Johan Hjelm on Sun, 6 Jun 1999 16:36:21 +0200 (CEST)

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Re: <nettime> Conflicting paradigms, Internet history and ICANN

Well, the Internet of today is not the Internet of yesterday, any more than
the newspapers of the 1950's were the New York Sun of the 1910's. Development
is inevitable (it's either that or death). The question of course is which
direction the development takes - and this is where we can influence it.

People form organisations. Organisations form policy, which shapes technology.
So: People form technology. But not directly. The luxury of developing
technology for its own sake belongs to very few - and may not even be
interesting. When George Soros invests his money in charity, it is not in a
better technology. It is in the use of technology for the improvement of the
interactions of people.

Remember, DARPA was not an organisation of idealists. They funded research in
packet switching to see if a network could be developed that could enable the
US war machine to become more efficient than its enemies. Of course, the
motivation of the students and teachers who actually did the job was different
from those who financed them. Still, it was not to create the information

The people who developed this Internet continues to guide its development.
Curiously, they are now the braking blocks on the standardisation and
implementation of brave new concepts (if you doubt me, witness the fate of
HTTP-NG in the IETF). ICANN could have been a fresh start on an new form of
governance of technology development, but it is on the way of becoming
something which is botched whatever happens. Its philosophy seems to be half
governement, half corporation, with the wrong part of both.

Should we take the stance that ICANN needs the legitimacy of ANSI and ISO,
there is an easy option: Close it and hand the responsibility to the ITU.
There, you have an international organisation that has successfully been
handling communications issues for more than a hundred years. And it is a UN
organisation, to boot. But the US governement did not choose to do that, since
they want to maintain some level of control over ICANN - and the Internet.
Remember, they could expropriate the assets of ICANN (a Californian non-profit
organisation), but the same thing is impossible for any nation with respect to
the ITU.

If it is international governemental legetimacy we need, the ITU is the only
way  to go. If the idea is to create a new kind of governance, fair enough.
Creating ICANN is an option. But is that what is happening?



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