Ben Edelman has done another study: This time, he has taken names (100 each, from the following categories: top brand names, random brand names, Boston Yellow Page entries, and selective and random colleges and universities in the US), and investigated how successful (1) domain name guessing, (2) Google's I'm feeling lucky button, (3) RealNames were as strategies to find the web sites in question. The objective of the study was to help to understand the extent to which DNS is already used as or already functions as a directory. I find the first part of this a bit misleading, by the way: The study can at most show how usable the DNS is as a directory. It cannot demonstrate whether users actually use it as one - to quantify that, you'd have to actually observe user behavior.
The study's results: Google is best across all categories in matching Ben's hypothetical user expectation. Ben further writes on the DNSO's GA list: I first find that DNS is nearly as accurate as Google among a sample of the world's largest brands. However, for smaller brands, smaller companies, and less selective educational institutions, DNS's accuracy is substantially worse than Google's. These results suggest that while DNS well serves the needs of the largest companies, it is less successful in providing intuitive naming services to small businesses and other smaller organizations.
William Walsh responded to Ben's statement, and suggested that just because something CAN be used for some in a fashion, does not mean that it is, was, or should be intended to work that way, or that it should work that way for all people. Search engines and other directory services are the way to go for that.
I'm continuing to make an attempt at following the Berkman center's ILAW event, as far as that's possible through the excellent notes in the Copyfight blog and by Dan Gillmor. Must be a fascinating event.
Yesterday's session included talks by Lessig on architecture as regulation [exercise for the reader: apply this to whois policy, privacy protection, and the architectural question of thin vs. thick registries], and by Zittrain on ICANN: What brought us to the point where ICANNwatch is a site you might need to watch? One note I found particularly interesting was a dialogue during the final discussion, as reported in the Copyfight blog: Charlie [Nesson] asks JZ [Zittrain]: "Jonathan, you follow Larry [Lessig] and tell story of ICANN. The message is that the effort was all miscast from the beginning. Stuart Lynn says the government must come in. So are you as pessimistic about the Net as Larry?" JZ: "No, definitely not. But I remember that we threw a meeting here, about ICANN membership; we were looking for a good, fair system, as disinterested academics. We had [inaudible] come in, from Common Cause. He said 'We tried membership; it failed.' I think the board runs it, now. And this is Common Cause. There's sort of a lesson in that."
Today, things focus on the evolution of copyright law in the US.
Some more material on the Bucharest meetings has become available: The GAC has made its agenda, a Media Communiqué, and its statement on ICANN Reform available. The statement is the communiqué read during the public forum. Still, you should really read the original version: The GAC is, for instance, suggesting a number of subtle, but important changes to ICANN's proposed mission statement I didn't catch during the public forum session.
Also, some more archived webcasts are available from the official remote participation page: the press event on Tuesday, and the board meeting wrap-up on Friday. It's, of course, also all linked from the Bucharest summary page.
Yesterday, I attended ISOC.LU's afternoon event with Vint Cerf. Actually, Vint was the second speaker: First, Latif Ladid gave a highly entertaining advocacy talk on the need for a transition to IPv6. One of the key points of that talk was the emphasis on an open, end-to-end Internet, as opposed to today's online world with with dynamic IP addresses, NAT, and similar evils. Vint's talk (the first part of which was not "corrupted" by Powerpoint slides ;) began with a short run-down of the Internet's history, starting in the early ARPANET days. Besides lots of nice anecdotes, his key point was once again openness: Keep the standards open, keep the uses open. Since this was an event organized by ISOC, he also elaborated on the things ISOC chapters could do. In particular, Vint mentioned policy development for the Internet, given that many governments and legislatures are currently making policy for an Internet they may not understand. ICANN and today's hard policy issues were only touched, though - they did not play a key role in either the talks, or the subsequent panel discussion.
George Kirikos has sent a pointer to a report about the OECD's activities with respect to WHOIS accuracy: The organization's secretary-general has sent a letter to Stuart Lynn (and a copy to the GAC's chair). In that letter, the OECD points ICANN to Ben Edelman's study of invalid WHOIS entries, and to its own experience with losing ocde.org. ICANN is urged to require the registrars in question, in particular NameScout, to cease sponsoring patently false registrations which they maintain.
In the subsequent discussion on the GA list, Rick Wesson pointed out that [i]t is a completely valid reaction to use inaccurate information in a whois entry to avoid spam/uce and other marketing liturature, I get at lease on peace of junk mail per day sent to addresses listed in a whois database. In a different branch of the discussion, Karl Auerbach suggested that [t]he interests of a few trademark owners is hardly a reason to use a system - DNS whois - that is highly susceptable to false or erroneous data and, when accurate, is a major violation of privacy. In response to this, George Kirikos suggested a "Legal Contact" role (which could be the ISP, Technical Contact, the Registrant, or someone else the Registrant chooses to use) who is held legally responsible for problems originating from a domain, with accurate info that IS in the WHOIS for that contact? I think that's all people ultimately need to reach, someone who is responsible.
Allan Liska, in response, suggested to just use the domain's technical contact field for this function. In a follow-up to this message, George Kirikos suggests DMCA-like safe harbour provisions for the person taking this role.
