Mission Impossible: My night at the ICANN TAS strategy room
Boredom was killing my gray matter slowly, having scanned the usual news on Domaining.com for the fourth time.
Nothing but blogger repetitions of Google alerts for “domains” and results from National Arbitration Forum newsletters.
I needed some hot action and I knew where to find it.
I dialed the number of a good friend of mine, let’s call her “Olga”. Her true identity must remain secret, or her mid six-figures job is at stake.
“Hey babe, I just have to compile an insider’s view at the ICANN gTLD headquarters, can you hook me up?” I asked.
Olga purred, moaned and grunted like a kitty in heat.
My boyish good looks and domainer charm engaged her feminine needs, even over the soulless copper cable. A few minutes later, my shameless flirting and promises of a passionate night produced results. I had an address and a time slot.
It’s not easy to enter the ICANN HQ.
One can go to the corporate address, but it’s impossible to get past the front desk wolverines, the executive assistants. It’s like the Russian embassy, only with fewer leggy blondes and more Hispanic brunettes. The place is a dot com castle.
The address I was given was six blocks away from the HQ. Or seven; I am not sure if I should be this accurate. Don’t try this alone, fellas, I also had a time slot – an exact hour and minute I could enter the premises.
The cab dropped me off a few yards away. I lit one last cigarette before stepping up the narrow, Mediterranean stucco stairway, then waited at the end of the corridor.
Exactly six minutes later, the door opened, as if I was expected. They knew I was arriving.
Inside, there was very little ambient light, but several dozen computer terminals were visible in the perimeter of the room. There was activity that I could not attribute to someone being excited about their job, working still at 7:30pm on a Friday. This was clearly the special shift, working through their special task list at the secret ICANN strategy room that managed gTLD applications.
“Hey, Lucius, come on in”, said a voice I had heard before on streaming media. Rod Beckstrom waved from behind a thick, oval crystal window overlooking the main cluster of ICANN workers. “Over here, buddy!”
I walked towards the room used by the powerful ICANN CEO, who seemed to be in charge and control of everything that happened inside the room, like a supervising bee of the entire beehive.
After the handshake, Rod pointed to the chair next to his busy, mahogany desk. Three laptops were crunching numbers. He sat in his chair and looked at me, smiling.
“So what can I do for you today, my friend? I was told you wanted to watch us at work, here at the TAS lab. We call it, the clusterfuck room!” said Rod, laughing loud.
Indeed, after the latest glitches with the gTLD applications, that incident qualified as a major setback in rolling out the new gTLDs on time. But ICANN had made progress, how much, I was anxious to find out.
“Looks like you are back on track, Rod,” I quipped. “So what’s going on with the new gTLD microcode that tracks applicants online? I heard you patched all the holes already.”
Rod smiled, his bright teeth illuminated by the light off the three number-crunching monitors. I was hoping for an exclusive view of the new software, something that allegedly cost a million dollars to develop.
“Well, let me tell you this, Lucius. Every TAS user that logs in, we now track their every keystroke, every single fucking tap they make in order to protect the data and information that is worth $350 million, thus far. This is not peanuts that we’re dealing here, Lucius. That’s money that will make ICANN grow one hundred times, in the course of the next five years. We are on track to become the first trillion dollar corporation!”
A shiver ran down my spine, as a surreal image of Rod popped in my head, counting the money in some secret vault, stashing away bars of gold and flipping through investment certificates of offshore accounts – making ICANN a true corporate superpower. Bigger than Apple, bigger than China itself.
“That’s cool, Rod,” I said – trying not to swallow hard. “I mean, I am truly impressed. From three TLDs, com, net, org to more than 2000 applications and $350 million in cash, just like that. Amazing. ICANN tracking the applicants’ log-ins and keystrokes, to ensure no data is leaked – very effective.”
Rod smiled, twiddled his thumbs and looked at the busy screens.
Suddenly, his face turned red – as red as it could possibly turn in the absence of light inside the dark, temperature-controlled headquarters of TAS labs.
“God damn it, not him again. I hate this job, I fu–ing hate it!” he yapped, typing away on one of the computers. “Motherf—er! If only he left me alone for a god damn while to do my god damn job!”
The room suddenly came alive with phone rings and murmurs from other offices adjacent to Beckstrom’s, and something told me that I was about to be escorted out.
I was right.
Beckstrom smiled, his face still red and with hands shaky from frustration; he shook my hand and led me out, towards the exit, but not before I managed to stuff a paper fresh from a laser jet printer into my pants.
Once outside, my eyes took a while to adjust to the light; the sun had already set on the other side of Marina del Rey, leaving behind a fiery orange trail in the horizon.
As soon as I took the paper out of my pants, recognized the picture and eloquent rhetoric skills of George Kirikos, who had just found yet another hole in the TAS system. ICANN was now on red alert and they’d spend the entire weekend fixing yet another glitch in the system that managed the company’s future – all $350 million dollars of it.
I crumbled the paper and tossed it on the side of the road, just as a cab turned the corner. I flagged it down.
Olga and I would spend the weekend together, having passionate sex at my hotel room, by the marina. After all, I had no money to repay her back for the scoop.