The next directors' meeting of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers - the organization that oversees the Net's domain-name system - promises to be a rowdy affair. In a global online vote that ended last night, two of the most radical candidates were elected to its board.
ICANN has struggled for legitimacy since the Clinton White House handed over administration of the Internet's domain name system to the nonprofit group in 1998. In a move to gain credibility with the Internet community as a whole, ICANN decided to open five slots of its 19-member board of directors to the online election that ended last night.
The group is in the midst of making key decisions about the future of the Internet, including choosing new top-level domains to relieve the crunch in the crowded dot-com space, and making policies to enforce the rights of trademark holders seeking to gain control of domain names held by others.
Currently, the board consists of nine people who were appointed in a shadowy procedure that inspired a congressional investigation, including Release 1.0 editor Esther Dyson and Internet pioneer Vint Cerf; nine others who were selected by groups that have stakes in the domain system; and ICANN CEO Mike Roberts.
In last night's election, Karl Auerbach, a researcher at Cisco Systems Inc., bested six other candidates - including Stanford Law School professor Lawrence Lessig and high-tech industry lobbyist Harris Miller - to win a seat representing North America on ICANN's board. And the board seat representing Europe went to Andy Mueller-Maguhn, a German student and member of a hacker group known as the Chaos Computer Club.
At a debate among the North American candidates, Auerbach was outspoken in his criticism of ICANN, saying it was an organization he "wouldn't trust for anything." Auerbach also said that he would seek to get ICANN out of making trademark policy and would support adding tens of thousands of new top-level domains.
Fewer than half of the 76,183 Internet users who had registered to vote actually cast their ballots during the 10-day online election period that Election.com ran on behalf of ICANN. Heading into the final hours of voting on Tuesday night, some registered voters complained that they were unable to reach the Election.com site.
Turnout among registered North American voters was the lowest of any region, as just 32 percent of 10,632 people cast ballots. In contrast, Europe had the highest turnout, at 48 percent. In Africa, 41 percent of registered voters participated, in Asia, 46 percent and in Latin America 40 percent.
Anyone age 16 or older with an e-mail address and a postal address was eligible to vote in the election. Almost 160,000 people initially registered from around the world.
In addition to Auerbach and Mueller-Maguhn, three other new board members won seats in the election. Nii Quaynor, who runs an ISP in Ghana, won the African seat; Masanobu Katoh, an engineer at Fujitsu, won the seat for Asia; and Ivan Moura Campos, a Brazilian Internet executive, won for Latin America.