I was honored when asked to provide the closing keynote to the DNS Forum. Managed by our friends at Public Interest Registry, and sponsored by ISOC-DC, LACNIC, CENTR and our own i2Coalition, this is the kind of forum we need in order to keep the vital DNS industry moving forward. The full text of my speech can be found below this post.
We have great love for the DNS here at i2Coalition. We represent the companies that build the infrastructure of the Internet, and the DNS represents the core component that makes it all work seamlessly. Without the continued innovation that comes out of the DNS industry, this network of networks we call the Internet would be in chaos. I am forever grateful to the incredible minds that continue to drive technological advances in this space. The security, stability and resiliency of the entire Internet comes from the sweat of their brows and the ideas that they continue to churn out.
This talk gave me a unique opportunity to take an industry that I love and throw some challenges at it. The idea of injecting a little bit of chaos into the conversations we normally have in this space and our ability to have a thoughtful dialogue showcases how the entire Internet ecosystem is better together than apart. My talk highlighted how the impressive innovation that this industry exhibits is part of a broader ecosystem that is changing rapidly, and proposed that it’ll take the entire Internet infrastructure community – working together – to best participate in that change, and to lead it.
In it, I advocate for places outside of ICANN that we can talk policy as a whole industry, like the DNS Forum. As we do, I again champion the DNS industry, who has the most experience and the best mature framework through which to have those discussions. Just as I sought in my talk to challenge the DNS industry, I also acknowledge this industry’s maturity and expertise. As our industry develops, this expertise will create opportunities that would not have been available without each of our participation.
We also must continue to work within ICANN – in existing groups that focus on security, accessibility, and policy developments, and in new, post-transition fora. The accomplishments and contributions of these groups and their thoughtful and experienced members provide a strong foundation for an open and secure Internet and complement the work done outside of ICANN.
If there’s a touch of devil’s advocate in what I said, it comes from a place of love. A place that makes me want to ensure that the great and positive force that the DNS community has created will not just survive but will thrive in generations to come. I am very grateful for the opportunity to challenge my colleagues, each of whom I consider a friend.
As always, I welcome your thoughts and concerns!
Executive Director, i2Coalition
The DNS and Digital Convergence
Thank you for allowing me to close out two days of interesting conversations. I get to provide a synopsis on where I feel we’re at in the DNS industry today. At the end, I’ll turn to you to react to my thoughts and share some of your own. I’ve only been in the ICANN related environment for three years, but at this point I can’t imagine having a talk like this without an open mic portion.
When Paul and Beth reached out to me last month to discuss what I wanted to talk about, I chose ‘digital convergence’ as my theme; I find it interesting that it was just this past week that the iPhone 7 was announced. How many will get it?
There’s an interesting significance of Apple getting rid of the headphone jack that I haven’t heard talked about much: it’s the last analog piece of tech in a device that’s now the center of our daily lives.
Your phone is now the center of your banking info, your healthcare info, your movies, your music, your correspondence, the way you engage with all your friends. It’s a converged device. And now it’s COMPLETELY digital.
The iPhone came out in 2007, NINE years ago, and look at how the world has changed. I have a nine year old son. He’s amazing! He’s brilliant! He’s changed my life in ways I can’t believe! But he’s nine. His future is ahead of him, and his true impact on the world is only going to grow. The same is true with the future of connected devices.
ICANN was created in 1998, so it’s only nine years older than the iPhone. And now we stand poised on complete privatization of the domain name system, a sign of the maturity of the system. But that’s just the beginning. We’re 18, and just leaving the home. There’s still a whole life to live.
The commercial Internet is ALSO only about twice as old as the iPhone. When I joined the industry in 1995, three years before the formation of ICANN, my job was convincing companies that they should consider exploring these newfangled things called web pages.
That time led me to a philosophy that I now bring to engaging in policy discussions around our industry. So as I talk about what the status of our industry is, I’m going to do so by sharing with you an ancient parable:
“When the winds of change blow, some build shelters, some build windmills.”
A lot of us here are engaged in policy. When you think of the policy fights we’ve had over the past two decades, I’ll bet you that you could put almost every one into a “windmills vs. shelters” context.
Do any of you remember PIPA/SOPA? That was my first major policy fight. That was the story of a competent, mature industry trying to find ways to protect it from change, and to solve the problems that change had brought their industry. An understandable goal. The content industry was building shelters. The Internet industry was busy building windmills. In that case, our goal was to explain how their shelters threatened our windmills in unacceptable ways.
I take a look at the Internet industry today, and I feel like it’s at an interesting time.
The pace of change is SO fast in this world today that some of us who have always been fighting for innovation, the people who provide the tools for the windmill makers, we now need to be careful that we don’t start getting so worried about the pace of change that we don’t start spending most of OUR time building shelters.
