back to article The future health of the internet comes down to ONE simple question…

When was the last time you gave any thought to how the internet actually works? Despite the extraordinary and never-ending growth in people and devices that connect to the internet every second of every day, we have never seen the equivalent of Twitter’s Fail Whale. The internet, as a whole, just doesn’t go down. There are two …

  1. IHateWearingATie

    Problem with organisations everywhere...

    I can't see an alternative to the US Gov smacking them over the head again and imposing a sensible governance structure before stepping back for the final time.

    This isn't because I think the guys who run it are bad people, just that human nature seems to take over in organisations like this and smart people just can't see beyond the limits of their own knowledge and power - seen it time and again in organisations from the top of Government through to scuba diving clubs and student unions. Pretty sure I will have been guilty of this at some time in the past as well.

    I'm sure some commentards will come on and denounce them as fools and scoundrels and ask for their heads, but in my experience the same thing will happen again and again no matter who you have, without a sensible counterbalanced structure. And that won't happen without a slap from above. Again.

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

      Re: Problem with organisations everywhere...

      I can't see an alternative to the US Gov smacking them over the head again and imposing a sensible governance structure before stepping back for the final time.

      > 2014

      > Believing in multicolored bureaucratic ponies making things better, then "stepping back", and even "for the final time"

      WTF man.

      1. IHateWearingATie

        Re: Problem with organisations everywhere...

        I think the saying is multicoloured bureaucratic unicorns, not ponies.

        And yes, that seems to me to be the only way. The step back for the final time would be in the relinquishment of the contract permanently, giving them no more say over the organisation than anyone else. Other options have not worked and continue not to work. Quite like the idea of the ITU getting involved as posters below have mentioned, as it is slow but pretty stable which is what is needed.

        1. Alan Brown Silver badge

          Re: Problem with organisations everywhere...

          "Quite like the idea of the ITU getting involved as posters below have mentioned, as it is slow but pretty stable which is what is needed."


          If the ITU was in charge, you'd have the same intercarrier treaties and telco control over bandwidth we used to see before the FLAG consortium broke up the cartels.

          The ITU works on behalf of the companies which are members of the ITU, not on behalf of the endusers.

          The US govt (DoC) might be widely suspect, but they've repeatedly shown they have the right interests when it comes to final Internet oversight. Bear in mind that those on the ICANN board are first and foremost there because they are political animals, not there for their technical/engineering skills.

    2. Trigonoceps occipitalis

      Re: Problem with organisations everywhere...

      With ultimate power comes ultimate responsibility.

      Looks like the board need to grow up and accept that they may be wrong again, and again, and again ....

    3. Mephistro

      Re: Problem with organisations everywhere...

      "I can't see an alternative to the US Gov smacking them over the head again and imposing a sensible governance structure"

      An alternative -a quite effective one methinks- would be other similar organizations sprouting everywhere, collaborating among themselves and bypassing/ignoring ICANN. So an 'European ICANN', an 'Asian ICANN', and so on would be controlled by the governments in their geographical areas. This would also present issues, but it would be far better than putting all the eggs in the same basket and giving the American govt. control over all the Internet.

      This way if they screw again or get too greedy, they might find themselves losing most of their power and income sources.

    4. Mark 65

      Re: Problem with organisations everywhere...

      "This isn't because I think the guys who run it are bad people, just that human nature seems to take over in organisations like this and smart people just can't see beyond the limits of their own knowledge and power"

      I don't entirely agree. I don't think they're smart guys at all. In fact I believe that most organisations, including the others you mention, have the standard human problem that when asked "who wants to be on the committee?" all the arseholes step forward. All those little wannabe local councilors and politicians. You know the types - can't help themselves and their desire to rule over people and tell others "thou shalt not". The fact they pay themselves, set their remuneration, and want more tells you they're just like politicians.

  2. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    ITU land grab

    I can now see why some of the member states of the ITU tried a land grab back at the WCIT gig in the UAE back in late 2012 and that the Brazilian conference was so unproductive too - that and the Brazilian government seem to have a thing for last minute telecommunications conference in general. However as problematic as the ICAAN set up, Please keep the ITU out of it as its just as bad (and a slow lumbering beast who still insist on fax for high level official communicators). See this week's plenipotentiary for a prime example.

  3. Duncan Macdonald

    Do we still need ICANN ?

