Sep 22, 2003
enoss
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Verisign, SiteFinder and Stewardship

Stewardship….One who manages another's property, finances, or other affairs.

I have been thinking alot about stewardship lately in my role as CEO of Tucows and how that relates to employees, a board of directors and investors. Where I got to, which is not necessarily relevant for this post, is that stewardship need exist at EVERY level of a company and a life.

With the recent dustup created by Verisign's new Sitefinder service it has crystallized for me what has always bothered me about the .com/.net registry and the way Verisign has approached it.

I must first say that VGRS has improved its attitude and approach over the last couple years. There are a number of people that I like there. Most seem to really want to do a good job. That being said there is not, and has never been, a sense of stewardship in the operation of the registry.

The internet works so well because of its distributed nature. The whole elegance of small pieces loosely joined and the fact that enlightened self-interest exists in all the right places makes the system work so well.

Sometimes I just marvel at it. The Howard Dean thing was/is astonishing to me. The Wesley Clark thing even more so. Now the results that Verisign is immediately experiencing as a result of this fiasco are proof again of its efficiency.

Of course there is a lawsuit. Then another. There is the significant reputation hit. I won't bother with links to the many lists which are full of discussion on this. I will say I have NEVER heard the Internet speak so loudly and in one voice. I don't know what this [LINK] means or this (note: you need to vote to see the results) or this but they can't be good things. These aren't the things of most consequnce to them long-term in my view. It will first be the fact that thousands of networks (tens of thousands?) have now routed around them . This has significant long-term implications for Verisign and for the Internet. It also means that the Internet has just become more distributed and a little healthier in the long-run. What doesn't kill it makes it stronger.

Someone, well Esther once said (although she put the quote in the mouth of some general that I cannot remember) “nature does not grow towards goals, it routes around obstacles”. Well so does the Internet, and it just did.

Oh and the worst thing for Verisign is that, IMHO, the renewal on .net (2004?) and .com (2007) just went from a near-certainty to not. Although a bit like handicapping the 2005 Super Bowl at this point I would say the chance of losing the contracts just went from 1-2% to 10-20%. That is a very real issue.

The .com and .net TLDs are key infrastructure and part of the fabric of the Internet. They are a global resource. The contract to operate them should be looked on as a privilege. The operator should treat it as such. That does not mean it is a charity, nor does it mean that it is any way non-commercial. It does mean they are being paid a lot of money to be caretaker of a jewel. They should treat it that way.

Which brings me back to stewardship. We all should bring a sense of stewardship to as much of our lives as possible. As friends, as family members, as employers, as employees and as citizens on both a national and global level. When we do we will be rewarded over and over again. When we don't there will be consequences. They may take a short time. They may take a long time. But they will happen.

Now isn't life simple ;-).

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I am elliot noss.

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