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Participate in ICANN

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Why Participate in ICANN?

ICANN is a unique organization, dedicated to
administering a key set of Internet resources in the public interest and on
behalf of the global Internet communities. Unlike some other worldwide
organizations, ICANN’s policy development process depends heavily on the
voluntary participation of individuals and organizations from the communities
it serves. ICANN participants include Internet stakeholders, engineers,
businesspeople, activists, researchers, users, and others, from all around the

The ICANN structure is one in which an
active, interested participant can make a real difference. ICANN has a
volunteer Board of Directors with only a small professional staff — fewer than
20 employees in total. Accordingly, most of the discussion, debate, and
dialogue to forge consensus policies is led by individuals who participate in
ICANN’s Supporting Organizations. The goal of the ICANN policy-making process
is to develop a consensus among the diverse stakeholders of the global Internet
community, meaning that everyone gets a fair shot to be heard and the
opportunity to persuade others of the merits of her views.

Perhaps the best argument for getting
involved in the ICANN process is that it matters to the future of the Internet.
The domain name and IP address systems on which most Internet traffic now
depends have been remarkable technological success stories: the standards are
open and non-proprietary, and they have proven capable of supporting the
massive exponential growth of the Internet since the mid-1980s. Many challenges
now confront these systems, including fears about the potential exhaustion of
the IP address space and conflicts between domain names and legally-defined
trademark rights.

By getting involved in the ICANN process, you
can help determine the future of the Internet’s systems of unique identifiers.

ICANN’s Structure

At first glance, ICANN’s organizational chart can seem
confusing and complicated. However, it’s actually pretty logical — and even
simple — if you understand what ICANN’s responsibilities are. ICANN is
responsible for coordinating the Internet’s three key systems of unique
identifiers. Given that hundreds of millions of Internet users every day depend
on the Domain Name and IP Address systems to route their communications, ICANN
works to ensure that those systems operate and evolve to serve the global
Internet community in a stable and reliable manner.

There are three distinct systems of
identifiers for which ICANN is responsible: the Domain Name System; the IP
Address system; and the numbering of port and protocol parameters. For the
development of coordination policies, ICANN has three open Supporting
Organizations, one for each system of Internet identifiers:

  • Domain Name Supporting Organization – for
    the Domain Name System (DNS).

  • Address Supporting Organization – for the IP
    Address system.

  • Protocol Supporting Organization – for the
    numbering of port and protocol parameters.

    Because each of these identifiers is
    different — with different purposes, different levels of technical and
    administrative complexity, different issues, and different communities of
    interest and expertise — each of the three Supporting Organizations has a
    different structure. All three, however, provide open avenues by which an
    interested individual can get involved. Just follow the links below.

    How to Get Involved

    The best way to get involved is to join one
    or more of the groups (constituencies, working groups, policy forums,
    committees, etc.) that interest you and contribute to their online discussions.
    A number of these groups are discussed below; you’ll find some other, more
    specialized groups linked from their webpages. After you’ve identified an area
    of interest and a relevant group, check out its website: you can often join an
    e-mail discussion list just by submitting a request to subscribe. You might
    want to introduce yourself to the leaders or organizers of the group, and ask
    about the status of current discussions, and the best ways to start

    You can also attend a face-to-face
    meeting. It’s a great introduction to the ICANN
    process and other participants, but it will usually involve some travel and
    expense. Taking place 3 to 4 times each year, in different locations around the
    world, ICANN meetings are free and open to the public. ICANN also webcasts the
    plenary sessions, and uses Internet technology to allow remote participation by
    those who cannot attend in person. If you are able to attend, check the meeting
    schedule to see which groups are meeting, and which ones are of interest to
    you. You’ll find agendas start to be posted roughly a month in advance. The
    next ICANN meetings will in Accra, Ghana, in March 2002.

    Hint: If you encounter an unknown acronym
    (and you will), take a look at the 
    Glossary of Acronyms or the Glossary of Terms and Abbreviations.

    Domain Name Issues

    If you are interested in issues relating to
    the Domain Name System, you should participate in the 
    Domain Name Supporting Organization, or DNSO. The
    DNSO consists of seven different constituency groups, each focusing on a
    particular set of Internet stakeholders. Each constituency group has its own
    structure and organization, so you should take a look at the website for each
    one that interests you. There you’ll find information on current issues, e-mail
    lists, meeting schedules, constituency leaders, and so forth.

