Sun Oct 22 22:06:52 EDT 2000
In the 19 October teleconference of ICANN's Names Council --
that is, the interface between the various Domain Name Supporting
Organizations (see Tony Rutkowski's mind-boggling org chart
-- the following exchange took place between NC Chair Ken Stubbs, DNSO "Voluntary
Secretariat" Elisabeth Porteneuve, and ICANN VP-plus Louis
Stubbs: ...I'm on the Whois Committee for the DNSO, and I take
notice of the fact that there's still a significant amount of
concern that's being expressed from various quarters about this
issue, and I am going to be pushing that the Whois Committee
report be accelerated so that we can try to come up with something
substantive, because I believe that this ties in to some
extent to what Roger [Cochetti]'s talking about and is probably
something that really needs to be discussed in Los Angeles as
Porteneuve: Elizabeth. Just to put it in the record -- you were
just speaking about Whois Committee. Is it the committee of ICANN?
Stubbs: Yes -- Louis, maybe you might take a half-second to
Touton: --actually, the Whois Committee is just a group of
people that...of various interest...who the ICANN staff asked to
get together and try to formulate some proposals or ideas that
might then be passed as appropriate to either the Names Council or
the ICANN staff, depending on whether it's a policy matter or an
implementation matter. So I think what Ken is speaking of is that
it's anticipated that some of that committee's work might go to
the DNSO for the Names Council to manage in whatever way it deems
Pourtenueve: Louis, do you mean that -- do I understand
correctly? It is a group of people of various interests requested by
Touton: That's correct.
Porteneuve: OK...It will be noted.
Stubbs: If they change the name from the Whois Committee to the
Whois Group... [laughs] I apologize--I get committees, uh, I guess
committee's beginning to connote something that may not necessarily
be what is intended here.
As with many things ICANNesque, it takes a certain perverse
connoisseurship to discern just how peculiar this exchange is.
Porteneuve is no greenhorn when it comes to networking
bureaucracies in general (here CV is here) nor to
ICANN's in particular (here's Google
on the subject). On the contrary: her involvement in ICANN's
ontogenesis earned her not just the position of *master for the
DNSO but also charges of misusing
that position to revise the DNSO's history. That she had
never heard of this Whois Whatever It Is is remarkable, to say
the least; and the curt, almost pained tone with which she
concluded her inquiry -- "It will be noted" -- suggests that she
was only too aware of that.
Remarkable, too, was the finesse with which the baton passed
from the stumbling Stubbs to the tutelary Touton, whose
explanation sets great store in the pseudo-distinction between a
"committee" and "a group of people...who the ICANN staff asked to
get together and try to formulate some proposals or ideas."
Unfortunately, what it doesn't explain away (and Porteneuve knew
it) was that this was one of those now-familiar mechanisms
through which ICANN manufactures selective consensus.
The roving_reporter wrote to Touton asking for more
information about this Whois Group:
- Was it formed in accordance with ICANN's bylaws?
- If so, which sections and/or procedures?
- When was it formed?
- What is its function?
- Who is on it?
- Will its communications be made public? How? If not, why not?
To Mr. Touton's credit, he answered:
The "Whois Committee" is not a committee of the
DNSO, but is an informal group of people/registrars who have been
looking at technical/operational aspects of implementation of the
Whois provisions of the ICANN-NSI
Registry Agreement and the Registrar
Accreditation Agreement. Section 9 of the Registry Agreement
and Section II.F of the Registrar Accreditation Agreement require
the provision of various web-based and port 43 services. ICANN
staff, which is responsible for implementing the agreements (see
resolution 99.133), asked the group to provide technical
suggestions for ways to implement these provisions without
unnecessary burdens on the registrars.
The group actually started in late June, though there were
some earlier discussions on the topic at around the time the
registrars-coc committee was formed. The Whois committee was put
together as a way of gathering some grass-roots input on what
systems registrars can use to implement the Whois-related
policies adopted in 1999. It has been discussed from time to
time, mostly in the registrars constituency, including at
Yokohama, with a few volunteers becoming additional participants
since then. Current participants are NSI Registrar, Melbourne IT,
CORE, Domain Bank, Sarah Deutsch, Richard Kroon, Mark Kosters,
and Jonathan Whitehead, with Rebecca Nesson providing
We hope the group will come up with suggestions on the
technical/operational issues raised by the requirements in the
agreements. When and if it does, I would expect it to write up
its suggestions for further consideration by the procedures and
in the venues that are appropriate based on the nature of the
group's suggestions, and for the suggestions to be disseminated
to the registrars and posted on the web site.
It's debatable just how informal this group is. The only other
known reference to it is a message from Michael Palage -- a
ubiquitous advocate of intellectual property concerns in ICANN's
activities -- to the DNSO's registrars' mailing list. Palage
described it as a "Whois
Task Force" with "participants from many other
constituencies," which seems a bit tendentious, given that
Porteneuve had never heard of it or its activities. But,
contra Touton, its title and formal status aren't really
the point. Instead, its shadowy existence is a testament to
ICANN's opacity: it is internally originated astroturf convened
at the behest of ICANN's staff under a vague board directive,
unknown even to the DNSO's secretariat, and with a scope so broad
that its recommendations will be sorted on an ad hoc basis into
"policy" or "technical" procedures and channels. In this regard,
it's significant that Palage was privy to it early on:
intellectual property zealots have long regarded unfettered
access to registry databases as an essential component -- both as
a means and as an end -- in subordinating DNS in toto to a
regime dominated by their largely imaginary "rights."