    There are very few (if any) IP4 addresses left to distribute. The IP6 address range is so huge that each country could be given a range of over 10^18 addresses without making a dent. Give the ITU the job of approving additional extensions (e.g. .politics !!!) and appointing the registrars for the non-country domains. Give each county the control over its own domain (e.g. .uk) and leave it up to the individual countries how they administer their own domains. Existing IP4 address range allocations would become permanent assets of the organisations that currently own them (they could be sold if no longer needed).

    1. Yes Me Silver badge

      Re: Do we still need ICANN ?

      1. IPv4 address blocks are already treated as property, so that train left the station some time ago.

      2. The Internet doesn't use geographical routing, so national allocations of IPv6 space is a non-starter (first proposed by the ITU, if you need any more proof that it's a bad idea and that the ITU doesn't understand the Internet). ICANN doesn't do the detailed work on IP addresses allocations anyway; that's done by the Regional Internet Registries.

      3. The ITU doesn't understand the Internet, and many ITU members secretly hate the Internet. Whatever faults ICANN has, it does understand the Internet.

      4. ICANN also manages Top Level Domain policy. Somebody has to.

      5. ICANN hosts IANA, and IANA manages protocol parameters for the IETF.

      So, yes, we need ICANN and if it didn't exist we would have to invent it.

      Finally, why would any supervisory body "above" the ICANN Board not fall into the same mode of behaviour that people object to in the ICANN Board? If there's a problem, it's recursive. (Check how the ICANN Board members are appointed. They come from the exact same organisations that would populate any such supervisory body anyway.)

  4. Bronek Kozicki

    They should take an example from ISO

    That is, international organization with members from every nation with interest in running of the organization. Yes, it would be very slow to change but how often do we need a new TLD policy? Also, subordination to US government is becoming global security problem.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: They should take an example from ISO

      ISO uses JTC1 with IEC for ICT related activity. It can't stick to its own rules and constantly changes them , interprets them and interferes with its own prior decisions, is stacked with competitive vested interests (veiled look in the direction of Gunnersbury, New York and a few more) and has no effective compliance process and who exactly do you complain to when it messes up. OOXML ring any bells?

      In response to ITU, IEC and JTC1's efforts to address our requirements in our domain we have 200+ organisations busying working instead as experts seem to prefer avoiding our swiss based international de jure organisations and sticking to organisations founded in contract and company law.

  5. Mage Silver badge


    Absolutely they should have 1/2 as much or less staff and just be part of ITU.

    Much as ITU has flaws it works better than ICANN and is ultimately answerable to its members.

    Formed 17 May 1865

    Survived a gazzillion wars and technological changes. WWI, WWII, League of Nations and UN. Agrees usage of every aspect of Communications (including most international physical layers) except the actual stuff ICANN mis-controls. IP4 was handed out very unfairly. Loads of US Universities, US Corps and US state agencies still with more IPs than many countries, that they don't even need.

    What ever crazyness ITU might do, it won't be as bad as ICANN record on charges, TLD, DNS and IP.

    1. Dave Bell

      Re: ITU

      I don't think there is an alternative to the ITU, perhaps with the UN and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights involved in the transition.

      Incidentally, while there are many good legal reasons for Corporations to be treated as individuals, I reckon they should be treated as children, not adults. For ICANN, that re-casts the question as "Who are the parents?" If ICANN, or its successor, does something stupid, who can send it to bed with no supper? And what's the point of self-punishing children?

      "Better drowned than duffers. If not duffers won't drown,"

      1. Irony Deficient

        Re: ITU

        Dave, if corporations were treated legally as children, then they’d be unable to grant consent; without that ability, they couldn’t sign contracts, they wouldn’t be able to borrow money from financial institutions, &c.

        1. Alistair

          Re: ITU

          Just a fine point here

          " if corporations were treated legally as children, then they’d be unable to grant consent; without that ability, they couldn’t sign contracts, they wouldn’t be able to borrow money from financial institutions "

          This *just might not* be a bad thing you know........

          (considers the affairs of 2008)

          1. Irony Deficient

            Re: ITU

            Alistair, carefully consider your fine point. Who would wish to work for or work with any corporation — private or public, for-profit or not-for-profit — against which one could not have legal redress in case of misbehavior, because no contract would be binding on it? Go on, pull the other one … from the coat peg.

            1. Chris Hance

              Re: ITU @Irony Deficient

              "no contract would be binding on it"... I thought that was the entire point of having corporate lawyers.

              1. Irony Deficient

                Re: ITU

                Chris, it might be the point for half of the corporate lawyer population; the other half will be focused on making sure that contracts are binding.

