ICANN: the North American candidates.
Voting in the election for ICANN's five at-large board seats is open
until Tuesday at midnight GMT. I expect that many of the registered
voters have not yet done the deed (although ICANN's process gives us
no way to know).
Six of the seven North American candidates for one of the open
ICANN board seats convened at
Harvard last week to be grilled twice, first by a roomful of law
students and then by a panel of tech reporters. Both sessions were
What follows are my impressions of the candidates from those
Here are photos [ side,
front ] of the six candidates
in attendance: (from left to right) Emerson Tiller, Barbara Simons,
Harris Miller, Lawrence Lessig, Lyman Chapin, and Karl Auerbach.
(Donald Langenberg was not present.) For biographical sketches of
the candidates, see
page at Harvard's CyberLaw Institute. The
questioners in the
second session were (from left to right) Declan McCullagh of Wired,
Hiawatha Bray of the Boston Globe, Alan Davidson, and David Akin of
Canada's National Post. Davidson was a stand-in and unlike the
others is not a member of the media; he is councel at the Center for
Democracy and Technology.
The candidates nominated by a committee of ICANN itself are Harris,
Lessig, Chapin, and Langenberg. The remaining three -- Tiller,
Simons, and Auerbach -- were self-nominated and endorsed by ICANN's
A first approximation:
How you react to these candidates will depend largely on whether or
not you think ICANN has done a good job thus far. Auerbach, Simons,
Lessig, and Tiller want to shake up the organization, let more
voices be heard, establish more open processes, and limit ICANN's
power. Harris professes himself happy with the way ICANN has been
going. Chapin (CTO at BB&N), while questioning the
organization's mission creep, represents interests that are already
well-represented on the board.
Simons and Tiller both held up a copy of the
ICANN org chart
to demonstrate the ample representation built-in to ICANN's
structure for the communities of (1) technical experts and (2)
corporations with an interest in issues touching on domain naming.
The candidates had a wide range of opinions as to who exactly out
to be the
constituency for the at-large directors. Tiller seems to believe it
is ordinary Net users -- the man in the street. Simons and others
argued that the issues ICANN is struggling with are still
sufficiently technical and obscure that one should view the at-large
community as a self-selection from among the technically savvy.
Harris, who works as a full-time Washington lobbyist for an alliance
of software companies, in my observation made no pretense to
represent any but corporate interests.
Karl Auerbach is probably the candidate the current ICANN insiders
would least like to see elected. He is deeply technical, having
worked in the TCP/IP and DNS space for 25 years, and in addition is
a lawyer (non-practicing). Auerbach is one of the architects of the
Boston Working Group, which proposed an alternative to ICANN before
the Commerce Department selected the organization to which it would
hand over control of the DNS root.
Barbara Simons is a much-decorated veteran of the software industry
who served as president of the ACM from 1998 to 2000. Her hot-button
issue with ICANN's past performance is its confusion of trademarking
with domain naming. She advocates imposing well-defined and open
processes on ICANN's workings.
Larry Lessig, a law professor at Stanford, has been a vocal
ICANN critic since its earliest days. Why the ICANN nominating
committee selected him is an enduring mystery, not least to Lessig.
At the Harvard sessions, Lessig questioned ICANN's legitimacy and
mandate to take on the questions it has chosen to address. (Press
accounts frequently refer to ICANN as an Internet governing
organization, while in point of fact its mandate from the US
Commerce Department is limited to technical oversight of Internet
naming and numbering.)
Emerson Tiller is a professor of business at UT Austin and an
unknown in the DNS community. His heart seems to be in the right
place but his effectiveness working on the technical and political
issues facing ICANN is anybody's guess.
Of the remaining three ICANN-nominated candidates, I think Harris is
an inappropriate choice to represent an at-large constituency.
Chapin makes reasonable noises but I distrust his corporate
connections. Of Langenberg I know little.
I believe the Internet community would best be served by votes for
Auerbach, Simons, and Lessig in that order. On balance I can't
recommend Tiller. The other three: not even close.