The world is changing, and outpacing that change is hard.
And indeed, even though the last nine years have showed a big sea change – in the NEXT nine years this industry will look shockingly different.
Change brings opportunity and risk, and how you meet the change determines the role you play in the dichotomy between shelters and windmills. Let’s talk a little bit about changes we see in the industry right now, to see if we can catch a glimpse of where things are going.
The EDGE PROVIDERS and the CLOUD PROVIDERS are doing such interesting things these days. There was a time when I put my content one place online, and I knew where it lived. Cloud and edge technology have already made it so that this is no longer the case. What is in store for tomorrow? It seems like it’s changing every day. AWS is innovating constantly. Dyn and Cloudflare and hundreds of other of my friends in the cloud, have changed the game many times over in the past decade, and there’s no end in sight.
Let’s talk about the Internet of things. Cars, watches, shoes, toothbrushes, cars, forks, THIS is how we’re experiencing the Internet these days.
This brings security concerns: how do we keep ourselves safe in a world with no one standard? How do we deal with the fact that sloppy network security puts general Internet users at risk on a regular basis, and what kinds of things SHOULD we be doing?
Will regulating IoT stifle innovation? Will not regulating it cause public risk?
IoT is one of the environments most driving privacy conversations. Those policy discussions are ongoing, and where we land on those conversations sets the tone for the world for years to come.
Don’t care about your privacy online because you’re not doing anything wrong? Try being gay in Saudi Arabia.
It’s a sign of awful privilege, to not care about privacy online, and to not want to be a part of that conversation.
IoT is already vitally important. There are now more connected devices than there are people.
How are we in this industry going to meet the challenge and opportunity of IoT? If we aren’t thinking through these things we are missing the boat.
Let’s take a look at what’s happening with AI.
Until recently, Google referred to themselves as a search company, an advertising company, now they’ve rightfully highlighted that they are a machine learning company. Artificial intelligence is going to change our world in ways I can’t even begin to guess at, but I know that we in this industry, need to have our eye on it.
What’s interesting is that much of what IoT and AI changes about the world, leads to digital communications that use APIs to communicate information in ways that depreciate the naming systems. That doesn’t mean that these technologies will bypass the DNS (although even that may be technically possible), but how we as consumers connect with names is changing dramatically.
And so I remind again that if we don’t get ahead of our place in this world, we’ll find ourselves behind it.
Yet another technology we are just at the beginning of exploring its place in tomorrow’s world is BLOCKCHAIN.
If there was ever a technology we wanted to get ahead of, before we are in its rearview mirror, it’s that.
Disruption cycles completely transform industries, even vital, important industries like this one.
Are we going to continue to be windmill makers? Or are we going to start building shelters?
No matter what, for right now at least, we remain at the center of Internet Infrastructure convergence.
Whether we maintain that position will come down to two things:
What business decisions we make and what policy decisions we allow to get made.
Both of those require us to continue to take an innovative look at the future.
In business, we need to meet the challenges of the changing cloud, the changing edge, the role of IoT, AI, Blockchain and other disruptive technologies.
And in policy, we need to stay focused on what has made this industry great. We need to continue to BE windmill makers, and support the windmill makers that use our technologies.
We, in this now converged industry, support the WHOLE ECONOMY, not just the disrupters, but the disrupters built us, they fuel us and they keep us relevant.
Disruption is, and will always be, a field driven by small business. Start-ups.
That’s the world I come from. That’s who we built i2Coalition to speak for, to defend the rights of.
Yesterday in our panel on content, we spoke about how to tackle the REAL PROBLEMS that the content industry faces online.
We’ve been fighting these battles for years.
And I talked about needing to find solutions that scale.
I’m NOT just talking about building solutions that can be done quickly at a large scale.
We need solutions that scale down.
Because when we stop building systems, and methods of solving problems that can be achieved by people building ideas and projects in their basements, dorm rooms or in the middle of a desert, we stop supporting innovation.
If we allow the Internet to stop innovating, our role in the Internet ecosystem is far from assured.
The dustbin of history is filled with groups that stopped building windmills, and started building shelters.
It often seems like the competent, safe way to go.
But change moves too quickly. Especially today, it won’t be stopped.
As the world changes, we’ll need to continue to solve problems. We talked about the problems of the intellectual property community yesterday, that’s not a conversation that’s going away.
Government access to data
We’re in the hot seat for all of these talks.
And they are real problems that need real solutions.
They are also conversations that need to be had in the right venues.
Obviously, there’s a role in dealing with some of those issues at the government level, and we need to engage with a strong voice.
Beyond that, we also have the ICANN venue…
…but we try to have TOO MANY of these conversations at ICANN.
TOO MANY of these conversations happen at the ICANN level for no other reason than that’s where the registries and registrars are.
