Web Oversight Group Changes Election Process

By: Christopher Bodeen, Associated Press Writer

(AP) The group that oversees Internet addresses finalized changes Thursday that end direct elections to its board of directors — a move critics complain could make the group indifferent to ordinary users and hurt innovation.

The steps are part of an organizational overhaul meant to improve the efficiency of the nonprofit Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), said chief executive Stuart Lynn.

The changes were approved by a 15-3 vote on the final day of a conference on Internet addresses this week in Shanghai.

“This will make ICANN a much more efficient and effective organization that will get things done better and faster and be more plugged-in to the community than we are now,” Lynn told reporters following a board meeting.

Lynn and others said the group’s former method of electing five of the 18 board members bogged ICANN down in debates that held up its main work — making decisions that affect everything from how Web sites are named to how e-mail is sent.

The board had approved the framework of the reorganization earlier, and this week’s meeting was largely about filling in the details, including approving the new bylaws.

Under the new system, the board is to be picked by a nominating committee and a trio of affiliated organizations representing groups of address holders. The changes are to take effect at an ICANN conference in Amsterdam in December.

Critics said the revisions were aimed at getting rid of dissenting board members who say the group is out of touch with Internet users.

“ICANN … is not allowing public participation,” said Karl Auerbach, a California consultant who is one of the five elected board members. He voted against the changes.

“It is very much becoming a body that follows the interests of big business,” Auerbach added. He said the group had become an aggressive protector of corporate copyrights on the Internet and was becoming irrelevant to ordinary users.

ICANN has authority over domain names — the suffixes such as “.com” and “.org” at the end of Internet addresses — through a 1998 agreement with the U.S. government.

Other critics said the group’s new bylaws fail to address the controversial question of how to work with regional registries that control the awarding of national suffixes such as “.uk” for Britain and “.jp’ for Japan.

Those registries want more autonomy and chafe at paying dues to ICANN.

“There are too many holes (in the new bylaws) that are not appropriate for where we stand at this time and in our responsibility to the Internet,” said Robert Blokzijl, an ICANN board member and founder of the European Internet registry, RIPE.

Blokzijl joined Auerbach and Andy Mueller-Maguhn of Germany, another elected board member, in voting against the changes.

Lynn defended the changes, saying ICANN would work with registries to define relations better. But he said the registries weren’t unified in their views.

The ICANN board also approved a plan that could require regional registries to pay the world body more for each address that they register.

The money will help ICANN build up its ability to coordinate and fight hacker attacks, such as last week’s “denial of service” assault on the 13 computers scattered around the globe that store directories of online addresses and direct traffic on the Internet.

In that attack, servers were flooded with data relayed by hackers through other users’ computers in what appeared to be an attempt to overload them and shut down the network. Some disruption was reported, but specialists said it suffered no permanent damage.

Also Thursday, Lynn said he would recommend creating three new Internet domain names, though he said there were no plans yet on when to create them or what they would be called.

ICANN introduced seven new domains in 2000 to help relieve demand for the most popular “.com,” but Lynn said the slowing global economy had reduced calls for large numbers of new domain names.

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