Meeting of the Membership Advisory Committee
19 January 1999



19 January 1999

Summary of January 19 Membership Committee Conference Call

Prepared by Molly Shaffer Van Houweling, Committee Staff


Diane Cabell
George Conrades (chairman)

Greg Crew

Kanchana Kanchanasut

Daniel Kaplan

Siegfried Langenbach

Nii Quaynor

Dan Steinberg

Jonathan Zittrain (Berkman Center liaison)

Molly Shaffer Van Houweling (staff)

Mike Weinberg (Jones Day)

George Conrades opened the call by suggesting that the committee members to refer to Cabell’s email pointing to the URL of a new page describing three possible membership models, http://cyber.law.harvard.edu/rcs/macmodels.html that Conrades, Cabell, Crew, and the Berkman Center staff had put together for the purpose of spurring discussion.

The committee members then launched into a discussion of the questions about membership that they had identified for discussion over the previous weeks, and possible alternative answers (including the alternatives identified in the three membership models). Daniel Kaplan started with a discussion of the purpose of membership.

Kaplan explained that he feels that the committee’s discussions about who are members are clouded by fact that they don’t know what kind of membership they are building and for what purpose. So he has tried to identify areas where the committee could try to launch discussions and look for consensus regarding the purpose of membership. One starting point is trying to clarify ICANN’s mission—is it restrictive or extensive? The answer makes a difference in terms of how inclusive the membership should be.

Greg Crew said that ICANN’s task is boring and administrative—to make sure that the technical aspects of the internet cope with the need for expansion and a rational approach to addressing. ICANN is not attempting to be a government of the Internet or to spread beyond its technical role.

Kaplan said he agreed with Crew, but that is this view is not what is coming out from the public list, where some participants seem to want to build an ideal democracy.

Crew responded that the committee has a clear and more narrow terms of reference: coming up with a structure for a membership to elect at-large directors.

Cabell added that members would also ratify changes to the articles of incorporation.

George suggested that perhaps members will have the right to propose policy, but the committee’s basic requirement is to come up with method for electing at large directors. Whether ICANN has a wider role is not within the committee’s terms of reference.

Kaplan agreed, but said that the discussion on the public lists was assuming that ICANN would have a wider role. So the committee should communicate more clearly on the list.

Conrades asked Kaplan to try to clarify his views regarding ICANN’s limited role in an email.

Kaplan agreed, and moved on to a related issue: the objectives of membership. He identified several: efficiency and fairness, making sure all interested parties can be heard in some way, providing mechanisms for voting, decision-making and consensus-building; and allowing possible appeals of board decisions (the last probably not limited to members).

Conrades asked whether one voting mechanism might be for the board or some subset of the board to seek nominees with certain characteristics (to satisfy geographic diversity requirements, for example).

Next, Kaplan addressed the question of what constraints should the structure obey? He suggested that the structure should be guided by the following constraints: beware of overkill, too much complexity and expense; beware of capture by active minorities; keep it cheap and easy to enforce.

Conrades suggested that one way to address problems of fraud and capture would be to do a census of the membership base.

Kaplan wondered how practical that would be, and emphasized that the system should be cheap and easy to enforce. Quaynor added that his constituency would be better served by a simple system. Steinberg argued that oversimplification could be bad too.

Steinberg made the point that some fraud is unavoidable—it happens in every board of directors election.

Kaplan’s last discussion point was the question, "why are there members outside of SOs?" He said the board should clarify the criteria for SO applications, particularly the level of openness required. If SOs do not have to be totally open to anyone, then the openness of the at-large membership may be more important.

Weinberg pointed out that there is a statement about SO criteria posted on the ICANN webpage.

Cabell said that Esther Dyson had given the committee a word of guidance--make our proposals without trying to second guess what the SOs are going to do. Just focus on what is good for the At Large members and let ICANN worry about balance and conflicts among the different groups.

Next, Langenbach led a discussion of the issue of Members—who can be a member, how will they be authenticated, etc. He had gone through the messages on the public discussion list and tried to come up with a comprehensive list of options.

