By Nick Patience IBM Corp’s VP internet technology John Patrick has finally got his way within the company and has apparently secured a $100,000 unconditional donation to the financially-beleaguered Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN). However, at press time yesterday the check had not been written or sent to ICANN, but it is […]
By Nick Patience
IBM Corp’s VP internet technology John Patrick has finally got his way within the company and has apparently secured a $100,000 unconditional donation to the financially-beleaguered Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN). However, at press time yesterday the check had not been written or sent to ICANN, but it is expected within a day or so, having been cleared by IBM’s senior management, we understand. Last month ICANN announced one-year loans totaling $850,000 from MCI Worldcom Inc, Cisco Systems Inc and 3Com Corp, with $500,000 of that coming from MCI.
Observers were puzzled at the time as to where IBM’s donation was, given that Patrick and MCI’s Vint Cerf were the main protagonists in the desperate fund-raising to bolster ICANN’s bank balance, which was heavily in the red by late June. Around that time Patrick approached a group of the top venture capitalists in the US, including John Doerr and Ann Winblad of Hummer Winblad Venture Partners, only to be turned down.
The emergency fundraising effort was not publicly announced until the money was more or less already in the bank and the approach to VCs was not announced at all. Patrick acknowledges that the fund-raising drive should have been more part of the public debate on administration of the internet: perhaps it could have been handled differently, he says. Many in the internet community feel that by not announcing it and then accepting large loans from corporations, ICANN is in danger of being seen as being in the pocket of corporate America, but it regularly denies such charges.
Patrick believes the failure of ICANN is not an option. However, he also insists that its scope is very narrow. He says it’s not trying to boil the ocean and solve all the problems associated with running the internet’s name and numbering systems, but it must be seen to be representing all the various interests that are involved in the internet. Asked whether he feels the administrative procedural and technical remit given to ICANN could in fact be very broad and far-reaching, Patrick disagrees. He says it is a simple set of initiatives, including deciding how many registrars and registries there should be and some sort of fee structure to support ICANN. He also believes that there can only be one root from which all name servers take their domain name-IP number mappings.
He says that multiple roots would only be feasible if the internet was being designed now. But with tens of millions of uses and hosts, it’s just not possible he says, because the internet users around the world will not accept even a tiny break in the system. There is no choice, he says, you must have one person at the top of the root.
We wondered what a governmental-run body might look like if ICANN should fail and governments step in. Patrick says it’s impossible to tell because such a body has never existed. He says the internet runs the same way all over the world to the same standards, which is not true of the telephone, railroad or any other system that is regularly compared to the internet.
At its meeting last month in Santiago, ICANN revealed that after using the $850,000 in loans, it expected to have just $37,000 cash at the end of August and already had at that time unpaid invoices and bills totaling around $250,000 generated in July and August alone. It is hard to see how ICANN will pay those loans back within one year, if at all.