Before I joined ICANN staff nearly a year ago, I bought domains, set up websites, let domains expire, ran a blog, read about domain name disputes, registration policies and procedures, communicated with registrars and registries, and eventually attended meetings to learn more about ICANN. I do not have any statistics on this, but I would guess that majority of Internet users know little about purchasing domain names & creating websites and know even less about ICANN and how they can participate. There are some bright and creative people here at ICANN that are working to change this perception with Internet users, and improve participation with individual registrants. ICANN is unique – I do not know of a global forum that offers opportunities to individual participation at the same scale.
Rather than lament lack of opportunities for participation, I want to highlight those options where registrants and users can directly participate. In the past year, ICANN has come a long way toward providing greater opportunity for direct involvement by users and individuals in ICANN meetings, decisions and discussions. ICANN now has a blog (http://blog.icann.org), we have public comment fora and welcome comments and suggestions on a variety of topics. Users can comment on proposed new registry services, registry agreements and amendments, new TLDs, among many other issues. Users can attend one of ICANN’s meetings, or follow meetings through the webcast on ICANN’s website. ICANN had a public participation website during the December 2006 meeting in Sao Paulo, Brazil. I expect another public participation site will be available for the upcoming meetings in Lisbon and San Juan. Individuals can also participate in the growing ALAC & regional at-large organizations. Can these options be improved? Definitely, it takes time and dedication.
Change does not occur overnight, but I have already seen a number of changes since this time last year. These improvements should become more apparent throughout 2007.