The new President of ICANN, Rod Beckstrom, is making the rounds, listening. He's quickly figured out what makes the global institution he is supposed to run tick: the diverse and fractious “stakeholder” groups that cluster around the business and technology of IP addresses and domain names. He's trying to acquaint himself with the people and attitudes of each one and learning about their issues. Registries and trademark lawyers complaining about registrars; registrars complaining about registries; business badmouthing civil society; frustrated Russians, Chinese, European Unionists complaining about the U.S.; the ITU, the RIRs….all have their own angle, their own feuds, their agendas and demands to press.
In Washington Wednesday he made a point of meeting with public interest groups, the noncommercial stakeholders his predecessor went out of his way to marginalize. I was there, along with representatives of Free Press, EPIC, the Media and Democracy Coalition, and OneWebDay. He barely had time to sit down before I presented him with a copy of the Top Ten Myths about Civil Society in ICANN, which I jokingly offered to autograph. He totally one-upped me. He pulled out a copy of Ruling the Root and asked me to autograph that instead. Then he graciously presented me with my very own copy of The Starfish and the Spider, which I insisted he autograph for me. Auspicious exchange.
It was a get-acquainted session; no deals made, no promises sought. But there seems to be some badly needed wafts of fresh air. This new CEO of ICANN thinks his job is to run the organization and not to drive policy, and for now, at least, he's willing to listen. And if anyone can drink from a firehose, it's Aquaman.