George Sadowsky voted against the launch of new TLDs in last Monday’s ICANN board meeting. I’d been meaning to re-read the transcript, as I found a lot of what he said was very well thought out and logical. Here it is:
>>GEORGE SADOWSKY: Thank you, Peter.
This is one of the most important votes in which I will participate
within ICANN. I have agonized over it, and I finally decided to vote
against the resolution. The reasons are complex and they are not
obvious, and I want to provide a more thorough explanation.
This is a vote regarding expansion of the gTLD space but it’s also a
vote that will fundamentally affect two of ICANN’s most important
relationships. The first relationship is internal. That is the
relationship between the board and parts of the ICANN community with
the GAC, which, lest we forget, is also a part of the ICANN community.
The second relationship is external, and it is the relationship
between ICANN and the large mass of people in the developing world,
plus many who are disadvantaged in special ways in other parts of the
world, with respect to Internet access and use.
I don’t take comfort in opposing this resolution. Legitimate demand
for new generic top-level domains clearly exists. Satisfying this
demand is critical for IDN gTLDs. And they are absolutely essential
for many script and language communities.
These IDN gTLDs have long been held hostage to the overall gTLD policy
process, with the only possible alternatives being the newly
established IDN ccTLDs, which may or may not be available to
individuals in businesses and which may have undesirable properties
regarding privacy of information.
However, it’s clear that there are still some significant and strongly
felt differences of opinion between the content of the resolution and
the views of the GAC and some of its members.
In the last months, the Board/GAC relationship has been tested by many
differences, and there has been progress in resolving many of these,
some by compromise and others by the development of better
communication and better understanding of common goals and what
consists of mutually acceptable solutions. However, this process is
not sufficiently complete, and there is more work to be done,
including making significant improvements in our understanding of each
other’s culture, and making our communication patterns more effective.
Advancing this agenda should not be based on the results of a residual
I strongly favor the creation of new gTLDs, but I want to see this
process concluded satisfactorily. We need to launch this program in
the right way on the basis of strong and shared agreement among the
community, but we are not yet there in my opinion.
While I reject this motion, I would welcome a vote in favor of
launching a new gTLD program several months from now, but only when
our differences are largely resolved.
The second relationship involved in this vote, the relationship mostly
with the developing world, is, I believe, as important as the new gTLD
decision, even though it rates only a passing mention in the
resolution, and I think a line or maybe a paragraph in the guidebook.
Long after our current fascination with our current creation new gTLDs
has diminished, we will be increasingly involved for a long time with
what might best be called in this context the rest of the world. That
is the class of people, mostly in developing countries, who do not
have adequate or usable Internet capabilities by virtue of
shortcomings in DNS capabilities. It’s very important to get this
relationship started on the right track.
I don’t doubt the sincerity or the motivations of those both in the
JAS and in the GAC who argued for subsidization and assistance to so-
called needy applicants. However I believe we can and should do
significantly better and the current proposal is not, in my opinion,
an effective way to assist these populations in a manner consistent
with the mandate of ICANN. It’s my sense that the focus of this
resolution which was limited to assistance of various kinds with
regard to applying for new gTLDs is an inadequate scope and advances
our relationship on the wrong basis.
Let me explain, and I will do so by making two observations followed
by some reasons why I believe this is so.
The first observation is that I strongly favor planning for and
providing assistance to the developing world. I have personally
worked in more than 50 developing countries, some intensively, about
20 of them in Africa, and I have spent somewhere between a third and a
half of a long professional life working in them, with them and on
their behalf. I have seen more than my share of the effects of
hunger, disease, lack of education, illiteracy and poverty. People in
these countries need all kinds of help, and we should provide
assistance that will help them most, consistent with our strengths,
with our resources, and mostly important, within the scope of our
Secondly, I’m painfully aware of the optics of this intervention. I’m
from the north and I am sitting next to my friend and colleague Katim
Touray who is from the south, and I am in effect saying that what he
is passionately arguing for is not best for him. This goes counter to
the conventional wisdom that southerners understand their problems and
issues better than northerners and that assistance provided to them
should primarily enable them to address those problems themselves. To
this I would say I hope we can, in this discussion, rise above
political correctness and admit that the opinions of northerners
regarding such matters are sometimes correct and the opinions of
southerners are not always the more effective.
Now I would like to provide reasons why this initiative, however well
meaning, does not serve its beneficiaries or ICANN effectively or
The proposal is based largely, but not totally, on making funds
available. Casting ICANN in the principal role of funder or banker —
that’s not the only role, but that’s the principal role. Given what
ICANN could provide in terms of assistance, do we want the developing
world to see us largely as a source of funds? If they do then demand
for assistance is likely to be high and will inexorably grow. Once a
funder, we will always be seen as a funder. Demand will grow more
based upon this perception than any other.
The proposal ignores the opportunity cost of directing the resources
elsewhere. Assuming the amount of $2 million for such a program,
that’s the net figure that’s been mentioned from time to time, one
could probably assist from 20 to 40 so-called needy applicants.
One could equally well provide 1,000 additional fellowships to ICANN
meetings, or one could provide 100 to 200 consultations and workshops
in the field in developing countries on aspects of security and
stability, or one could provide assistance to establish local
registrars in developing world, or one could construct multiple other
combinations of goods and services. $2 million can be a lot of money
if it’s used well.
So which of these alternatives or which mix of those alternatives is
most effective for achieving our goals in the developing world? I
don’t know. And I would argue that collectively we don’t know.
And the reason we don’t know is that we never asked the question.
Instead, we asked the wrong question, which was in effect, how can we
get money to propagate new gTLDs about which we’re really enthusiastic
into the developing world.
This is a tool-based approach, not a goal-based approach.
Another problem is posed by the insistence that such an initiative be
included in the first round of applications so that, as I understand
it, I’m not sure of this but I think I understand it, needy applicants
somehow have equal access to good names.
In doing so, it’s my feeling that the proposal implicitly exhibits a
lack of faith in the private sector led orientation of the program.
In my opinion, what matters is that good names become available for
consumers, and whether a needy applicant or a non-needy applicant
offers the name should not really be an issue. Why should subsidies
be granted when there is no evidence to indicate whether and where
they are needed to provide consumer choice. If the market doesn’t
provide them in the first round, then we do have the option to adopt
in the future a more sharply — set of more sharply set of remedial
measures based upon actual experience.
I believe it is not ICANN’s job to influence the choice of winners and
losers in such competitions, but that is implicitly what we will be
The selection of who is truly needy, whether decided internally or by
an external body, nevertheless guided by ICANN’s terms of reference,
is fraught with danger, is political sensitive and has nothing to do
with ICANN’s technical mandate. It is outside the scope of ICANN’s
mission, whether delegated or done internally.
I would like to suggest an alternative. Recognizing that we do have a
responsibility for helping the developing world, let’s make a serious
effort to determine what reasonable goals for ICANN might be in this
space, given ICANN’s substantial wealth of talent and experience and
potential financial resources.
The goals are likely to be met by a combination of products and
services, and one that may well vary by geography and by time.
I don’t believe that the ICANN community alone can define such a
program effectively. We don’t have the combined skill set or depth of
experience. So let’s figure out who our most effective partners would
be. Let’s then move promptly to execute so we can achieve these goals
and meet our obligations to the global public interest in a manner
consistent with and within our organizational mandate.
I would be enthusiastic about affiliating with such an alternative and
about voting for a resolution that resolves to create it. In
contrast, the approach contained in the current resolution offers a
poor and misdirected substitute and should be rejected.