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The Tale of the People with the Long, Gray Beards and Their VIP NGO Friends (An Internet Fable)
1999-07-13 22:46:32


Digital Gar Gar Gar!
 
It is 100% proven that BSD has a better mascot.
-- Ratsnatcher

 

Internet watchdog Thom Stark explains why Al Gore HAD TO INVENT THE INTERNET to protect you and me from the secret net cabal known as the "Graybeards." Along the way Stark demystifies their incantations and mystical code words -- ISOC, IETF, NSI, NGO, and many more.

A long time ago, in an Internet far, far away, the legal expenses of the people with long, gray beards who theoretically are supposed to thrash out all the technical things that make the Internet work -- they call themselves the Internet Engineering Task Force, by the way -- were paid for by you and me and our Aunt Minnie.

Which is to say the National Science Foundation paid their bills, using tax money from red-blooded Americans (including some who would eventually become the angry, jealous people -- but that didn't happen until later.)

Then, shortly after Al Gore invented the Internet, (which didn't actually need inventing, since it had already been invented, but, what the hell,) the bureaucrats in the NSF decided to stop paying the IETF's bills -- only they called it "privatizing" the IETF, because that sounds better than "cutting off your allowance." Well, of course, Something Had To Be Done, because the poor, bereft IETF kids were running around loose without a shred of liability insurance and we certainly couldn't have THAT, now could we?

The
GraybeardsSo the self-appointed graybeards of the Internet -- many of whom actually did have long, gray beards, such as the ones sported by Vinton Cerf, Scott Bradner and Jon Postel (whose beard has stopped growing now, because he's dead) -- got together and decided that the thing to do was to start a non-profit organization that could charge its members dues that, in turn, would pay for the insurance on the House That the IETF Built.

And that's just what they did.

They were very proud of their shiny new organization. They called it the Internet Society (or ISOC, for short, because they were ever so fond of acronyms) and they proudly announced to the world that their bouncing baby NPO (which stands for Non-Profit Organization and is an acronym, just like ISOC) was going to take responsibility for Bringing the Internet to the Masses.

Now a lot of people laughed at this, because, at the time, the Internet was mostly for people with long, gray beards and other academic types -- them and the U.S. military, that is.

You see, the people with the long, gray beards who started ISOC to Bring The Internet To The Masses were all members of the IETF themselves. Many of them were also members of something called the Internet Advisory Board (which eventually changed its name to the Internet Architecture Board, so that it could hang on to its own acronym, IAB, but have a fully-inflated name that sounded even more important) -- or of the Internet Engineering Steering Group or of the Internet Research Task Force (both of which have their own nifty acronyms) or were Jon Postel, who was the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority and had an acronym all to himself -- and who was not dead yet.

And that's when the trouble started.

The problem was that the people with the long, gray beards were SO fond of acronyms that they weren't content with the ones they already had. No, they longed to hang around with other people who could boast their own cool acronyms. Only those other people didn't belong to mere NPOs, because NPOs just weren't important enough for them. THEY belonged to NGOs -- which stands for Non-Governmental Organizations -- and they flew first class all over the world and stayed in luxury hotels because they were such VIPs (which stands for Very Important People and is a very different state of being than the lowly Masses that the people with the long, gray beards that ran ISOC originally set out to Bring The Internet To).

Naturally, the people with the long, gray beards couldn't help but be jealous of their new-found VIP NGO friends, because NGOs were ever so much cooler than mere NPOs. And, of course, the people with the long, gray beards wanted to be VIPs themselves and have their own NGO to play with so that they could fly first class all over the world and stay in luxury hotels with their new VIP NGO friends.

Then one day, the NSF -- which had provided the people with the long, gray beards with a motive to set up ISOC when it booted their beloved IETF out into the cold, cruel world -- decided it was tired of paying the bills for something called the Domain Name System (which had its own acronym) and it decided to "privatize" THAT, too.

Well, that made the people with the long, gray beards very nervous, because the DNS made the Internet run -- especially the World Wide Web, which was the part of the Internet Al Gore didn't invent. But the NSF assured the people with the long, gray beards that privatizing the DNS was really just an "experiment" and the NSF was actually going to keep paying the bills for the DNS -- they were just going to hire somebody else to run it.

