ICANN’s Greed and Excess: Stock Losses and Staff Gains

Just a few months ago, an International Trademark Association (INTA) panel described ICANN’s gTLD policy as a “pending trainwreck” driven by greed and ambition. One member even discussed organizational ambitions for ICANN to relocate to Switzerland and build a substantial headquarters.

The Non-Profit with Better-than-Commercial Pay
It seems the trademark experts got it right.  The non-profit ICANN’s annual report in fact commits the organization to pay its staff above the average salary for similar sized for-profit companies.  It also builds in a salary incentive for increasing ICANN’s size, which would raise the full organization’s pay scale.

And Millions to Leverage in the Market
ICANN gets a 20 cent fee from every domain name issued. Imagine finding that it had built up 25 million dollars in reserves. Rather than reducing its fees, the ICANN board approved leveraging the funds, which represented over a year’s operating expenses in the market. ICANN’s public dashboard shows “negative interest” of $4.6 million for last year, representing its market losses. You can read more about this on Circle ID.

Reality Check
It would be unthinkable for the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF), the group which establishes the protocols that make the Internet work, to set itself up as a company paying its staff better than commercial rates, or nurturing huge cash reserves. That’s just not part of that culture.

The IETF understands that it’s a governance body supported by broad consensus and donated expertise. ICANN has become a self-perpetuating and self-promoting organization; it needs to be fixed.

Who Will Fix ICANN?
Attendees at its meeting next week in Mexico City (March 1-6) can start the process (note the special Mexico ICANN meeting domain: http://mex.icann.org)

Revising the organization’s over-reaching gTLD policy should be only the starting point for reform. ICANN needs to return to being a governance body, not an aspiring enterprise.

Now that would be change we could believe in.

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