Former ICANN President Mike Roberts has finally admitted what no one has before. The Internet is a U.S. province, and will be run on behalf of U.S. interests.
His statement preceding the November at-large meeting in Marina Del Rey, California was widely criticized, but it did have the impact of clearing the air on what Internet governance means and whose interests it serves.
What is Internet governance about post-September 11? Here's what Roberts wrote:
"Important people are watching, people who have the ability to nationalize you overnight if you're not carrying your weight in making the Internet more secure. The Japanese government and the United States government are sending cabinet level officers to speak at the November ICANN meeting about how serious this really is."
Roberts' rhetoric drew a strong response from ICANN board member Karl Auerbach, who unlike Roberts was actually elected to his position. "I would suggest that the mediaeval mentality embodied in Mr. Roberts statement is more likely to sew dragons' teeth that will sprout as further hostility against our modern society," he wrote.
The complaints from friend or foe, however, are irrelevant. Roberts' rant is the policy, and his is the direction ICANN will go. ICANN is not a democratic organization. It is a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Bush Administration and its foreign policy goals. Anyone who doesn't believe that is fooling themselves.
That means "the Internet," or its governing bodies, has enemies. It has uncounted enemies within the Muslim World, including all those in the Arab middle class who sympathize, to whatever degree, with the complaints of radical Islam and its terrorist fringe. Like it or not, that's a lot of people.
That list will grow. If this is a "war on terrorism" it should be a war on all terrorists. It should mean war on the fringes of the IRA and Ulster Unionist movements that reject de-commissioning and peace. It should mean war against Columbia's Red terrorists, America's far-right terrorists (whether Nazi or "Christian Identity"), and all separatist movements who, failing to find justice within existing institutions, take the law into their own hands with violence.
Ah, but there's the rub. If this status quo is the end, and anyone who violates it with violence is the enemy of the world, what is there to assure justice? Are these the words of terrorists? "That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness."
If violence is forbidden then liberty and democracy must be guaranteed. Otherwise we've just a choice of tyrants. This is the Pandora's Box opened by Bush' "war against the evildoers." If such a fight is to be meaningful, those who fight it must not only stand for good, but deliver.
So we come back to the November meetings, and all future meetings. The DNS can be protected but there is more important work to be done.
If the Internet is to be enlisted in war, and if that war is to mean anything, then guarantees must be made, and institutions established to guard those guarantees. Liberty is only as strong as a government's ability to protect it. Governing institutions are only as strong as their publics' willingness to stand behind them. Even the theft of the 2000 election failed to destroy Americans' faith in their institutions, and that's a key lesson. The institutions we build to govern the Internet must be strong enough to suffer equal knocks and continue intact.
This generation is called, as surely as the generation of 1776, to form a more perfect union, but a global one this time. Once the recognition dawns the work can begin. The lesson of Roberts' flame should be a new birth of freedom. My hope, for people like Dave Farber and Karl Auerbach, is that truth will now become self-evident.
SSP (Shameless Self-Promotion)
The October update of my book, "Living on the Internet," is now available, free, to all members of this list. I plan on sending it to everyone who previously asked for information about the book, but you can get one just by asking.
Also, if you haven't gotten a-clue.com in your e-mail box lately, it could be that your e-mail server "bounced" it. We're pretty aggressive on pruning the list, and drop all addresses that bounce six times. So if you're seeing this online and miss it in your e-mail box, just hit the "subscribe" button on the home page.
You can join the A-Clue.Com discussion at I-Strategy , our shared e-mail digest produced with Adventive.Com. You can also read me at ClickZ , B2B, and Boardwatch. I'm also on the mast-head at Bottom Line Personal , a great print newsletter. Remember that it's journalism that keeps the Clues coming...
You have a little list, but how do you make the most of it? You turn it into a database, you query the database, you audit the results and you deliver market research to yourself and to others.
Permission is just the first step. An audit is the second step. Building interactive relationships with every name in your database is the greatest business asset you can have.
