The chief executive of the oversight body for Internet domain names unfairly blind-sided the online community with a proposal to scrap direct elections of board members, critics complained.
At a key gathering of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, many Internet users and administrators on Wednesday denounced the proposed overhaul as misguided and premature.
"ICANN should operate with a high degree of transparency," said John Mamphey, assistant secretary-general for the Internet Society of Ghana. "It is the world democracy because all Internet users are affected by its decisions."
ICANN's regularly scheduled meeting this week was the first for commenting on chief executive Stuart Lynn's proposal to end direct elections. Instead, governments would nominate one-third of board members, with other seats filled by appointments from the private sector.
To demonstrate its international commitment, ICANN brought its high-tech conference to Ghana, a country where Internet access is limited to the elite and an hour's access costs nearly a month's salary at minimum wages.
The debate over ICANN's structure is mostly about who would manage and set policies for the Internet's naming system, which is key to how Internet users send e-mail and find Web sites.
In 1998, the US Commerce Department selected ICANN to take over the responsibilities from the government in hopes of leaving Internet oversight entirely in private hands.
But ICANN got bogged down over its representation and authority. Critics have complained that ICANN too often favors businesses and oversteps its mandate to focus strictly on technical issues. Meanwhile, some managers of country-specific domain names felt left out and refused to pay dues, equating them with taxation without representation.