  • American Registry for Internet Numbers (ARIN)

  • Asia-Pacific Network Information Centre (APNIC)

  • RIPE Network Coordination Centre (RIPE NCC)

    Each of these organizations develops
    addressing policy through an open policy forum, where any interested person can
    join and participate. The open policy forums maintain open e-mail discussion
    lists, and hold face-to-face meetings two or three times a year. Under the ASO
    structure, global addressing policies are developed by the participants in
    these open policy forums. The ASO has an 
    Address Council, which is responsible for
    managing the formation of global address policies. Address Council members are
    appointed by the RIRs. On the ASO’s 
    RIR links page, you can find out which RIR covers
    your geographic location — once you do, you can visit your RIR’s webpage and
    join its open policy forum. If you want to get deeper into the substance of
    addressing policy, a good place to start is ASO’s 
    documents and archives page, where you will find
    pointers to key addressing policy documents.

    The ASO maintains several e-mail lists, including an announcement list and
    an open policy discussion list.

    Protocol Numbering Issues

    If you are interested in Internet protocol
    issues, you should participate in the 
    Protocol Supporting Organization, or PSO. The PSO
    consists of four standards-development organizations
    that is, organizations that publish
    technical standards related to the Internet:

  • Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF)

  • World Wide Web Consortium (W3C)

  • International Telecommunications Union (ITU)

  • European Telecommunications Standards Institute (ETSI)

    Similar to the DNSO and ASO, the PSO is managed by a Protocol Council, which consists of two members
    appointed by each standards development organization. Unlike the other SOs,
    however, the PSO engages in little activity on its own. That means that
    individuals who are interested in Internet protocols (and, more specifically,
    the assignment of parameters for Internet protocols) should participate
    directly in one or more of the PSO’s standards development organizations. For
    example, the 
    IETF has dozens of working groups open to
    any interested participants. The PSO acts primarily as a link between ICANN and
    the standards development organizations. As one Protocol Council member put it:
    “The PSO’s main job is making sure that decisions by ICANN are technically
    sound with respect to protocols on the Internet.”

    The PSO maintains an e-mail discussion list, the archives of which are posted online. In
    addition, the PSO hosts one open meeting (a “General Assembly”)
    annually, in conjunction with one of the four standards development
    organizations. See, for example, the archives of the 
    2001 PSO General Assembly.

    To learn more about the PSO, take a look
    “About the PSO”.

    Other Issues

    ICANN At Large Membership

    In 2000, ICANN conducted an unprecedented
    experiment by which tens of thousands of Internet users worldwide were able to
    cast online votes for 5 members of the ICANN Board of Directors. Following that
    process, the ICANN Board created an At Large Study Committee to undertake a
    complete examination of the process. Chaired by former Prime Minister Carl
    Bildt of Sweden, the Study Committee was charged with forging a consensus on
    the best method for representing the world’s Internet users as individuals
    (“At-Large Members”) within ICANN, and is strongly interested in the
    hearing the opinions and feedback of individual Internet users and
    organizational stakeholders.

    To become a participant in the work of the At
    Large Study Committee, visit its 
    website. You will find a number of documents
    posted for review and comment, along with a discussion forum and a calendar of
    upcoming outreach events.

    Governmental Issues

    ICANN is an effort at private-sector,
    non-governmental management in the public interest. However, governments play
    an important advisory role in ICANN through the 
    Governmental Advisory Committee, which is a forum
    for the discussion of government interests and concerns, including consumer
    interests. If you work for a government and would like to get involved with the
    ICANN process, please get in contact with the GAC directly.

    General Internet Policy Issues

    ICANN’s mission is specific: ensuring the
    stable operation, growth and evolution of the Internet’s systems of unique
    identifiers. If you are interested in broader Internet policy issues, you
    should get involved in one or more of the various other organizations or fora
    dedicated to working in those arenas.

    A good place to start is the Internet Society‘s What Is The Internet? site, which contains
    an excellent set of links to user-friendly documents explaining the nature and
    history of the Internet. In particular, the 
    Internet Issues page has a many useful links
    to organizations dealing with other aspects of Internet policy.

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