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A look back: The ICANN History Project

18 May 2017
By Brad White

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Brad White interviews Peter Dengate-Thrush

It was indeed ironic–Ira Magaziner's boss, President Bill Clinton, had just won his 1996 bid for re-election, yet Magaziner was feeling the pain of defeat.

As a Senior Policy Advisor to the President, Magaziner had been heavily involved in Hillary Clinton's failed healthcare initiative and now he too wanted a win.

The Clinton aide's opportunity came when the President asked him to come up with some creative ideas to keep the economy growing. It was at a time when Clinton's entire Cabinet was trying to tell him what he needed to focus most on during his second term. Magaziner recalls that the ideas they were throwing at Clinton were all pretty conventional, but Magaziner had an idea that was anything but.

"I wanted to put a framework in place to let the Internet take off," said the former Presidential aide.

Magaziner said Clinton embraced his idea. But the President's Cabinet? Well - not so much. "They said 'the Internet? What the hell is that?' Then they shrugged their shoulders and said, 'I don't care.'"

If Vint Cerf is considered one of the "fathers of the Internet," then Ira Magaziner could easily be considered "the father of ICANN."

It was Magaziner who spearheaded the formulation of a plan for an international, multistakeholder organization, the likes of which few had ever seen. And it was this organization, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, that would manage the Internet's Domain Name System (DNS).

Magaziner related his little-known story in a video interview that is part of the new ICANN History Project, which can be found at https://www.icann.org/history. There, you will find a growing number of video interviews.

In addition to the conversation with Magaziner, we also talked with Vint Cerf, former National Telecommunications and Information Agency (NTIA) Chief Larry Strickling and a number of other major players from the organization's past.

But the History Project is much more than just video interviews. You'll find an interactive timeline, historical documents, correspondence, pictures and more. As new materials are collected and posted, the history project will expand and evolve.

The project tells the story of ICANN's past through exploring various tracks, or themes. The first one is the historical relationship between ICANN and the U.S. Government. That relationship recently made news headlines with the successful completion of the IANA Stewardship Transition.

Larry Strickling, the former NTIA chief, told ICANN during a video interview that there was never any doubt in his mind that the transition would be successful. But Internet pioneer Vint Cerf disagreed, saying he thought the transition was in jeopardy "every single day," between the time it was announced and when it was completed more than two years later.

That sort of difference of perspective is one of the elements that drives the History Project. It is also one of the reasons that we did not do an overarching narrative or declarative history, like a journalist might. We want you to draw your own conclusions.

It is our sincere hope that the History Project will form a lens through which we can more clearly focus on ICANN's future.


Brad White

Brad White