On the question of who can be a member, suggestions included:, individuals, associations, holders of Domains-Names, holders of IP-Address, holders of email-addresses. One argument in favor of individual membership is that organizations are represented elsewhere in the ICANN structure, the at-large is the place for individuals. On the other hand, if we think about the limited duties of ICANN, perhaps not everyone on earth has the right to be a member—maybe only those with domain names, email addresses, or IP numbers. But Langenbach said he could think of cases in which a person has none of those things but is still involved in the Internet.

Several other committee members agreed that individuals should have a primary role. Kanchanasut expressed the view that corporations and associations should have a non-voting role.

Kaplan said that the question remains—what kind of individuals? Perhaps it makes sense to say all holders of domain names and IP numbers can be members, be they individuals or corporations or associations.:

Steinberg worried that that would create a clear path to buying membership. Organizations with thousands and thousands of domain names could have thousands of memberships. Kaplan replied that the system doesn’t have to be one-domain/one-vote.

Seigfried asked the committee to comment on the idea of only allowing associations of individuals to become members. Kanchanasut worried that that would be hard to control—one person could become a member of many associations.

Crew made a suggestion about member vaidation—that ICANN would only be able to identify people by their online identities, they wouldn’t be interacting in other ways. Cabell responded that ICANN might be able to identify people off line for the purposes of initial registration, and from then on only deal with them online.

Conrades summarized the discussion as supporting an emphasis on individuals, online participation, organizational membership (but perhaps non-voting). Kaplan clarified that "organizations and corporations" should be considered, because corporations are the biggest users of domain names and IP addresses.

Conrades asked the members how they would react to the idea of no voting for corporations? Langenbach noted that many corporations will be members of SOs. But Kaplan noted that he knows of corporations and associations that don’t want to be in an SO because they don’t want to be that active in ICANN, they just want to be informed.

Crew noted that non-voting membership isn’t an important part of the committee’s terms of reference—they are primarily concerned with the voting structure for at-large directors. But the committee might nonetheless consider the idea of a class of membership in which members pay a fee in return for non-voting benefits: the right to join in an annual forum to discuss ICANN issues, receiving information, etc.

Next, Crew began a brief discussion of the relationship between membership and other parts of the ICANN structure. Conrades asked Crew what he thought about the question of whether people who are members of SOs can also be at-large members. Crew responded that perhaps there shouldn’t be restrictions because it would be too difficult to track multiple memberships. Many committee members agreed.

Conrades then turned the discussion to the question of how to identify members.

Steinberg said that there were many examples in industry—each user has an id number and a corresponding personal identification word (mother’s maiden name, etc.).

Cabell noted that those mechanics aren’t difficult, the difficulty is identifying at the time of registration that the applicant is a unique person. Several committee members said that it might be impossible to do this. Langenbach also raised privacy concerns involved in any requirements to give an address or other personal information.

Langenbach said that the real question is how the nine at-large directors will be put on the table. If we assume that we have 10,000 voters, no abuse by an individual will make a difference. Maybe we need to keep an open list of all voters and let people tell us if they see some abuse. Cabell wondered what the enforcement mechanism would be.

Conrades began a discussion of membership fees. Proposals had been made ranging from no fees, to a di minimus fee, to $50/individual, to $5000 or more for corporations. He asked for committee reactions. Kanchanasut said that the no fee option would give people in less-advantaged countries an opportunity to join. Langenbach suggested that different fees could be charged in different regions of the world. Cabell said that the advantages of fees were that they might prevent one individual from registering hundreds of times, they represent a commitment of some kind—they keep out people who just want to disrupt, and fees can cover the administrative costs associated with member participation.

Quaynor supported the idea of no or low fees. He said that if fees vary, those who pay low fees should still get the same voting rights. The other committee members agreed.

At this point many of the committee members had to leave the call. Conrades, Cabell, Quaynor, and Kanchanasut briefly discussed the issue of whether the committee’s meeting in Singapore would be open or closed. Conrades asked Shaffer Van Houweling to find out whether a big enough room could be arranged to allow for open participation in at least some of the meeting and to report back to the committee on the next call.

Shaffer Van Houweling gave some logistical information about the Singapore meeting, and then the call ended.

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