During the last four days I've been attending the IGF conference in Athens, Greece organised by the United Nations to discuss the future of the internet. Sadly, however, I wasn't there in person but was an on-line attendee. There are, however, benefits to this like not having to queue for lunch or coffee (I can retrieve it while 'in the room') or, indeed, having to get out of bed in order to be in the main conference room and get a question put to the panel! Instead of sitting on an uncomfortable chair I am in my big comfy swivel one at home watching the proceedings via a full-screen video stream @ 331k with concurrent translation when I need it. I've also got access to an IRC-like chatroom where there are other remote participants plus some people in the room, and the interaction there has been very useful, with technical asides and political discussions taking place alongside the presentations. igf2006.intgovforum.org/ was the conference website.
Looking around the room …
Mon 30 Oct | Diversity
So I'm watching the 'live stream' from the conference and looking at the mix of empty seats and people actually attending in person. To attend a conference online is nothing new for me, I seem to regularly do so for a range of meetings (and it means I can get unlimited good coffee too) but I am already very aware that the attendees are majority white, majority male, and, dare I say, majority well older than the average internet user.
I was at a conference last week where the subject of "Citizen's access to information in a globalised world" was a main topic (The 2006 Belgo-British Conference) and there too there was lots of discussion around the area of management and control of the people who have access to post their thoughts, rather than ideas of how to enable an increasing number of people to have completely free and open access. So far the IGF seems to be of the 'restriction' side rather than the 'open it up' side.
I shall hope that improves …
Submitted by AlisonW on Mon, 2006-10-30 11:29.
It is an interesting list of options that are being presented here as alternatives, when most of us would surely agree that all are issues which need to be dealt with for the betterment of the internet and the user community.
However, is not "Spam, phishing, security" something more for the end user (and writer of end-user browser software) than for the management of the internet itself? and aren't "Freedom of speech", "Governance", "Copyright" and "Access" the more general issues that will affect growth and reach?
The annoyance of spam (and that is all it is, an annoyance that can be dealt with) would probably be welcomed by those who currently have no access whatsoever …
Submitted by AlisonW on Mon, 2006-10-30 18:22.
You wouldn't expect that a newspaper takes responsibility for every small ad, that a telephone carrier has responsibility for every conversation that takes place on its lines, etc. so why should the internet infrastructure be required to have responsibility for what is carried on the IP traffic across that network?
It is for every individual in the world to caveat emptor, not for the ISP, ICANN or whomever to do it on their behalf.
Wed 1 Nov | Security
The DNSSEC and rootserver discussion just finished was highly interesting, albeit losing some its edge by being audio-only. Part-way in I noticed I'd lost connectivity to this website though, but as I still had the audio stream thought little more about it, there not being a chatroom for the workshops.
The Register, however, has just commented that the site fell over, allegedly because of too many users! Could I express my surprise if that was the actual reason given as, from my direct experience over the last few days, the number of users in the chatrooms and blogs has been remarkably small (indeed I could suggest that the UN would be better off if it had covered the costs of people 'attending online' like myself to attend in person instead of supplying this web-based facility! nudge, nudge …)
My own view though is that these remote participation facilities have been very useful, if limited in certain areas, and I for one appreciate the efforts that UN and local conference staff have made to enable such participation.
Yes, but no, but …
(reply to post about DNSSEC and distributed root server trust)
Submitted by AlisonW on Thu, 2006-11-02 11:16.
Whenever there is an intersection between engineering and politics there will be issues over the detail. McTim suggests that it would be a kludge, inherently complex and an overhead on the control of the system, and of course s/he is correct. However as we are all aware, technical issues exist for the enjoyment of engineers to overcome them, and even if there were start-up issues they would not appear to prevent this idea from happening.
But the politics is the thing. Some countries - notably the USA - believe that they have put a majority of the effort into creating the internet and should, therefore, maintain a level of control / co-ordination / supervision over its future management. Others, not surprisingly, believe that this could become a threat at some point in the future and, whilst neither side is wrong, neither side is completely correct either.
Someone once said "You can't get there from here" and it probably applies to the way we have DNS routing under IPv6 currently, in that we need some organised method of determining those inter-node routes. Either this is a SPoF solution close to that we have currently, or we go to something with more resilience and less likelihood of failure (accidental or externally intended). But whilst we can - technically - create a sensible, secure, verifiable and maintainable solution to this problem and which would also accept the multi-lingual improvements that we so need for the next expansion phase of the internet, persuading the current vested political interests will, in my opinion, very sadly prevent that from happening, or at least delay it significantly.