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Wednesday, 3 July, 2002, 16:43 GMT 17:43 UK
Net body under pressure
National Theatre Bucharest, BBC
The net's future was decided in Bucharest
The future is looking uncertain for Icann, the organisation that oversees the running of key parts of the internet.

The organisation unanimously approved a reform plan at its recent summit that tries to make it more responsive and free it from endless policy debates.

But some say the plan does not go far enough and that Icann is still struggling to win the backing of those involved in running other parts of the internet.

The time Icann has to implement change is fast running out because in September the US Government will decide whether to cut the organisation free or to take direct control of it.

Small step

The reform plan accepted at the meeting in Romania last week remakes the Icann (the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) board to give some previously critical groups a say in how it is run.

Stuart Lynn, Icann president, BBC
Lynn: "Pleased with reforms"
The reforms also try to make Icann achieve more rather than spend too long chewing over policy.

"I'm very pleased with what the board approved last Friday," said Stuart Lynn, president of Icann, in an interview with the BBC's Go Digital radio programme.

Mr Lynn started the programme of reform by releasing a document in February this year which warned that Icann would fail in its mission if it did not change.

One of the more controversial parts of the reform was to end the involvement of rank and file web users in the running of Icann.

"Some people had viewed Icann as an experiment in global online democracy and we're not," Mr Lynn told Go Digital.

But some net groups believe Icann's reforms have not gone far enough and that it still has a long way to travel if it is to meet their criticisms.

"They have started to move a little bit in the right direction," said Dr Willie Black, executive chairman of Nominet, which looks after ".uk" domain. "Whether it's sufficient or not I'm not persuaded yet."

He said Icann's problems arose because it was taking on too large a role.

Mr Black said he, and many others, would prefer a slimmed-down Icann that did little more than manage the root servers which contain the net's master address lists.

By leaving policy decisions to a separate body, Icann could avoid the inertia that has hampered its ability to get anything done before now, he said.

One change that country code registrars simply would not accept, said Mr Black, was a suggestion that Icann take a larger slice of the money people pay to secure a net domain.

European registrars have balked a paying these fees before now because they say they are not getting anything in return from Icann.

Expiry date

Icann has faced criticism because it has no binding contracts with the organisations and individuals that run the root servers and because it has made it difficult for some registrars to update information about their domains in these central lists.

"We're happy to pay our way if we get the body we want," said Dr Black.

Criticism of the reform was also levelled by Ken Sorrie, director of net domain registry Internetters, who said Icann was failing to make some registrars live up to good business standards.

"They should govern the industry properly," said Mr Sorrie.

In the absence of this leadership, said Mr Sorrie, many registries and registrars were resorting to legal action to sort out disputes.

But Mr Sorrie welcomed other changes agreed at the Bucharest meeting which would give domain owners more time to pay the renewal fees.

The Icann reforms are due to be implemented in the next few months.

However, in September, the agreement that brought Icann into existence expires and some American politicians have said that the organisation should be dissolved and its functions taken over by the US Government.

See also:

30 Jun 02 | Science/Nature
05 Jun 02 | Science/Nature
30 Mar 02 | Science/Nature
15 Mar 02 | Science/Nature
15 Jan 02 | Science/Nature
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