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|Esther Dyson, the Interim Chairman of the Internet Corporation forAssigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), is a person whose name shows up in various news reports this year. [Most recently regarding the meeting in Germany to establish a Ratings System for the Web. - Ed.] The Commerce Department mandate to end the monopoly of the Domain Name System's (DNS) Internet registrations has made Dyson's name a regular one. But, interesting to this journalist, mostpeople talk about Ms. Dyson, rather than to her.
I first "met" Dyson in DNS discussions in the Online Europe discussion group. We both agreed during an exchange of private e-mails that it wouldbe more appropriate to have a fuller discussion of certain issues surrounding ICANN in a separate conversation. Thus, on Tuesday, 31 August I telephoned Ms. Dyson at the Manhattan offices of her firm, Edventure Holdings. Herewith, a transcript of our conversation:
G21: The ICANN board held a meeting in Santiago, Chile, last week ---the week of the 23rd of August. I wouldn't list Santiago among the first ten cities that come to mind when one thinks of the Internet. So the first question which comes to mind is "Why Santiago?"
DYSON: That's very easy! The reason was, first of all, we're a global organization with global Internet concerns. ICANN is committed to holding meetings in all five of the geographical zones to [get input] from all the Internet users.... We didn't want to show any special favoritism.... [in South American,] so Chile is a good neutral location.Besides the people at the University of Santiago were extremely helpful in assisting us in organizing this meeting...
G21: Most of the reporting about this meeting has used words like"contentious" to characterize this meeting...
G21: ...So what, in your view, was the source of controversy at this meeting?
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|DYSON: Oh, you know, it's the usual --- Compared to the other meetings it wasn't that contentious! If you didn't have discussion and argument either it wouldn't be real or the character --- I mean, this is the Internet, where people are known for being outspoken.
ICANN is meant to get a consensus of opinion on how people think theDomain Name System should be administered. The only way to get a real consensus is to allow people to debate their views on all the issues, very complicated issues...
G21: Let's talk about one of those issues. Let's talk about th ewhole debate around so-called "reverse Domain Name hijacking," the possibility that large organizations could bully individual domain name holders with legitimate claims to popular names into surrendering their URLs? Do you feel that the proposed..compromise will address the concerns of individual domain names holders with the same vigorousness as those of corporate concerns?
DYSON: Well, to be honest, the compromise the board came up with specifically focused on the rights of individual domain name holders. We haven't worked out [the final] exact wording yet, but we are precisely committed to working out this issue of a trademark holder or large company making th eclaim...
G21: ..that your name dilutes my trademark.
DYSON: Yes, exactly. We know, as you do, that there are cases...Cases where the domain name is legitimately the family name of the person, for example, so we are working with all the interested parties to see...Whether the person has that name simply to resell it, or it's their name, and what the intent was... These are the kind of complicated issues where we are striving to look at all sides of very complicated issues and come up with a fair means of resolving these conflicts, a means where the Internet self-administers these conflicts.
G21: In an MSNBC story on 19 August, 1999, by Brock Meeks, it was reported that on 15 June and Joe Simms, ICANN's attorney and yourself, Ms.Dyson, allegedly met privately with Thomas Kahlil, Senior Advisor to theWhite House on Science and Technology on the Economic Council...
DYSON: Yes. It's not "alleged." It's real.
DYSON: I mean, yeah, we're not ashamed of it. We met with Tom Kahlil, who's actually an old friend, and asked him to do what he could to get people to show more support for what ICANN is doing. We've never tried to hide that.
G21: Okay.. Well, as you know, both Brock Meeks and, in a letter,Congressman Bliley [Chairman of the US House of Representatives Commerce Committee] are saying , well, this is wrong. You can't do this.
DYSON: And we're saying it wasn't. We're not trying to hide it because we don't think it was wrong. ICANN is an interested party in these [science and technology] issues and we have as much right as any other organization to present our views on these issues to the government.
G21: Let's move on to another story. There's the August second Telepolis story by John Horvath, A Look into the Plumber's Pipe - What's Wrong with Esther Dyson...
DYSON: Well that was--- Okay, go ahead, ask your question. I mean, there weren't very many specific things in there. Just a lot of..
G21: My question is, why do you think Horvath was so hard on you?
DYSON: I don't know. I don't know the guy. I might have met him... but I don't recall. I have no idea why he made the accusations he did. Yes, I'm on a number of Boards, but I don't think that taints my decision-making in any way.
G21: Let's get back to the DNS and the Internet. I'm sure you'refamiliar with Paul Garrin, and Name.Space...
DYSON: Well, not very. I mean, I'm slightly familiar.
G21: Well, he's been litigating ---against Network Solutions, Inc.,the government --- for thousands of new Top Level Domain Names (TLDs). How do you feel about Mr. Garrin's proposals? Should there be many, many moreTLDs?
DYSON: Well, let me just begin by saying that what I, Esther Dyson, feel about it doesn't really matter. ICANN's mission is to find the consensus of how all Internet users feel about issues like the structure of the DNS, to help get a consensus of how the interested parties in the global Internet feel.
So, what I can say is that ICANN is committed to making the DNS structure remain as open, reliable and free as it is, to look at the issue of more TLDs and help come to that consensus. The important thing here is can a person type in the URL and find the site they intended to reach at that location? If that happens, then the Internet is working the way it should, and the way that I think most people want to see it work. If they can't, or there is confusion or frustration .... then the system is not serving the people it's meant to serve...
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