Could the ghost of ICANN past hold the keys to pushing through a present impasse, and help shape the organization’s future? 

A working group that’s trying to strengthen ICANN in order to pave the way for transitioning Internet domain name oversight has called on none other than Ira Magaziner, the Clinton administration's senior e-commerce policy advisor, to weigh in on a draft accountability plan for the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers. 

The Cross-Community Working Group on Enhancing ICANN Accountability (CCWG) asked Magaziner for help resolving some differences with ICANN’s board of directors, in a bid to avoid an impasse that could doom the plan. ICANN’s board has issued comments suggesting it would like the group to scale back plans to change ICANN’s corporate structure.

Magaziner developed the Clinton administration’s plan to turn domain name system management over to ICANN in the 1990s.  So it’s fitting that he’s now he’s advising a group that’s trying to clear the biggest remaining hurdle to completing that privatization. Magaziner has said the plan’s fundamentals are strong, but the group needs to simplify its message.

Magaziner recently followed up a conversation with the CCWG’s co-chairs with a brief memo offering four takeaways, including that the CCWG should try to reassure everyone that they are not trying to make radical changes to the current ICANN model; and that its proposal should be “as simple and straightforward as possible.”

The co-chairs appear to be taking Magaziner’s advice to heart. They are drafting a new summary document in an effort to explain their reasoning in plainer language.  We’ll keep watching the debate to see whether Magaziner’s intervention prevents the CCWG proposal from going the way of Jacob Marley.