The somebody else that the NSF hired to run the DNS that ran the Internet was a company called Network Solutions, Incorporated (whose acronym was NSI). And everyone was happy with the way NSI ran DNS for the NSF. (Except General Atomics, that is. But that's another story -- a story that doesn't have nearly as many acronyms as this one.)

And then the NSF got tired of paying the bills for the DNS and told NSI it could start charging for it and all hell broke loose.

You see, just about the time the NSF told NSI to charge for DNS, the WWW (which was the acronym for the World Wide Web -- the part of the Internet that Al Gore didn't invent) started growing like a metastatic tumor. And businesses started to take over the Internet -- which up to then had mostly been for people with long, gray beards and other academic types (and the U.S. military, of course) -- and private companies started to create new technical standards all higgledy-piggledy without even asking the IETF for permission first and the Masses that ISOC had always said it wanted to Bring The Internet To actually started to swarm onto the Internet like ants invading a sugar jar and things got all complicated and messy and impossible to control.

And the people with the long, gray beards didn't like that at all. They wanted things to be like they used to be, back when they were in charge.

Now, with all the business people and those pesky Masses on the Internet, NSI started making lots and lots and LOTS of money by charging for the DNS. And all kinds of people who wanted to get rich themselves got really je alous and angry and they began demanding that Jon Postel -- who was still IANA, because he wasn't dead yet -- Do Something about NSI's monopoly on all that lovely money.

So Jon Postel -- who was IANA and had an acronym all to himself -- went to ISOC and its VIP NGO friends, INTA and ITU and WIPO (oh my!) and suggested they set up an International Ad Hoc Committee to wrestle the DNS away from NSI.

The people with the long, gray beards and their VIP NGO friends in the IAHC settled down behind closed doors and managed to Cut A Deal. And, my oh my, were they ever surprised when it turned out that all the jealous, angry people who had demanded that Jon Postel -- who, after all, WAS still IANA and wasn't dead yet -- Do Something about NSI's monopoly on all that lovely DNS money so that they could get rich, too, were even angrier at THEM for cutting their deal behind closed doors.

"But we are the people with the long, gray beards!" they protested. "And these are our VIP NGO friends! Don't you understand that we Know What's Best for the Internet?"

And, naturally, that made the jealous, angry people who hadn't gotten rich yet even angrier at ISOC and its VIP NGO friends and even more jealous of NSI and all its lovely DNS money.

Many of the jealous, angry people who wanted to get rich, too, wrote to their Congressmen and complained bitterly about how unfair it was that the people with the long, gray beards and their VIP NGO friends had Cut A Deal without them. Sensing an Issue, the Congressmen promised the jealous, angry people who wanted to get rich, too, that they would Investigate the Deal that the people with the long, gray beards and their VIP NGO friends had cut behind closed doors, because, after all, it was the U.S. taxpayers who had paid to build the damned Internet in the first place.

The jealous, angry people also wrote to the President, and HE made the Commerce Department promise to Investigate the deal that the people with the long, gray beards and their VIP NGO friends had cut behind closed doors, without even making the jealous, angry people rich, too.

The people with the long, gray beards and their VIP NGO friends weren't about to let a minor obstacle like simultaneous Congressional and Cabinet Investigations stop them from plunging ahead with the deal they had cut behind closed doors without including the jealous, angry people who wanted to get as rich as NSI was from all that lovely DNS money. But the people with the long, gray beards and their VIP NGO friends realized that the jealous, angry people were SO angry at them that the only thing they could do was to lock the IAHC up in the basement like a crazy aunt and start up a new NGO with an even more impressive acronym to replace it.

And that's just what they did.

The people with the long, gray beards and their VIP NGO friends created something called the gTLD-MoU to carry out the deal they had cut behind closed doors without including the jealous, angry people who wanted to get as rich as NSI. And, the gTLD-MoU immediately started spewing new acronyms -- like ACP and CORE and POC and PAB -- and issuing press releases and generally making a big fuss over how important it was for everyone to support the deal the IAHC had cut behind closed doors, because the gTLD-MoU was run by the people with the long, gray beards and their VIP NGO friends and they were absolutely certain that they Knew What Was Best for the Internet.

