Although I no longer work for ICANN, I’d planned on attending its meeting in Nairobi next month to meet old friends and drum up some work for my new consulting business. The Nairobi meeting is scheduled to run from 7-12 March. The biggest issue on the table is a crucial stage in the addition of new top level domains; the vote by the Board on how to handle expressions of interest. But in the last 24 hours, ICANN’s COO, Doug Brent, has published a security warning that may result in the meeting being cancelled.
If this happens, it will be a real blow for the Kenyan Internet community. A previously planned meeting in Nairobi was cancelled because of security concerns prompted by election violence a couple of years ago. I thought this was the wrong call at the time, as election violence tends to die down and our meeting wasn’t till several months later. But I didn’t question and don’t envy the people who have to make that decision.
An ICANN meeting brings about 1200 people from around the world to a country chosen from host applications about a year in advance. It’s a mix between a trade show and a party conference, with endless parallel sessions, soap-boxing, hallway deal-making and late night drinking. Probably two thirds of the participants are regulars, and there’s always a ‘back to school’ feeling on the first day as you greet people you’ve not seen in months with an enthusiasm that wears off in about a nanosecond. The dominance of the regulars causes ongoing criticism that the whole travelling circus doesn’t work to get more and different people to take part, and should halt its global peregrinations and stay put in L.A., Frankfurt or Singapore. (more…)