Despite the Crikey army being invited to attend on Tuesday, it was a
disappointing roll up at Melbourne’s Hilton Hotel last night for a fabulous Churchill Club talk
by Dr Paul Twomey, CEO of ICANN – the US-based organisation which
controls the internet.

Besides Rupert Murdoch, it is hard to think of an expat Australian who
has a more fascinating or important job. Twomey flies around the world
meeting business heavies, technologists
and politicians grappling with the extraordinary breadth and
revolutionary power of the internet.

He talked about a 15 minute meeting with UN secretary general Kofi Annan
and even received a letter from American’s most famous smut merchant,
Larry Flint, during the recent debate about creating a XXX domain for
p*rn.

I asked Twomey whether ICANN was influenced by the US Commerce
Department and the Religious Right in rejecting the application and he
said that the 200,000 emails he received from concerned Christians did
not contribute to the 9-5 vote against.

It was defeated because the applicant was requesting immediate approval
and had undertaken to adhere to all relevant laws – something ICANN
could not be sure of given it would be accessible in 200-plus countries
around the world.

Some of the statistics and stories that Twomey reeled off were just staggering:

  • He recently met a man in Seattle who had spent $US110 million
    buying up domain names just for the purposes of redirecting traffic to
    create advertising revenue
  • $US100 is thought to be the most expensive pay per click
    advertising deal struck and it’s by US plaintiff lawyers circling
    drugs for cancer and asbestos-related diseases that might lead to
    litigation
  • Toyota will soon release a car with no less than 15 internet protocol connections to track various features
  • SPAM will be like the “cold war” – a long struggle and
    Microsoft’s operating system, which Twomey doesn’t use, will continue
    to be vulnerable for many years
  • 7 million new .com addresses are registered by ICANN every Monday
    but less than 1% are confirmed by Friday as registrars assess what is
    saleable
  • Each international flight will soon have its own .aero domain name that will disappear the moment the flight concludes
  • Sure, the Chinese might have more eye-balls on the internet but
    no-one gets anywhere near the Americans when it comes to internet
    commerce.

Dr Twomey’s background with
diverse organisations such as NOIE, Austrade, DFAT and the Council for Overseas
Aid certainly prepared him well for the challenge of running ICANN. He came across as one very impressive individual.

Peter Fray

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