Without much publicity, a critical battle over the future of the Internet is going on.
It concerns who will be responsible for managing the complex set-up of numbers, addresses and domain names that makes the Internet what it is.
Presently, this is done by an organisation called ICANN. Leaving all technicalities aside, it’s an example of self-regulation and self-organisation that, despite some flaws, works amazingly well.
It’s driven by the strong ethos still there from the founding days of the modern Internet.
But now governments in the former of the global ITU body wants to take over. They set the standards for the telegraph and the telephone, but they are left out of the Internet area. No wonder they are fighting…
The battle is more than a bureaucratic turf battle.
It’s a battle of philosophy – is global self-governing of this sort possible and desirable? It’s a battle of control – with governments in the driving seats things might be different.
It’s – in short – a battle that should concern us.
I believe I have a fair amount of experience of both the UN system and the ICANN system, having worked in and for both of them.
In my view, the UN is an an idea and an organisatgion worth protecting and preserving.
But I certainly would not have the UN running everything in the world. It would be horrible. And I don’t see any valid reasons whatsoever of dismantling the model for global self-regulation of a key sector that ICANN represents.