I had the privilege of attending ICANN51 event last October in Los Angeles as a fellow from Palestine, it was an amazing experience where I gained much knowledge, made new connections and friends from all over the world and had lots of fun, here I’m documenting the whole story & I hope that everyone benefits!.
This blog post consists of three main sections: 1) Introduction to ICANN, 2) My daily activities of ICANN week , 3) Entertainment prior to the event.
ICANN stands for The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names & Numbers and it’s a nonprofit organization that’s responsible for Domain Name System operations, global IP addresses allocation, generic top-level domains accreditation (such as .com, .net), moreover it develops Internet policies and ensures the Internet stability, security and interoperability.
What’s ICANN structure?
ICANN has a multi-stakeholder governance model where all involved parties such as industry, individuals, non-commercial interests and governments participate in decision making and policy development, it’s managed by a board of directors composed of 16 voting members and 5 non-voting ones as the following:
- Voting members:
- Eight members selected by a Nominating Committee where all ICANN constituencies are represented.
- Six members represent ICANN supporting organizations:
- Two members from The Generic Names Supporting Organization (GNSO) which is responsible for developing policies for generic top-level domains (gTLDs).
- Two members from The Country Code Names Supporting Organization (ccNSO) which is responsible for developing policies for country-code top-level domains (ccTLDs)
- Two members from the Address Supporting Organization (ASO) which is responsible for developing IP address policies.
- Representative of At-Large Advisory Committee (ALAC) which is composed of representatives of Internet users from all over the world.
- President/CEO appointed by the board.
- Non-voting members represent advisory committees to advise about interests and needs of stakeholders that don’t participate in the Supporting organizations.
- One member from the Governmental Advisory Committee (GAC) which is composed of representatives of governments from all over the world.
- One member from Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) which develops and promotes the internet standards and protocols .
- One member from Technical Liaison Group (TLG) which is composed of representatives of International organizations that focus on the Internet.
- One member from Root Server System Advisory Committee (RSSAC) which provides advice on the DNS root server system operations.
- One member from Security & Stability Advisory Committee (SSAC) which is composed of Internet experts who study relevant security issues.
At first, you may think that ICANN structure is very complex and you may get lost 🙂 but by the time you’d be much more familiar with and it’ll look way simpler for you.
What’s ICANN meeting?
ICANN organizes three meetings a year in different parts of the world, each meeting lasts for one week, hundreds of people participate from all over the world and hundreds of sessions are being held in parallel, every attendee would organize his own program to follow sessions in his field of interest (Technical, Law, copy rights ..etc), you may have a look at ICANN51 schedule.
What’s ICANN fellowship?
ICANN has a vision to bring people who have a good potential from developing countries so they attend, participate and contribute in the Internet community, that’s why the Fellowship program has been created, in ICANN51 there was around 44 Fellow from 38 different country, we had our special program to follow each day, some sessions were mandatory for all of us and some others were optional as you can choose sessions related to the area that you’re interested in.
Now I’ll start documenting my experience day by day!.
ICANN51 Week, 12-16 October 2014, Los Angeles
On October 11th, 2014, I Arrived at Hyatt Regency Century plaza hotel where ICANN51 will be held, I took some rest and went down quickly to explore ICANN booth and make the early registration, I was very interested to follow everything and not to miss a single part of it!.
My first moments around ICANN booth were great!, I registered and received my “welcome kit” and badge, I was very happy to meet Mrs.Janice Douma Lange – the Fellowship Program Manager, she’s been helping and supporting us since our selection and she’s really great person! thanks for everything Mama J!, I met many Alumni around the booth and the first thing to do was the below which made me feel that it’s gonna be really interesting and fun!.
Osama Tamimi (Sam) (@OaTamimi) October 11, 2014
Our first session was the “Fellowship breakfast meet & greet” at 7:00 AM, I was really concerned because it was too early and was afraid to miss it!, fortunately I was on time and I got to know most of fellows in person!, that was an amazing morning that I’ll never forget :).
Then our session started, Janice welcomed us to ICANN and each one of us introduced himself in from of the crowd and the main purpose of this session was to give us an idea about ICANN, the fellowship program and the week agenda.
Next session was “Newcomer Welcome Session” which started @10:00 and ended @5:00 PM!, it was a group of mandatory sessions for all fellows as it had many presentations and discussions about key topics such as ICANN multi-stakeholders model, Internet governance, DNS and IANA function and policy support, so we could have an overview about all of them and each one could focus on his area of interest in following days.
All sessions were useful and At the end of the day, we were asked to follow one of the following groups: Business, Technical, Civil Society and Government sector, certainly I did follow the technical guys with no hesitation!.
After that we had a “Fellowship Community Social” session which is a cool Networking session to meet fellows and ICANN communities members from the region and the world!.
