As was announced, I represented Namecoin at ICANN58 in Copenhagen. Below is a brief summary of how it went.

  • I presented in the Emerging Identifier Technology Panel.
  • I presented in the Technical Experts Group / Board Joint Meeting.
  • A significant number of people in the ICANN community are interested in Namecoin.
  • While I have not attended previous ICANN events and therefore cannot evaluate this myself, my understanding is that the EIT panel session had an unusually large audience.
  • There is skepticism in the ICANN community of Namecoin’s ability to completely replace the DNS.
    • By far the most common reason for this skepticism is the concern that Namecoin may not be able to scale to DNS’s usage levels.
      • I fully agree that this is a good reason to be skeptical and that work needs to be done in this area.
    • Another concern raised was Namecoin’s lack of privacy in its current form (specifically the risk of transaction graph analysis).
      • The people who raised this concern appear to be satisfied that the Namecoin developers understand that this is a problem and that we intend to fix it. If we fail to fix it adequately, this concern is likely to become more of a big deal.
  • The ICANN community appears to be reasonably accepting of Namecoin’s role as an alternative to DNS; Namecoin makes different tradeoffs from DNS, is therefore likely to be optimal for a different userbase, and can co-exist with DNS in its current state.
  • Several people I met are interested in assisting Namecoin; we are following up with those people.
  • I ran out of business cards in my wallet 3 times in 3 days. Luckily, I carry a large stash of business cards with my travel laptop, so everyone who requested my business card received it.
  • My wallet is currently sufficiently full of business cards from ICANN58 attendees that I’m having trouble easily fitting my credit card into my wallet.
  • The joint meeting of ICANN’s Security and Stability Advisory Committee (SSAC) and the ICANN board included a segment on Special-Use Names and name collisions. For those who are unaware, this is of interest to Namecoin because it would be problematic for Namecoin if ICANN were to allow someone to purchase .bit as a standard DNS TLD.
    • Free-software-friendly video recording is hosted by
    • The above recording is converted from ICANN’s official Adobe Connect video recording. Copyright ICANN; used with permission.
    • The discussion of collisions between non-DNS names (such as Namecoin, though Namecoin wasn’t explicitly mentioned) and DNS names (such as if ICANN were to issue the .bit TLD to someone) begins at timestamp 42:25. I highly recommend watching the full segment, but some highlights include:
      • The SAC090 document “SSAC Advisory on the Stability of the Domain Namespace” was cited; most important are 3 Recommendations from SSAC (summarized by Jeremy, apologies for any errors):
        • Recognize that name collisions will always be with us, and they’re not going to go away. There’s no way to control how people use names.
        • It’s important to control the things that you can control: make sure that the parts of the namespace that ICANN controls are predictable (harmonize with private-use names). We need to allow private-use names to exist, in the spirit of innovation.
        • Since we recognize that we are not the only ones who have names that will look like TLD names, and the community is going to use that kind of stuff in an interesting way, we need to have procedures for dealing with other bodies who are going to be creating special-use names for their own purposes. It is important to establish regular communication, how we each recognize each other, how we’re going to work together, and set ourselves up for potentially others (besides IETF) who may want to create lists of names. Be prepared to deal with other groups who are going to have their own lists of names.
      • Steve Crocker (chair of the ICANN board) said the following:

        The IETF has a special names list, a reserved names list, but my understanding is that that’s not a definitive list in the following sense. It takes a while before a name gets onto that list. So, it tends to be on the conservative side. There are other names that are in use but have not gone through an IETF process. From where we’re sitting over at ICANN, if we want to be conservative, we would take into account not only the names on the reserve list from the IETF but also other names where it’s evident there is usage but nobody has come along and said we’re going to – you should reserve this and reserve this and so forth. So, I would think that our obligation is to have a somewhat wider field of view, including not only the official list but also what’s actually happening in the real world. And I can anticipate arguments that say well, there’s no official reason to reject this name [for ICANN issuance, e.g. someone buying the .bit TLD for non-Namecoin use], therefore you must accept it. I would say just the opposite, that we have an obligation to be careful, and if we see reasons why a name should not be allocated, then we have that authority, we have that obligation to do that and to err on the side of caution there.

    • I consider this an extremely good sign.
  • In response to a question in the Public Forum 2 about whether ICANN was looking into adopting Namecoin, Steve Crocker (chair of the ICANN board) commented “These things take time.” The full question and answer are in the ICANN transcript, pages 25-28. Steve’s comment is, in my opinion, a completely reasonable response.
  • We plan to continue engaging with the ICANN community.
  • We plan to continue engaging with IETF on Special-Use Name registration.
  • At this time, I have no reason to expect any hostile action by ICANN toward Namecoin.

As with other conferences, I won’t be releasing details of private conversations, because I want people to be able to talk to me at conferences without being worried that off-the-cuff comments will be publicly published. That said, all of the private conversations I engaged in were highly encouraging.

Huge thanks to David Conrad (ICANN CTO) for inviting me to attend ICANN58, and to Adiel Akplogan (ICANN VP of Technical Engagement) for inviting me to the EIT Panel. Also thanks to ICANN for covering my travel expenses. I hope we can do this again sometime.