ICANN has become weaker over the past four years.
As he approaches four years as CEO of ICANN, what will Göran Marby’s legacy be?
Five years from now, when people question why domain names are so much more expensive than they used to be, they’ll point to the process he oversaw in 2019 and 2020.
He lifted price controls on .org. Then .org was bought out by a private equity company. He rolled over to Verisign, accepting $20 million to fill a budget hole and giving the company the right to raise prices.
He completely threw out the optics of caring about public comment periods, despite giving lip service to their importance.
I’ve heard him described as ineffectual. Pushover might be a better term.
I have no inside look at what’s happening behind the closed doors of ICANN. But one has to wonder if he’s just trying to figure out the path of least resistance. What can ICANN do not to get sued and appease all of the companies that fill the non-profit’s coffers?
Is the blame solely on Marby, or is it also on a spineless board that’s also trying to find the path of least resistance?
ICANN’s changed stance on price controls is a key example. Who within ICANN decided to make this change? Why did Marby go along with it? Does the board care, or does it just want to deflect any criticism?
Zak Muscovitch recently wrote a letter (pdf) to ICANN’s board asking about its decision on .com. He wrote something that echoes a question I’ve been asking:
Your letter and the “Decision Paper” assert that “ICANN is not a price regulator”. This statement, which has become a reflexive refrain from ICANN management, deserves considerable scrutiny. It has never been the subject of any multistakeholder policy development process and appears to be a self-serving means of ICANN avoiding taking responsibility for its actions. If by “price regulator” you mean that ICANN is not a “government agency”, then of course ICANN is not a price regulator per se. But you have not offered a definition, and that argument would be a red herring, because ICANN has been setting prices for contracted parties since its inception.
Let’s face it, ICANN’s decision to no longer have a role in controlling prices is:
a. A recent change. It considered it back in 2006 when it renewed some contracts, but decided against it after community feedback.
b. A decision made by the organization itself and not the community.
After controlling prices of legacy top level domains from its origin, it has suddenly washed its hands of the responsibility.
Why? Because it’s the path of least resistance.
By deferring to outside parties, or the registries themselves, ICANN can avoid tough decisions. Weak organizations avoid making tough decisions. But weak organizations degrade themselves, and eventually, outside forces go for the jugular.
By becoming a spineless organization, ICANN is on a path to be made irrelevant.
That’s a shame.
Rob Monster - Epik.com says
Goran is the master of DoubleSpeak. He is amazing at it. Perhaps the best.
See this latest missive:
He is giving out “free ice in the winter”.
Nobody I know who has read it has any idea what it means. Pathetic.
Chad F says
Great reporting.. Let’s call him out directly, daily, and flood his email, daily, along with the other board members? Together as a group they will get the point but we need some accountability to these decisions. Ill put up some resources to file a lawsuit against him and ICANN.. We need answers and accountability with specific names, decisions and actions so they can just dug and run. Someone is pocketing something and these decisions should carry with them but we need action in the form a a billion dollar lawsuit and bring this issue to the global market media attention.. Its the single biggest risk to domain owners, centralized control and authority and our livelihood. ICA or another group needs to get this into legal disclosure and accountability.. I will help if someone takes the lead…
Göran Marby is the worst ICANN CEO ever (even worse than Fadi Chehade that is playing Goran as the puppet he is) and he is a POS.
Bring back Bod Reckstrom
Fire Göran Marby before more damage gets done.
He will be remembered as the guy who made the internet unpredictable.
Removing price caps is a good thing when at the same time registry contracts are put for bid.
Removing price caps without putting registry contracts for bid makes NO SENSE AT ALL !
It just attracts sharks that want to always suck more blood out of registrants.
One of ICANN’s bylaws is to act in the public interest (oops, he missed this one !)
Another one is to promote competition (oops, he missed that one too !)
Everytime there was a decision to make, Göran Marby always made the wrong choice.
-Removing price caps from .ORG / .BIZ… without putting contracts for bid.
-Allowing Verisign to change its contract 4 years before its term.
-Allowing Verisign to increase prices 7% 4 years out of 6.
-Taking a $20 million bribe from VERISIGN
-Giving Amazon the green light to .AMAZON while countries from the region were fully rejecting it.
-He also made a mockery of public comments.
-He renegotiated the contract with Verisign behind closed doors and asked for public comments afterwards, that’s putting the cart before the horse.
Göran Marby always bent over to big corporations at the expense of small people representing the majority.
FIRE Göran Marby now !!!
Goran will soon learn that accumulating elicit funds in return for favors won’t make you any smarter, any more likable, any funnier, or grant increased business acumen and at the end of the day, he’ll still be the same hapless failure he was before ICANN brought his puppet-ass in as a figurehead.
