ICANN Organizational Structure

Since its formation, ICANN has been under close scrutiny for what the Internet community perceives a very closed and undemocratic process. Though the first Board of Directors include members from diverse geographic locations, (The United States, Australia, France, The Netherlands, Japan, and Spain) the process of selecting this board was done in a very secret manner. In ICANN’s defense, they were operating under intense time pressures to get ICANN initiated. Joe Sims, a lawyer from Washington D.C. argues that "it’s hard to imagine how things would have been more open. Anybody who wanted to could participate. By and large, the people who are saying that this was not open just wanted a different kind of open process."(1) Further, this temporary board will only serve one-year terms. At the end of this one-year term, nine new directors will be elected by an at-large membership organization.

Another aspect of ICANN’s organization that has been criticized extensively is the Board’s insistence that decision and discussion sessions remain closed to the public. Even though the votes are made public, many in the Internet community think that this disclosure is inadequate, especially as policy is in its formative stages.

An additional facet of ICANN’s current organization that is questionable is the fact that the U.S. Department of Commerce is overseeing the transition of authority from NSI to ICANN. Given the global scope of these issues and the complex nature of policymaking, the lack of international involvement in this process is not reflective of all parties involved. This factor also contributes to the closed stigma, which continues to plague ICANN’s public image. (2)

  1. Spangler, Todd, "Interim ICANN Board to Redraft Bylaws," Interactive Week Online, 28 October 1998.
  2. Spangler, Todd, "ICANN Still Facing Criticism," Interactive Week Online, 15 January 1999.