First-timer perspective from NamesCon 2015
NamesCon 2015 is nothing like the thrice-yearly ICANN meetings I am accustomed to, but that is partly why I chose to go this January. Outreach is an important part of my job as ombudsman for the ICANN community, and being available to members outside of the ICANN meetings is one way I try to build trust and credibility.
Where ICANN meetings were filled with discussions of processes and policies, NamesCon was very market-driven and sales-oriented. The action at this Las Vegas-based domain industry conference was in the corridors and one-on-one meetings, where deals were being made hourly. Quite the striking difference from ICANN, where you find most of the action within the different working group sessions and meetings, and the outcomes are policy recommendations not sales. The NamesCon auction of domain names on the second-to-last day was downright exciting, bringing such impressive prices for names like carauctions.com ($95,000).
Networking is a huge part of the NamesCon draw. Organizers said the conference was designed primarily to educate and connect website developers, online marketing and search professionals, and small to medium business owners with industry players. For me, it was an opportunity to talk to those involved in the domain industry about my role as an independent, impartial and neutral party who can help resolve issues or complaints about unfair treatment or a particular Board, community or staff decision, action or inaction. Part of my communication was to stress what I cannot do as well. For example, I do not investigate complaints between domain holders and registrars, although I do provide self-help information to those in disputes not related to ICANN.
Needless to say, attending a domainers’ event is new territory to this ombudsman, but the people I met were open and interested in what I do. I encouraged everyone I encountered to get more involved in ICANN policy discussions, as these have a direct impact on their businesses and livelihoods. This idea was echoed by several speakers as well, including Akram Atallah, ICANN’s President of its Global Domains Division, and Fiona Alexander, associate administrator of the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration. (The NTIA is the agency that holds the IANA contract with ICANN.)
With just a few weeks until ICANN 52 in Singapore on 8-12 February, I am looking forward to seeing many of you in the meeting rooms and in the hallways. Please drop by my office at any time for a confidential discussion.