There are a lot of signs of institutional bias against domain registrants and domain investors at ICANN.
Just look at ICANN’s review of dot com comment period where it negated 9,000 comments in opposition to the contract change which included the price hikes by trying to tie it to a few activist registrars and the concerted efforts of the ICA.
Amazingly, ICANN played up the At-Large working groups lame, arrogant, tone-deaf Valentine’s middle finger to registrants it submitted to ICANN which did not object to price increases. ICANN claimed that At-Large represents 4 BILLION Internet users, implying that its comment carries magnitudes more weight and importance and dwarfs the 9,000 ACTUAL comments submitted in opposition were small beans in comparison. It is unlikely that 4 billion Internet users support price hikes on their domain names.
Regardless, the fact that ICANN is ACTIVELY ignoring the concerns of one constituency and ACTIVELY making arguments on favor of and promoting the narrative of the few powerful registries speaks volumes about the state of affairs at ICANN.
There is little doubt that there is something wrong taking place within ICANN that is, among other things, harming the financial interests of domain registrants and consumers.
The United States Department of Justice Antitrust Division told ICANN in 2008 that it should put TLD contracts out for bid at the end of each term so consumers could realize the benefits of competition. The DOJ was specifically referring to .com and .org Registry Agreements. This would fulfill ICANN’s mandate to promote competition. The DOJ Antitrust Division urged ICANN not award no-bid, perpetual monopoly licenses which never expire. This was the mechanism to discipline wholesale pricing (a way to keep prices in “check” and make sure prices are reasonable and fair.)
But ICANN rejected DOJ Antitrust Division advice – and continued to renew and award no-bid monopoly contracts that last in perpetuity. As a result, ICANN used price caps to ensure the monopoly operator does not act opportunistically by raising prices on a captive base of users. ICANN was the price regulator.
But now in 2019 and 2020, ICANN is erroneously claiming it is no longer a pricing regulator. When did ICANN decide this? Did ICANN tell anyone else? Did ICANN alert the DOJ that it was relinquishing this most significant mandate?
Let’s examine the current situation:
1. ICANN continues to award no-bid monopoly contracts
2. ICANN is telling the world it no longer wants to price regulate
Thus, we have a situation where there absolutely no pricing constraints on monopoly operators. And ICANN is playing right along and allowing VeriSign and PIR to increase prices in their cozy-cozy relationship – despite the fact that the actual cost to operate .com and .org have declined over the years!
If ICANN does not want to be a pricing regulator anymore – than it has an obligation to follow advice from the DOJ Antitrust Division and put the TLD contracts out for bid at the end of each term so consumers can realize the benefits of competition.
Or if ICANN is going to renew and award no-bid monopoly contracts that last in perpetuity – then it has an obligation to continue acting as the price regulator and using price caps to regulate and “constrain” these monopolies.
ICANN can take either path 1.) put TLD contacts out for tender or 2.) price regulate
However, we are witnessing the worst possible situation – which will cause direct harm to worldwide registrants throughout the world. ICANN, under Göran Marby’s leadership – has decided it will do neither.
You say this pretty often, can you share the source?
The most ludicrous issue in this whole matter is that ICANN had Verisign bound to the $7.85 price cap through November 30, 2024 as part of the 2016 .Com Registry Agreement. The 2016 .Com Registry Agreement did not expire until November 30, 2024.
But ICANN decided to amend its contract with Verisign more than 4 years early – allowing Verisign to raise prices – to facilitate the transfer of billions in supracompetitive profits from 144 million registrants into the hands of one for-profit company.
Further proof of ICANN’s bias is its claims that registrars such as GoDaddy and Namecheap are hypocrites for not supporting price increases for Verisign because they mark up domains a few dollars to their customers.
ICANN is the hypocrite here. While Godaddy may charge inflated prices at the retail level, it still must compete with other registrars and is entitled to make a profit on domains or any other value-added services they provide.
Even with Godaddy’s markups, its profit per domain is well below that of Verisign (and PIR). So ICANN is asserting that registrars cannot make a reasonable profit, but Verisign and PIR can enjoy 300% plus profit margins? Even if GoDaddy charges $12 per dot com registration, $8 of it is going to Verisign. And Verisign has no competition at all and is not forced to compete for its profits.
Again, why is ICANN promoting Verisign’s narrative here? And what is their motivation in doing so?
ICANN is being entirely dishonest when it is telling everyone it is not a pricing regulator.
ICANN is regulating prices today for .Net domains.
In 2017 – ICANN renewed the .Net Registry Agreement with Verisign – with 10% price caps. Furthermore, ICANN is requiring Verisign to pay ICANN $0.75 for each domain registration and renewal. This special arraignment is not in any other domain extension.