It’s worth mentioning that my mentor for the fellowship program was Kwasi Wisdom, he did great job in helping\guiding me and sharing useful information prior to the event (Thanks Wisdom!), unfortunately he couldn’t make it to Los Angeles due to VISA challenges so it was recommended to move to another mentor who was in the ground, Afterwards I joined Sarah Kiden team (Smack Team) which was amazing! thanks Sarah and team for everything :), wish you have more details you may visit our website http://SmackTeam.com which I’ve created to document the team experience!
I Attended the morning session of 7:00 as well, we learned about NPOC (Not-for-Profit Operational Concerns Constituency) which is within the Non-Commercial Stakeholders’ Group (NCSG) and part of the Generic Names Supporting Organization (GNSO), simply this constituency is concerned about technical issues that face registered NGOs and and not-for-profit organizations in their service delivery.
Then we took a session about ccTLD (country code top level domain), which is reserved for countries such as .PS (Palestine), .US (USA), these domains serve local people and bound by the country laws and regulations and usually governments use this type of domains for their online presence to make it official and unique, however, some countries open their domains for international commercial use and they are free to do so!.
The great thing about these sessions that they were open! and you are free to ask whatsoever you want to experts!.
Next, we attended “Welcome Ceremony and President’s Opening Session” which is the
official opening session of ICANN51, hundreds of people; Internet innovators, government, business and Technology leaders attended from all over the world and some prominent figures spoke such as US Secretary of Commerce Penny Pritzker and ICANN president Fadi Chehade.
After this session ,we were free to choose whatever sessions we want so I followed the “Tech-Day” session and spent most of day there, it lasted till 5 PM and it included many presentations by IT professionals from leading vendors such as Google and Microsoft, some of these sessions were really intensive and dealing with deep technical details and some others were discussing high-level topics which is suitable to larger segment of people.
What surprised me honestly was the great deal of attention that DNS received!, most of presentations were discussing DNS related issues such as Disturbance in DNS, Cryptography methods, proxies, performance, which was new, very informative and useful!.
Then, all fellows were asked to attend “DNSSEC for Everybody: A Beginner’s Guide” session
and we never regretted this!, the most interesting part was the skit which illustrated: Normal DNS operation, DNS operation with man-in-the-middle attack and DNSSEC operation, for me it was the best DNS explanation I’ve ever seen! was very funny, simple and informative and all audience enjoyed!.
Finally, we attended a conversation session with Dr.Steve Crocker and Leonard Kleinrock who are key persons in Internet foundation, Dr.Crocker helped create the ARPANET protocols, created the very first RFC (Request For Comment) while Dr.Kleinrock published a paper in 1961 to provide a fundamental theory of Packet-Switching and his team created the first packet switching device (interface Message Processor).
It was very inspiring for us to listen to their history, stories and innovation!.
New Fellowship morning session, the guests were from the At-Large Advisory Committee (ALAC), Non-Commercial Stakeholder Group (NCSG) and Governmental Advisory Committee (GAC), they spoke about the purpose and work nature of these entities and discussed many related issues and there was an open discussion after each presentation, to summarize we can say that the main mission of ALAC is to bring the input of Internet users into the ICANN policy processes, so end-users can participate in ICANN decisions and its multi-stakeholders model, while NCSG is interested to represent the concerns of noncommercial registrants and internet users of generic Top-level Domains (gTLDs), regarding GAC as its name indicates: it delivers comments and advice from governments to ICANN about issues related to public policy.
Then I attended the “Board with the Commercial Stakeholders” session, this group
of stakeholders represents the views and concerns of Commercial Business Users, Intellectual Property owners and Internet Service Provider, after that I was very excited to attended “Internet Service Provider and Connectivity Providers Constituency meeting (ISPCP)“, especially that I’m working for an ISP and have experience in this domain, the attendees where from leading ISPs such as Orange, BT, AT&T and Comcast, generally the main concern of this constituency is Security and Stability of the Internet, and during the meeting the following key topics were discussed:
- Universal acceptance of gTLDs: to address Internet users concerns and obstacles in the use of the new Top Level Domains, for example: some websites may reject emails with new domain extension and give you an error message!, so ICANN role would be to work with all involved parties to resolve it.
- IANA Stewardship Transition; where IANA will be moved from the U.S government to the global multi stakeholders community.
- Name collisions, it happens when resolving a private server or webpage to public domain name by mistake.
Last session was for fellows only do discuss couple of things with Mama J, at the end she asked us to describe today’s thoughts in one word;mine was :ISP!.
In the evening, there was a Music Night in Intercontinental hotel so ICANN people can enjoy the music, play games and have fun!.