Harold Feld has forwarded a letter from Stuart Lynn to the NCDNHC's discuss list. In that letter, the ICANN CEO accepts the NCDNHC's offer to help with the evaluation of the .org bids, and suggests that the NCDNHC should focus on criteria 4, 5, 6 of the evaluation process: Differentiation of the .org TLD, Inclusion of mechanisms for promoting the registry's operation in a manner that is responsive to the needs, concerns, and views of the noncommercial Internet user community, and Level of support for the proposal from .org registrants. What makes this interesting is the GNR proposal which suggests travel funding for the NCDNHC and a .org steering committee in which the NCDNHC's leadership is supposed to participate. To me, this is a conflict of interests for the NCDNHC. Milton Mueller, who played a key role in drafting the DNSO's .org policy, disagrees strongly.
Alexander Svensson and myself have produced some bullet points on reforming the General Assembly. In short, we don't believe that the Names Council's approach that the GA should be restricted to cross-constituency discussions is the right approach.
The folks at icannatlarge.com are going to vote on a supervisory panel with a 12 months mandate. The deadline for nominations and voter registration will expire tomorrow at 24:00 UTC. The deadline for nomination acceptances will end on Tuesday, 12:00 UTC. The vote itself is going to take place from July 28 to August 4.
Did you ask Google for ICANN news today? I only do that unregularly, but repeatedly find the results quite helpful. For instance if anyone wonders where all the contributions to ICANN's WLS public forum and the signatures to the anti-WLS petition come from, this article from The Register may be one source.
Harvard's Ben Edelman has done another analysis. This time, he has looked at Registrations in Open ccTLDs, in order to quantify the domains' size, usage, and registration patterns. His findings include substantial defensive registrations, and substantial cybersquatting. Some discussion of this is going on at ICANNwatch.
The Washington Post reports about statements former presidential adviser Ira Magaziner made on ICANN during a book forum on Milton Mueller's Ruling the Root today: According to the article, Magaziner would disapprove of a plan that abandoned democratic involvement from individuals and non-governmental organizations (NGOs). Remarks made by ICANN's first CEO Mike Roberts at the same event are also available.
The Names Council's Transfer Task Force has made its WLS report available. The report recommends that the Wait Listing Service suggested by Verisign Registry and SnapNames should be rejected; the Intellectual Property and gTLD registry constituencies objected. (The results of the Task Force's vote on the individual recommendations are also available separately.) The report will be discussed at today's Names Council telephone conference, and will then be forwarded to the ICANN board.
Today's Names Council telephone conference recording is now available for download. George Kirikos has listened to it and has posted a summary of the part of the call concerning the Wait Listing Service. Also, some additional material for the Task Force's report is available. This includes a statement from the IPC, a statement from the gTLDs, and a collection of supporting material.
Update: Jeff Neumann (the gTLD registry constituency's chair, but not a member of the council) has posted a follow-up in which he states that the Names Council's vote was a recognition that the report adequatley represents the view of those that participated in the Task Force. It was not approval for the substance contained within the report. I can offer no clarification on this myself since I did not participate in the conference call (other obligations took priority), and have not found the time to listen to the recording. It seems like we'll have to wait for the call's official minutes.
ICANN's first chairman Esther Dyson (who is going to help fill out the details of an at-large advisory committee during ICANN's evolution and reform implementation process) has been talking to Salon about public participation in ICANN. According to Dyson, the long-term goal is elections, but it's not the near-term mechanism.
You may notice some slight changes to the lay-out of this site. Behind that is an almost complete re-write of the underlying set of scripts (basically, replacing shell hell by something nicer written in perl). Right now, the most visible change is that this blog now has stories for longer items (so the start page isn't cluttered). But it's prepared for more to come in the future.
The DNSO secretariat has posted draft minutes of Wednesday's Names Council telephone conference.
Kevin Werbach asks about free web site tracking services in his blog. Well, the easiest approach is, of course, to do it yourself.
Milton Mueller has posted a response to Ben Edelman's study of .cc, .ws, .tv registrations over on ICANNwatch. While occasionally a bit harsh in tone, Milton makes a number of valid points about Ben's conclusions. In a semi-anonymous comment to the article, he also points to a study of content provided under .info which undermines the conclusions of the Berkman study, by proving that a more desirable string (.info) can fairly rapidly gather 5 times the number of registrations of the open ccTLDs, as well as a significant number of "real" websites, as he writes.
The Blueprint for ICANN Evolution and Reform talks about a 30-45 day cycle for Task Forces' policy-making. While some enthusiastically welcome this perspective, some doubts about the practical feasibility may be in order - with Task Forces going on extensive fact-finding expeditions, and with constituencies trying to micro-manage the process. So, how realistic is the evolution and reform committee's idea?
You may notice that some items in this weblog now have links to "Related Stories". These links are not added manually, but generated automatically from RSS feeds.
Bret notes that newspapers' web sites don't link to blogs, but seem to like links from blogs. While The Register may not precisely qualify as a newspaper, at least one of their writers openly uses blogs as a source of information: This article about Verisign's discrimination suit links to Ross Rader's blog, and this article about the Auerbach judgmenet actually links to Bret's notes.
On the General Assembly, there's currently a discussion about how to enforce registrars' obligations, for instance as far as the procedure for transferring a domain name between two registrars is concerned.