Furthermore, why does ICANN have this “special” fee for Verisign on only .Net domains? Why has Verisign not even bothered to remove this “special” fee or negotiated it out?
Well – here is how the situation works. Verisign plays cool – they know that the $0.75 should be negotiated out – as this is special and does not apply to any other TLD’s. But it will go along with ICANN’s request and continue to pay this “special” and extra fee. It is its way of providing ICANN with more money….buying influence….
And it knows in return – ICANN will look the other way with regards to the .com RA.
ICANN and Verisign are both co-conspirators in the restraint of trade.
That is unbelievable!
Sad that in the end such a surcharge is actually paid by registrants and passed on by Verisign to ICANN.
Why hasn’t more attention been paid to this abnormal $,75 per .NET domain payment Verisign is giving to ICANN?
That is unbelievable!
Sad that in the end such a surcharge is actually paid by registrants and passed on by Verisign to ICANN.
Why hasn’t more attention been paid to this $,75 per .NET domain payment Verisign is giving to ICANN?
They may not care for domain investors, but they sure like our money and the publicity we provide.
Mark Thorpe says
To be honest, Goran Marby should resign as President and CEO of ICANN.
I think his legacy will be obvious in due time. The shakedown of the ICANN cartel/mafia will have been all too easy for regulators due to Moron Goran’s actions. ICANN will be forced to hand the keys over to a better steward, or will be hampered forever going forward as in the last few years it has proven to the world that ICANN is not a viable model of governance. It has become terribly corrupt, ICANN will be broken apart and Moron Goran’s legacy will be forever put in Internet history. It is a shame he is such an idiot.
Kevin Murphy says
It might be fair to blame Marby because he’s the CEO, but let’s face it, he’s only been there for a few years. The lawyers who direct him have been there for 10, 15, 20 years, and many of the criticisms leveled fairly in this post also apply to previous CEOs. The “path of least resistance” might just be another way of saying “JJ made me do it”.
Göran Marby = Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus
Dr. Gregg McNair says
“A fish goes rotten from its head” .. Such an applicable saying!
Of course Mr Marby has been shown to be, at best, incompetent, but equally culpable is the Board of Directors which is responsible for so many pathetic decisions, which marginalised the grass roots ICANN stakeholders.
It is past time for dismissals and or resignations.
Excellent article Andrew!
I just wonder how anyone related to him would feel reading all these about him.I am sure he gets a kickback from whoever is fronting for his side of the deal.
What a Shame to be named Goran Marby.Short cut to money you going to die leaving.Should have preferred being honest .Your reputation is tarnished forever in the industry.
Time to put some teeth into it.
A class action against ICANN geared especially toward Göran Marby, Fadi and the full ICANN board.
These people cost billions of dollars in totally unjustified fees.
Göran Marby, Fadi and the full ICANN board must be held personally responsible, be fined billions and serve jail time.
Time to get our money back !
Everyone owning a domain name should be refunded at least $4 or $5 per year per domain.
This has lasted for far too long.
Registrants are not ICANN and Verisign cash cows.
If a class action law firm reads this and wants to jump in, count us in !
ICANN always feared VERISIGN.
From now on and with a class action, ICANN should MUCH MORE fear the power of 150 million registrants collectively.
United we win.
For years, ICANN failed to introduce competition at the registry level and ICANN failed to act in the public interest.
Each registrant should be refunded at least $4 or $5 per year per domain retroactively, that makes BILLIONS !
Time to get our money back !
Göran Marby said “After ongoing feedback from the Internet community and in close consultation with the #ICANN Board, ICANN org has decided to execute the amendment of the .COM Registry Agreement and the proposed binding Letter of Intent.”
Feedback from what Internet community??????? The feedback was 99.9% opposition and everyone told ICANN to not allow a monopolist to raise its prices any further. Everyone urged ICANN to reject the proposed agreement.
Everyone told ICANN there was no reason to walk back on the $7.85 price caps until 2024.
The Internet community told ICANN any price increase is unnecessary and entirely unwarranted.
Thus, it appears that the only feedback that really mattered was Verisign – and Göran Marby rejected everything else.
What Göran Marby should have said:
“After ongoing feedback from VeriSign and in close consultation with the #ICANN Board, ICANN org has decided to execute the amendment of the .COM Registry Agreement and the proposed binding Letter of Intent.”
Rubens Kuhl says
I don’t see Göran doing any better or worse than his predecessors. And ICANN movements out of price regulation go way back to Beckstrom’s tenure. You might want to blame Göran for not putting ICANN back on track, though.
Sophia Feng says
Bring back Bod Reckstrom!!!