Our guests for the Fellowship morning session were from Security and Stability Advisory Committee (SSAC), Intellectual Property Constituency (IPC) and Internet Service and Connectivity Providers Constituency (ISCP), SSAC is concerned about the security and integrity of Internet naming and address allocation system which includes operational, administrative and registration matters, also they perform ongoing relevant threat and risks analysis, IPC Represents the interests of owners of intellectual property and concerned about related issues such as
trademarks, copyrights and their relationship with the domain name system, while ISCP represents ISP (Internet Service Providers) interests and concerns as mentioned before.
Then I chose to attend the “DNSSEC workshop“, it was pure technical focusing on DNS deployment and related issues such as Impact of Root Key Rollover, deployment in operating systems, monitoring and email services, I always enjoy Technical workshops but they need much more attention and concentration :).
In the evening we were planning to go to Santa Monica Pier to have some group pics with the Sunset!, we gathered in the lobby @5:00 PM and started going out as groups of fours by Taxis, my Taxi arrived a bit late, unfortunately we missed the sunset! and couldn’t meet other groups!, after a while we met some colleagues as well as Mama J, we took some pictures but it was dark and the Sunset has gone!, then there was no plan! each one was on his own, so I hanged out with some colleagues around the pier, had launch at McDonalds, passed by Apple store, had some shopping and left back to the hotel by bus.
Started with Morning Fellowship session as everyday, Mr.Fadi Chehade spoke and shared part of his successful story with us, after this we gathered and took our last photos together including the official one, on that time I was very delighted but on the other hand started counting down the end of this amazing journey! (I was always trying to forget about this fact 😦 )
Then, we attended the “NextGen@ICANN” presentations, the NextGeneration@ICANN is a new initiative to involve young people who are working on projects, research or doing activity related to the Internet and ICANN work, so they come to attend and to present their work.
Following that, I attended part of ICANN Public forum before leaving to my room for some rest.
In the evening, We attended the last session “ICANN51 Wrap-up cocktail“, had fun, networking, met new people then the moment of truth has arrived!; it’s the Goodbye time which is the worst part always :), I bid farewell to my friends and colleagues, left to my room, packed everything (including Amazon boxes!) and slept for two hours only to catch my early flight back home!, the way back was very exhausting! I had two long flights not to mention my mixed feelings!; very happy & glad for the experience that I’ve gone through; very sad for the moments and great friends that I’m gonna miss :).
The beautiful thing that here I’m blogging after two weeks and we are still in touch online; talking to each other on a daily basis and looking forward to having new experiences and meeting each other again; that’s ICANN and its spirit!.
Entertainment prior to the event
- San Francisco
Two weeks earlier, I arrived San Francisco after 28 hours of travel from home!, Actually I asked ICANN-travel gentlemen to book my outgoing ticket earlier so I can have fun in California!.
On my first day, I met with my friend Nidal and we hanged out around the Golden Gate Bridge but it was dark, cloudy and very cold so it doesn’t count :).
Next day, I met with my friend Amjad who works in SF, we had a great tour together; visited the Golden Gate Bridge and spent some time around and I can say that it’s really breathtaking! I could spend long hours there without getting bored, just relaxing and enjoying the atmosphere, Not an exaggeration to say it’s the best place I’ve ever been to after Niagara Falls :).
Moreover, We visited the down town, Lombard street, Union Square, had delicious launch at The Cheesecake factory and left back to the hotel.
- Yosemite National park
Next day, we hired a car from San Francisco Airport and headed to Yosemite National park to spend one day there, unfortunately our plan didn’t work as intended, we left the airport a bit late and arrived the hotel (in Mariposa) at 3:30 PM approximately!, one hour later we arrived the beginning of the park, so we had no much time, we visited the Redwood trees, Yosemite village and were able to see the “Tunnel view”.
Following that things started getting worse!, it got dark, no cellular phone service, no GPS, some streets were closed due to fire in the area and we started running out of fuel, no gas stations around and the worst part that we don’t know the way back to the hotel!, we were stranded and started getting worried! it was really like we are in a horror movie; trapped in a maze and will never make it out alive!.
Thank god, after a while we were able to find the right way and found a gas station and our problem got solved, sigh.
It was a nice and frightening experience, however such huge park needs a couple of days at least to enjoy as well as better planning.
- San Diego
Next day, we went out in the early morning to catch our flight from San Francisco to San Diego, and we barely made it due to heavy traffic in the long way back!.
In San Diego, we enjoyed our first day walking in the city, visited the old town, Balboa park and had Mexican launch!, next day we spent most of it in La Jolla beach, which was very cool and it was my first time swimming in the ocean!.
Next Day, we traveled from San Diego to Los Angeles by Amtrak train to have my ICANN great experience that I documented above!.