You can take the first step toward making your little list truly valuable with help from my friends at Whitehat Interactive - click here to begin that journey.
Takes on the News
Taking Over Windows
Most press attention was riveted last week on Microsoft's idiocy of detecting rival browsers and refusing them access to MSN Web sites.
The reporters missed a far more interesting story. Its past anti-trust concerns forced Microsoft to open its Internet Explorer to outside manipulation, and Yahoo ran through this like a corporate tax attorney through a loophole. The result was "Yahoo Essentials," , a downloadable plug-in that replaces Microsoft defaults with Yahoo services for things like instant messaging, e-mail, a browser toolbar, photos and file storage. The "service" also makes Yahoo a user's default home page and search engine, directing keywords entered into the Explorer address bar into Yahoo search results. They even got Compaq to ship "Yahoo Essentials" with their PCs.
A Forrester Research analyst, Carl Howe, made the mistake of assuming Microsoft can dismiss this with technology. "I think you'll now see some new security technologies in IE that somehow manage to block this," he said. The problem is that Microsoft is about to be re-tried in its anti-trust case, and such a move would be a red flag.
There's a Clue for the rest of us here. If Yahoo can tweak Explorer, so can anyone else. Why not try?
VNU Takes Over
The recent buy-out of Jupiter Media Metrix, supposedly by NetRatings, was badly misreported. .
Both Internet.Com and C|Net reported this was a straightforward buy-out of a New York firm by a California company , but apparently neither reporter took much note of the fact that an executive of Nielsen's eRatings is taking over as CEO, which would have lead them to the most recent NetRatings annual report .
Here they would have read this: "VNU N.V., through its wholly-owned subsidiaries Nielsen Media Research and ACNielsen, controls a majority of our outstanding stock and its representatives constitute a majority of our board of directors." A little further down, "In addition, VNU can control or influence the terms of our important commercial transactions, including our strategic relationships with Nielsen Media Research and ACNielsen."
Here's what may have actually happened. VNU bought Jupiter Media Metrix through NetRatings, and consolidated its control by having NetRatings buy the remainder of eRatings, then setting its man in charge of the whole magilla. VNU, not Jupiter and not NetRatings, would seem to be the surviving entity. VNU, by the way, is based in Holland.
The news is important not only because it puts most Web ratings and much of its market research under Dutch control, but because of the nature of VNU. VNU is notorious for squeezing its properties dry in search of profit, and as markets become competitive often finds these properties to be vulnerable. As the market's growth stirs again, in other words, there are great opportunities building for Web market research start-ups.
Not Good Enough
Something very interesting happened recently. Amazon and Yahoo both reported results that were in-line with (maybe a little ahead of) expectations, and the markets reacted with what might politely be called a "Bronx Cheer."
This is very good news. Growth potential has been completely rejected as an excuse to buy stocks in the Internet space. Even positive signs like cash flow and operating profits are being ignored, and real earnings are being evaluated realistically, against the results of industrial companies with stable, albeit boring results.
For now Amazon's growth has slowed, and Yahoo's top-line is actually getting worse, leading it to lay-offs and a search for subscription revenue. Amazon, however, remains the leading Internet retailer, while Yahoo's problems are almost wholly-caused by a recession that (naturally) impacts advertising harder than other sectors.
Why is this good news? It's good news because it represents a true market bottom. In the argument between growth and value, growth almost always gets a premium. The exception is at a market bottom. Both the market, and the economy, want to rise. Any excuse will do.
Clued-in is Tim Berners-Lee's condemnation of Microsoft's browser tricks , whereby competing browsers are arbitrarily excluded from MSN Web sites.
Clueless is criticism of the Federal Trade Commission's new pro-privacy stance. Forrester Research, for instance said the FTC's new agenda "pours gasoline on the fires of the privacy debate..." (We didn't start the fire, no we didn't light it but we tried to fight it...)
A-Clue.Com is a free email publication, registered with the U.S. Copyright Office as number TXu 888-819. We're on the Web at http://www.a-clue.com.