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Stephen Crocker Opening Speech | ICANN 46 | Beijing | 8 Apr 2013

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What an honor.

It's absolutely fantastic to be here. It's my privilege to open ICANN 46 in Beijing. ICANN is now about 15 years old, which is very old in Internet time and yet relatively young in the overall development of the Internet, which goes back to early experiments that started about 45 years ago. I want to briefly, and I promise it will be brief, cover a handful of points, but first I want to thank our hosts, China Internet Network and Information Center, CNNIC, China Organizational Name Administration Center, CONAC, Internet Society of China, and Mr. Shang Bing, Vice Minister of Industry and Information Technology, and you will hear from him and from several other very important people during the course of this, thankfully, not too long opening ceremony.

I've had the privilege, mostly by good fortune and accident, to be involved in the Internet activities from its earliest days, and I come from a technical background, and the technology is very absorbing, very interesting, but it is the impact on people that is the even stronger source of satisfaction.

One of the peculiar interesting little side effects of developing the network over time is to watch the creation of new slogans. It seems every time there is the next phase we have to have another slogan to go with it, and ICANN has its own slogan these days, "One world, one Internet". The very first slogan, formed around a table of about a half a dozen people, was "networks bring people together". And indeed that has been the enduring theme here.

As we've watched the enormous growth and penetration of the Internet, the involvement of evermore people, it is the effect of bringing people together that has driven the economy, has driven the culture, and has driven the enjoyment of building and promulgating the Internet. Today in China, we're told that the penetration rate, the usage, has grown enormously. The figures from 2002 were 4.2% or 59 million people. A decade later, increased ten-fold, 42% or 564 million people. Three quarters are mobile users, and as is natural throughout the whole world, the younger generation are the largest users of the Internet and here making up 30% of all users.

The ICANN meetings move from location to location around the world, partly to make it easy for people to be involved, partly so that the people who are intimately involved in the interior of ICANN get the exposure of meeting and working with people around the world. This meeting is the largest, you will hear this again, I'm sure, from Fadi. This is the largest meeting we've ever had, and it is largest in two different and important ways. I'm told 1,900 people have come from outside of China and 700 people from China itself are here. These are very big numbers from our history. I think the total, which is now 2,600, was previously hit a high of around 2,000. So this is not by just a little bit, but by a significant amount. And so on behalf of ICANN and behalf of the Internet community at large, I want to thank you all for the enormous support and for the participation.

Let me talk a little bit about themes, overarching themes for ICANN. You will hear, you have heard, you will continue to hear quite a bit about generic top-level domains. It is a very big effort and it is absorbing a considerable fraction of our attention and our resources. And so, it is necessarily one of our themes. But it is not the totality of what we're about. From a broader perspective, we're in a very important phase of moving from our early stages of just trying to get organized and get going, to developing into a more stable and more solid form of operation. We are building strength. We are trying to build trust, and work with others, and support the community, and find a comfortable place in the entire Internet ecosystem. At the same time, we are focused very much on our internal organization, where we're trying to develop not only accountability and transparency, but also efficiency and effectiveness.

So, one of the things that you will see and is the less interesting, less newsworthy, but nonetheless extremely important from my perspective, thrusts of our activity, is to stabilize for the long term, to continue to develop our tradition of openness and inclusiveness, and to develop financial stability, long-term planning, and predictability. In many respects, we'd like ICANN to become less interesting.

Meanwhile, I can't get away without talking about the gTLD Program. The pace has quickened. We are moving very rapidly. You are seeing announcements every week and in some cases multiple times per week of significant events during the program. The first batches of strings have been announced that have made it through the evaluation process and this is continuing at a steady pace. You will hear a lot more about that. And it will have a significant impact, not only on ICANN, of course, but on the whole community. The top-level domains, which were relatively stable for a long time, will now expand several fold and we will see experiments with new business models, with new forms of use of domain names, and I am not here to tell you how that's going to turn out. I am very much just another observer.

One of the important things in this whole program, which not only is part of the generic top-level domains but the general top-level domains which include country codes, is the shift from the original use of the Latin characters, A, B, C, for domain names into a broader set of characters, what we call internationalized domain names, that is names in other scripts, particularly, of course, including both simplified and traditional Chinese characters, but also including many other scripts around the world, Cyrillic, Arabic, a number of Indian scripts, and so on. This will have two effects that almost go in opposite directions. It will of course, as is intended, broaden the accessibility of the Domain Name System to a much larger fraction of the world and it will also pose some barriers as there will be communities that will understand some but not the other, and so we will have more bridges to build and more hurdles to cross as we progress. Nonetheless, this is absolutely an important step and it will serve to put another fraction, another portion of the Internet on a global basis, instead of the original regional basis, if you will, of the U.S. and western countries.

I mentioned the broad themes for ICANN of organizational efficiency, long-term predictability, financial stability, and so forth. We are also making incremental, small adjustments as we go along, but one of the biggest of these sort of, smallest, might not be the best term, but we're fortunate to have in Fadi Chehadé a CEO who sees the value of helping the industry mature itself and of helping ICANN mature itself, so that we will be in a qualitatively improved state over the next few years.

Of course, one of the biggest things which I've alluded to earlier is that we want to make sure that we are understood and accepted as serving in the public interest, not for any of the narrow interests that are, of course, part of what drives the economy of the Internet.

Other adjustments that we're making, and this is more of a, sort of, the local business to share with you this morning, you will see on Thursday that we've made some changes to the way we operate the public forum. There will be, there's a streamlining and organization to it and a very strong attempt for more direct engagement. We have also made a point of having our board meeting in public and putting, essentially, all of the business that is ready at this time in front of the whole community. It is basically ordinary business of the kind that we carry out regularly throughout the year, but we've taken to heart the message that the community wants to see the board in action.

In keeping with what I've said before, we've worked very hard to make it as uninteresting and as boring as possible, which reflects actually getting the hard work of sorting out the issues, debating things, getting all of our ducks lined up ahead of time so that by the time it comes to the board, the board is not in the position of having to invent policy or invent procedures even, and it is the end of an orderly process. And as part of that sort of thinking, we have taken note that the operation we have of the new gTLD Committee, which is empowered to make decisions on behalf of the board in order to make an extremely sharp separation with respect to all matters of conflict of interest, that we want that part of our operation to similarly be as visible as possible. You will see in the future, not quite yet but in the future, agendas published, reports made public, and to the extent that it's appropriate, the operation of that committee in public as well.

That's the end of my opening remarks here. I will get out of the way so that you can have more important and more informative talks. It is a very, very exciting meeting here. It's a full week. The scheduling process is incredibly dense and complicated.

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Duration: 13 minutes and 2 seconds
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Posted by: icann on Apr 24, 2013

Stephen Crocker Opening Speech | ICANN 46 | Beijing | 8 Apr 2013

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