The group that manages the domain name system, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), has become a useless empire-building organization and is in need of a complete reboot.

No one really believes that the .XXX generic top level domain was a good idea, and same is true for ICANN’s new plan to sell custom gTLDs to anyone who can write a check for $185,000.

These custom domains allow names based on a service, such as ritz.hotel, a city, nyc.nyc, or a brand, coke.coke, for instance.

In announcing this new domain system, ICANN CEO Rod Beckstrom said it will “unleash the global human imagination.” No, that’s not what it will do. What it will do is to unleash a global check writing campaign in defensive name registrations.

The more confusion that ICANN adds to the gTLD system, the more money it makes, and ICANN needs the money.

ICANN holds three large international, week-long meetings a year at locations all over the globe. This year it met in Dakar, Singapore and San Francisco; in 2010, it was Cartagena, Brussels, and Nairobi.

By contrast, the United Nations somehow manages to get by on one large meeting a year for its climate change conference.  Imagine that.

ICANN’s fiscal year 2011 budget was $59.3 million; its budget for 2012 is $67 million, a 13% increase. (See budget PDF)

Its travel spending is going up $1.9 million in FY12, in part, because it wants to pay the airfare and expenses of more people to attend its meetings.

According to the budget, FY12 travel-related spending includes $5.1 million on airfare, $3.4 million on lodging and meals, and $4.4 million on other travel and meetings.

Other reasons for the budget increase include $3 million for compensation. That’s needed to help pay for a 4% annual merit increase.

Esther Dyson, the founding chairwoman of ICANN, was absolutely right, when she testified at a Senate hearing last week, that the new custom domain system will lead to consumer confusion. ICANN will do well to listen to her.

ICANN started in 1998 with good intentions. It introduced competition to the domain name system, and it deserves much credit for doing so. But ICANN today is a dysfunctional and self-justifying organization that is in need of limits.


Copyright © 2011 IDG Communications, Inc.

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