So, of course, just about that time, the Commerce Department -- prodded by the Congressmen who sensed an Issue and by the angry, jealous people who were even more determined to get as rich as NSI was from all that lovely DNS money -- stepped in and told the gTLD-MoU (which was based in Switzerland, after all) where it could stick the deal the people with the long, gray beards and their VIP NGO friends had cut behind closed doors without including the jealous, angry people.

Meanwhile, back in the U.S., NSI got tired of having to parcel out Internet Protocol addresses because that was a lot less fun than DNS and it didn't make NSI any money at all. So NSI decided it needed a new acronym of its own and it started the American Registry for Internet Numbers -- which was a NPO, like ISOC used to be -- and gave ARIN its IP registry as a present, just like the settlers on the American frontier gave the Indians smal lpox-infected blankets as a present.

ARIN, which had no money of its own, decided to start charging Internet Service Providers -- who had their own acronym -- for IP addresses. That made NSI many new friends -- just in time for the people with the long, gray beards and their VIP NGO friends to try cutting A New Deal to wrestle the DNS (and all its lovely money) away from NSI.

Fortunately for NSI, the people with the long, gray beards and their VIP NGO friends made most of the same mistakes with their second attempt at Cutting A Deal as they had with the IAHC and its ugly stepchild, the gTLD-MoU -- although this time they at least gave it a name that made for a really nifty acronym.

They called it the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers.

Unfortunately for the Masses that the people with the long, gray beards kept insisting they wanted to Bring The Internet To, they and their VIP NGO friends managed once again to stuff ICANN's "interim" board with the same old fogies who Knew What's Best for the Internet and, once again, those old fogies Cut A Deal behind closed doors. And, of course, they left the angry, jealous people who wanted to get as rich as NSI was from all that lo vely DNS money standing out in the rain. And Jon Postel was finally dead, so he couldn't tell them what a mistake that was.

Then, since -- just like poor, undernourished ARIN -- ICANN didn't have any money of its own, the "interim board" decided it ought to have some of the lovely DNS money that NSI had enjoyed for so long. So ICANN's "interim board" decided that every DNS customer ought to give it a dollar -- and that all the jealous, angry people who wanted to get as rich as NSI was from the DNS ought to give NSI nine dollars for every customer they stole fr om NSI.

Of course, the Commerce Department and the Congressmen who sensed an Issue and the angry, jealous people who wanted to get as rich as NSI was from the DNS were very upset with all the people with the long, gray beards and their VIP NGO friends in ICANN. They told the people with the long, gray beards and their VIP NGO friends that ICANN's "interim board" couldn't make every DNS customer give ICANN a dollar.

"But you don't understand," the people with the long, gray beards and their VIP NGO friends protested, "We're just trying to Do The Right Thing."

"No," said the Commerce Department to the people with the long, gray beards and their VIP NGO friends in ICANN, "YOU don't understand. Making every DNS customer give you a dollar is called 'imposing a tax'. Only The Government can impose a tax -- and you are not The Goverment. You are not even an NGO. You are just an NPO -- and you can't have a dollar from every DNS customer -- at least, not until you replace your 'interim board' with a board elected by the angry, jealous people who want to get as rich as NSI is from all that lovely DNS money. And you have to stop meeting behind closed doors, too. It's dark in there and there might be spiders."

"But," the people with the long, gray beards and their VIP NGO friends sputtered, "we Know What's Best for the Internet -- and we're trying ever so hard to Do The Right Thing."

"That's another thing," responded the Commerce Department and the Congressmen who sensed an Issue and the jealous, angry people who wanted to get as rich as NSI was from all that lovely DNS money, "What makes you think yo u Know What's Best for the Internet, anyway?"

"Why," replied the people with the long, gray beards, "because we've been around since before the beginning. We're the people who invented the Internet."

Gore Invents Linux "No you're not," said the angry, jealous people who wanted to get as rich as NSI was from all that lovely DNS money and the Congressmen who sensed an Issue and the Commerce Department.

"Everyone knows Al Gore invented the Internet."



Copyright © 1999 by Thom Stark -- all rights reserved

Over.  End of Story.  Go home now.

hundred@pigdog.org


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