Why internet entrepreneurs should join ICANN

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Everybody complains. Everybody complains because there’s not enough jobs, because taxes are too high, because some product sucks, or because ICANN sucks. And a select few actually wake up and do something to change things. In a society, these people have the fundamental role of innovating by disruption - they are what we call entrepreneurs.

Internet and tech entrepreneurs are the ones responsible for all the cool internet inovations that we benefit from in our day to day lives. But it is troubling that there is a disconnect between them and the internet policy making process. Why? because they (really) understand how the internet works and their opinions are extremely valuable when it comes to deciding how things are being done and implemented on the internet. Additionally, they are the ones developing applications, websites and software which at the end of the day implements all those things that are being decided.

Ever wonder why even though there was a large fuss at ICANN regarding IDN’s, there are relatively few of them registered and they have not been as useful as expected? Ask tech entrepreneurs and you will find that most, if not all, have no idea about IDN’s, they don’t even know what the letters IDN stand for. Now try find any any startup anywhere in the world that is using and IDN for their website. Great idea, clearly outilned policy, but little execution.

But this can be changed, and now is a good time to start. Internet entrepreneurs now have the chance to get involved in the ongoing discussions at ICANN, follow them and understand them on a basic level, or actively participate on a deeper level.

Why ICANN? ICANN is a big, complex, highly criticized and generally unknown or misunderstood animal. Its role is “to oversee the huge and complex interconnected network of unique identifiers that allow computers on the Internet to find one another.” This involves pretty much everything that has to do with IP’s, TLDs and Domain Name organizations. And it involves both the technical, political and social implications and discussions regarding all of these. It’s pretty much the best place to start to get involved in the inner workings of internet policy making.

Why now? I have been following ICANN for some years now, and previously felt that it was on it’s way to becoming an irrelevant organization in itself and headed towards becoming (only) a fancy international internet networking event. But like the domain industry around it, ICANN is rapidly mutating and changing into a different animal - one with many eyes, ears and legs. I can attest that they are making an effort to grow and involve more stakeholders, and truly become more inclusive and engaging, which makes it a good moment to get involved.

So, if you consider yourself an entrepreneur and work/do something at the internet, and hopefully you’re also young, then you should be following ICANN or trying to make it to a meeting. If not, then tell your entrepreneur friends. Don’t complain, don’t let somebody else decide for you/us, and don’t let people with very limited knowledge on the actual functioning of the internet or with too many interests be the ones calling the shots.

July 4, 2013