    2. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: ITU

      "IP4 was handed out very unfairly"

      Saying that demonstrates a fundamental ignorance of why IPv4 was created in the first place.

      It was a self-described kludgy-hack intended to be used for no more than 4-5 years, whilst final versions of the real Internet Protocol were developed. There were never more than a few blocks intended to be used, which is why 4 billion IPs was regarded as plenty.

      That protocol (Internet Protocol Exchange - IPX) turned out to be utterly unusable, so IPv4 ended up having its life extended repeatedly.

      It was clear by 1992 that it needed replacing and even at that point there were less than 20 million people on the Internet or using UUCP.

      It _should_ have been replaced by IPv6 before 1999, but by that stage there were already too many IPv4 allocations and too many vested interests who didn't want to spend money to changeover, so we're in the situation we are now.

      It's been like watching a train wreck in slow motion. Staving off IPv6 by going to dynamic IP assignments, then NAT and extensions on that may have been well-intentioned but the long-term results have been damaging.

    3. Yes Me Silver badge

      Re: ITU

      > What ever crazyness ITU might do, it won't be as bad as ICANN

      I think you have very little experience with the ITU. As I just said in another comment, many ITU voting members (telco administrations) actually hate the Internet, wish it had never happened, and would prefer it to go away. Some ITU officials, up to a very high level, wilfully misunderstand Internet technology.

      Whatever craziness ICANN might do, it won't be as bad as ITU.

  6. Brewster's Angle Grinder Silver badge

    Thanks for keeping us updated, Kieren.

    1. Semtex451
      Thumb Up

      Well written, pithy, educational.

      Well done.

  7. Stuart 22

    Not Nominet

    You realise how benign even the US government can be when you see what's happened to Nominet.

    Originally a quiet 'naming committee' did the work. When demand got too big it had to be formalised into a proper organisation and Nominet was born. The early years were mostly good. There was a clear policy to service what are now called registrars and also to defend the domain holder against the worst of our breed and even their own incompetence. Nothing was a problem that a well intentioned and informed phone call to Abingdon would sort.

    The bells starting ringing when they made a land grab for the old naming committee domains. And then certain decisions which can only be seen as money grabbing exercises. Then came policies (one a week it would seem). It relied on most of us not having the time to read through, understand and then lobby. So stupid things happened. HMG seeing this wild child out of control pulled the paedophile card to start having its own control.

    Suddenly instead of Nominet serving registrars and the public - it is us that are serving them. There are policies which we have to adhere to whether relevant or not. Don't get me started on the data verification exercise - which has caused real problems for good genuine organisations that expect us to sort out Nominet's insistence they don't exist even when they are registered, have bank accounts etc.

    No longer, when you do phone, do you get a helpful person who solves the problem but a recitation of policy. Applying a policy where it ain't meant to go is what they are now supposed to do.

    I've sorted a few issues by just keeping on at them and raising my voice just the right amount and they still have the autonomy to give way. But for how long?

    Sorry about the rant. But oversight by anybody other than those they are supposed to be serving is not a good idea. That's the end user, not the interested parties in between. Those parties can inform and give technical oversight but keep governments and big business out of it. And split them up into units too small to afford a big glitzy HQ.

  8. Mage Silver badge

    Nominet & ICANN

    Making Lawyers for Patent Trolls look good.

    Making Halliburton look less like a weasel. Though I think someone has been sanitising Halliburton search results?

  9. Anonymous Coward


    Not only is it contrary to the principle of a decentralized internet, it just plain sucks.

    No DNS, no ICANN.

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge
      Thumb Down

      Re: DNS MUST DIE

      Go back to your freshmen classes.

    2. Solmyr ibn Wali Barad

      Re: DNS MUST DIE

      DNS? Ah, yes, it's a virus or sumthing. Maybe a paedoterrorist.

  10. Gary Bickford

    The whole design of the Internet is to route around central control

    ICANN seems to be constitutionally unable to realize that central control is completely contrary to the design principles of the Internet. The design was to optimize the ability of the networks to survive radical disruption and route around problems. This is a good methodology, similar to living systems. Rather than working toward a monopoly/dictatorship model, ICANN should be finding ways to make itself unnecessary and allow the Internet run itself and dynamically correct problems via the emergent properties of the design - the protocols and technologies.

    Perhaps it is useful to consider the Internet as a living thing - a small child, which needs education (new protocols and tech where necessary) to grow up and be a useful "citizen", not discipline to force it into one group's conception of what it ought to be.

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

      Re: The whole design of the Internet is to route around central control

      Interest in fat paychecks says this won't happen easily.