And there’s no convening body for the data centers, the SAAS providers, the PAAS providers, the IAAS providers, the ISPs and broadband providers, the cloud infrastructure providers, the EDGE providers, the Internet of Things providers, the DNS resolver providers.
When policy professionals are not engaging the entire Internet ecosystem in dealing with their problems, they are not effectively trying to address the problems.
We need to work diligently to move discussions that aren’t specific to the naming and numbering functions of the Internet out of the ICANN environment.
But, we also need to be responsible members of the overall Internet ecosystem, and we need to find other venues to have these important conversations.
As the part of the Internet industry with the most evolved policy machine in the Internet ecosystem, we in the DNS industry need to find ways to better engage the rest of the Internet ecosystem and make them part of the discussion.
And we need to find the right venues to have these discussions.
One such venue may be forums like this one today.
Another may be places like the IGF.
The fact that there’s one centralized place, ICANN, where a few of the relevant parties gather, doesn’t mean it’s THE place to have these talks about the future of the Internet from a policy perspective.
ICANN isn’t enough.
Encryption, security, privacy, these are vital parts of what DNS providers offer. Holistic policy decisions about how these should be dealt with on the whole Internet neither can or should happen at ICANN.
As we move forward into the future, we need to go into it with the understanding that the future will be more complicated than the past, and that it will take all of us, including the vastly underrepresented REST of the Internet ecosystem, to forge the right path forward.
The Internet is a network of networks that exists because the people who run them agree it exists. It will change more in the next nine years than it did in the last nine.
We increase our opportunity when we work together to make a safer, more secure Internet, but we need to put a lot more effort into fighting for the right venues to do that in.
Here are a couple things that those in the DNS community can do to ensure that as we grow, and fight for a future of innovation on a free and open Internet, we are also continuing to make sure that the DNS industry continues to have a relevant part of that future.
Let’s go back to talking about AI. The way that AI is most likely to effectively operationalize itself from a business perspective is to be heavily centralized.
It’s not too hard to imagine a near future where you get 90 percent of your information from Siri, from Alexa, from Cortana.
Who connects via API to information that doesn’t NEED to leverage the naming system, even if it does today?
Tesla and Uber are connecting a worldwide network of transportation in similar ways.
These are all examples of technologies that are changing the world, and none of them are bad things, they are exciting. But it’s evident that AI can lead us down connected technologies that can outpace the DNS community.
These are guideposts for the DNS community, that the world continues to change, and that THIS INDUSTRY’S best path of changing WITH it, is to support small businesses, to support the diversity of technological voices that come from an environment where start-ups offer choice into the marketplace.
Start-ups are changing the world. They should be doing so with technologies that the DNS community helps develop that meet the needs of tomorrow’s world.
If there are only four or five paths in the future that we all use to get our information, that’s not healthy for the DNS.
The Internet thrives on being driven by small to medium sized businesses, or SMBs. Supporting SMBs is supporting the DNS community.
Fighting for the future of the Internet, and for this community needs to go through fighting for small businesses, and fighting for environments in which people with ideas, starting from nothing, have a chance to compete.
We need to stop thinking of ourselves as being in the Internet industry. We’re at the heart of complete technological convergence. What we do IS healthcare. What we do IS defense. What we do IS education. What we do IS business and what we do IS social engagement. We are at the center of everything, and we need to stop thinking of what we are doing in a niche way. We are not niche, and the decisions that come out of the policy discussions we have affect the entire world.
I’m going to close my remarks today by making a plug for one more thing we all need to be working on. Actively enabling the next billion to come online.
There’s a half of world of people that are just starting to build their windmills.
We need to find every opportunity to support them.
We need to go to IGF and talk about how we can support capacity building efforts.
We need to engage with ISOC in their development projects.
We need to support the cause of Universal Acceptance, which is a core component of getting the next billion online, by letting them use the Internet more effectively in their own language.
I started by talking about the iPhone, or whatever mobile device you have. This is the way people are connecting with our industry these days. It’s nine years old. The world is changing.
We’ve spent the past couple of decades enabling the windmill builders to change the world. Apple’s iPhone notwithstanding, that change has mostly come at the hand of small businesses.
I implore the DNS community to:
Keep listening to small businesses.
Keep fighting for solutions that scale down.
Keep fighting for venues to fix problems that bring in the whole Internet ecosystem, which means, keeping these conversations out of ICANN.
And finally, keep actively working to bring the next generation, and the entire world, online.
The parable, again is:
“When the winds of change blow, some build shelters, some build windmills.”
This industry has been effective stewards of the Internet, and has kept it stable and open. This great industry deserves to persist and grow. But knowing that change moves fast, if we want to keep a free and open Internet, or if we simply want to be here in nine years time, YOU need to stay in the windmill business.