Back From Amsterdam

While I try to reassemble my consciousness through a haze of jet lag…

I'm back from I think was a fairly successful trip to Amsterdam. The Experts' Group meeting was perhaps more mainstream telecom than some of the events I would usually choose to go to, but that had its advantages, as it confronted me with some fairly alien viewpoints. Many of the participants were fans of the ITU, and seemed pretty convinced that it would be an improvement over ICANN. Here's a small sample of things they said:

  1. Both IP numbers and domain names are fundamentally akin to telephone numbering systems. It is not rational to treat such similar systems so differently.
  2. What is the ICANN value proposition? What does it do for the money that is worthwhile?
  3. The ITU has a proven track record of handling telephone numbers well, and would likely do the same for IP numbers and probably naming too.
  4. On the other hand, the ITU's handling of the WSIS event speaks badly for it. The event got completely out of control, and is a black eye for the ITU.
  5. Regulation of ccTLDs should be brought under government control as is the telephone system (in Europe!); remedies for anything that harms a business's or a consumer's legitimate interests in a domain name or IP number should be a matter of public/administrative law not private law.
  6. The nature of a private interest in a domain name and an IP number needs to be specified and clear; law and policy cannot tolerate the current uncertainty.

I suppose I tend to agree with 2 and 4, and with the first half of number 3. I disagree strongly with 1 and don't think I agree with 6 either. I am very unsure about what to make of 5, especially since I think that these ideas may translate poorly outside the European context.

Amsterdam is a lovely city, even in the cold and light rain. Everyone I met was very nice. The intrusion of English into the life of the city is a little shocking — natives are as likely to address each other in English if they don't know each other. Many of the ads on the street and on TV are wholly or partly in English. One hears a great deal of English on the street, and not just from people who look like tourists. And of course, everyone I dealt with professionally or commercially spoke great English. One Dutch colleague said modestly, “We are a small country. We have no pride,” but I don't believe this is correct. The Dutch do in fact have quite justifiable pride — for example, the Internet research group in the Amsterdam/Tilburg axis rivals if not surpasses the work done at Berkeley, the US leader in the area — but this pride does not overwhelm their fundamental practicality.

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