      It's the same kind of phenomenon that one sees in two-dollar clubs of any sort. Fucking idiots take the helm, behave like retarded Napoleons, revel in Machiavellism for the sake of it and award themselves bonuses pulled off the contributions of club members. The only way to solve this is either let the club die messily or throw the idiots out, possibly with some "convincing" related to intimate talks in dark alleys followed by loosened molars, horse heads appearing in the morning and/or sudden fires of their luxury 4x4s.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    ICANN is only consultative

    Y'all keep forgetting one thing. ICANN has no authority. Nada. Nicht. They are a consulting company whose clients are the registrars who pay them. They decide whose root servers to recommend other DNS operators use. They set rules for those root servers. They don't tell you where to point your DNS, and don't tell your ISP where to point its DNS.

    So if ICANN screws up badly enough (which is possible), you -- and that includes ISPs -- can point towards an alternative server. And it can decide when to point to ICANN-blessed domains, and when not to. ICANN's non-government status means you do not have to listen to them.

    Same with IP addresses -- you can choose which block adverts to accept in BGP and which to reject.IPv6 is an abomination upon the face of the earth and will not fix anything, but IPv4 can be stretched by more prudent use of its space. Again, the router owners make the decision, and if the ICANN/IANA coordination consultants fail, they can be ignored.

    Be glad this isn;t the ITU; they have guns (national governments) backing their decisions.

    1. OmgTheyLetMePostInTheUK

      Re: ICANN is only consultative

      ICANN is obviously a whole lot more than just a bunch of fat cat consultants. Their actions alone will tell you that. They set the prices on the new domains. They set and changed the rules many times on how the selections would be made. And they spend money like its being printed just for them to do that.

      Abandoning ICANN as you suggest would be almost impossible, which is why it has never happened. In order for the internet to form a new "ICANN"\, literally every ISP on the planet would need to all switch to the new "ICANN" at the same time. And getting thousands of thousands of ISPs to agree to do anything at the same time just is not going to happen. And anything short of that would literally fracture the internet into non-connected chunks and pieces.

      And as far as IPv6 goes, it will solve the one problem that it is intended to solve. And that is that there are going to be hundreds of billions of computers connected to the internet on top of all the users on the internet today. The is less than a 0% chance that IPv4 can provide IP addresses for even a small fraction of all of those tiny little computers. Much less all of the 2 legged users that want to be connected to the internet with all of their computer based devices. IPv6 is the only thing that can fix that.

      I don't know where you get your info from, but you should read El Reg a little bit more often so that you at least understand how and why things are happening.

  12. OmgTheyLetMePostInTheUK

    How do we fire these pompous asses?

    Since the board members of ICANN seem to feel like they are perfect and can do no wrong, I would like to know what can he done to fire each and every last one of them so that we can find some people that accept that we are all human, and sometimes make mistakes. Especially in light of the fact that for 15 consecutive years, the US government has needed to FORCE ICANN to back down from some stupid decision or another.

    We also need some financial watchdogs with teeth to monitor what they are doing with all the money that they have and are collecting from those expensive as hell domain fees. Running off and bankrolling an internet conference does not sound like a good way to be blowing that money.

    Personally, I think the ICANN board members are completely out of control idiots and need to be fired. And the sooner the better.

    It also seems to be that there are people within ICANN who are not on the board that appear to have some common sense, and who may well be people that we could promote to the board.

  13. Henry Wertz 1 Gold badge

    "Shadow" ICANN?

    So, if the ICANN board is the problem, but the rest of ICANN is in good shape other than having no authority over the ICANN board -- can the rest of ICANN just form a "shadow" board? If the ICANN board comes to a decision then contradicting the rest of ICANN, when people decide to ignore the ICANN board there is then a second board's decision to follow rather than no decision at all.

    As for the ICANN board being the way it is -- not that I agree with it but I do understand why; a lot of the ICANN board members are those who have been involved in the internet and it's underpinning since at least the 1990s and in some cases the 1980s. I think it's simple as that, they've been making these decisions for 20-30+ years and think they know better than everyone else to the point that they don't even want to have a veto power over their decisions.

  14. cantankerousswineherd

    short form

    internet to fragment in the next ten years.

  15. Gordon 10

    You know things are FUBAR

    When the US GOVT is the voice of reason. I'm mean WTF.

POST COMMENT House rules

Not a member of The Register? Create a new account here.

  • Enter your comment

  • Add an icon

Anonymous cowards cannot choose their icon

Other stories you might like