol disintermediation — like Napster directly on the lambdas of DWDM (dense wavelength division multiplexing) fibers?
  • Anthony Lewis: Breaking the Silence. There are already signs around the country of unease with the human cost and practical failure of our drug policy. Perhaps the shadow conventions will move more political leaders to face the reality recently stated by The Economist of London: “That misguided policy has put millions of people behind bars, cost billions, encouraged crime and spread corruption while failing completely to reduce drug abuse.” Amen.
  • Adam Lashinsky: Microsoft Notebook: Some Straight Talk. Ballmer made perhaps the strongest and most convincing argument that near-term revenue growth is not what’s important. “Investing in the company is,” he said.

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