August 06

Discovery Track Team Plans to Test a Unified Identity System for Internet Governance

During our research, many interview subjects spoke to the difficulty of comprehending the people and organizations involved in the global Internet governance community. By creating visibility and access to this network, the Discovery Track team hopes to let newcomers and existing community members more efficiently find relevant people and groups to connect with. Coming out of last week's ICANN Labs Kick-off Workshop, the team started laying out a product vision in the form of a hypothesis. Read on for their product vision, the riskiest assumptions associated with that vision, and the team's plan for mitigating those risks in the form of ongoing experiments. You can follow the team's progress and contribute your own thoughts on the Discovery Track page and through the ICANN Labs newsletter. We welcome your thoughts on our product vision and first experiment in the comments below.

Product Vision

We believe that ICANN and the Internet governance sector at large would benefit from a unified identity system that generates relevant and trusted social profiles for individuals and groups across governance organizations.

The benefit of this kind of identity system are at least two-fold:

  1. Newcomers with a general interest in Internet governance could discover relevant individuals and groups through social profiles; and

  2. ICANN could connect newcomers to other Internet governance organizations that might be better positioned to meet particular needs, thereby leveraging the global ecosystem of Internet governance organizations.

Risky Assumptions

  • Community members across Internet governance organizations will participate by making or claiming pre-generated social profiles.
  • A unified identity system with social profiles will allow newcomers to understand the parameters of ICANN’s mission, and how ICANN fits into the broader Internet governance ecosystem.
  • We can obtain the structured and unstructured data across Internet governance organizations to make useful profiles for both individuals and organizations.
  • Individuals and groups across disparate Internet governance organizations will participate in a unified identify system.
  • Even if we aggregate relevant data on these profiles, can we create an effective search and recommendations platform to meet the needs of users?


We believe that newcomers and Internet governance community members will value the unified identity system that we develop. Discovering social profiles of relevant people and organizations will deepen engagement and increase their level of participation in Internet governance. We also believe that we can create these social profiles using public data.


  • ICANN newcomers and existing community members.
  • Newcomers and members of other Internet governance organizations (e.g. ITU, IGF, ISOC).


8/8 - 8/13


  • Create 20 profiles of Internet governance community members across ICANN and associated organizations using publicly available information. Profiles should be representative of key individuals and groups within ICANN and Internet governance organizations at large.
  • Demonstrate the value of these social profiles through qualitative interviews and quantitative tests among newcomers and existing community members.


  • Select 20 prominent people and organizations from the Internet governance community to generate profiles.
  • Design and develop a digital profile template for people and for organizations.
  • Build 20 profile pages from data collected publicly from Internet governance websites, LinkedIn, Twitter, Wikipedia, et. al.
  • Among the 20 profile pages that we create, can we recommend certain pages based on some basic understanding of a newcomer user’s particular interest in Internet governance? (e.g. civil society, commercial, technology)
  • Evaluative the experience through qualitative interviews and quantitative tests.

- ICANNLabs Discovery Track Team (


Posted by Bertrand de LA CHAPELLE over 2 years ago.

Would be interesting to draw lessons from ICANNWiki. Attention to the privacy issue: would such profiles be generated by the community members or automatically?

Posted by Paul Henrich over 2 years ago.

Hi Bertrand,

For the experiment phase, we are creating profiles for 20 public figures in the internet governance community using only publicly available data, from e.g. LinkedIn,, and ICANNWiki. The purpose of this experiment is to test the information value of the profiles. If our hypothesis is supported, one approach we are considering for a larger scale implementation is creating limited stub profiles that people can claim and edit (or delete).

I'm interested in your perspective on such an approach and the lessons we could draw from ICANNWiki, and I'd love to talk if you have time. I'm paulhenrich on skype or you can reach me by email at


Paul Henrich
ICANNLabs Discovery Track

Posted by Grigori Saghyan over 2 years ago.

I think all available sources will provide information, which is self identification of each public figure. Reason - because there is no such formal position "internet governance officer" in any governmental or non-governmental or commercial organisation.
Grigori Saghyan

Posted by Dr Ben Fuller over 2 years ago.

Interacting with new people and groups of people is a two way process. While it is important to identify and inculcate newcomers to the ICANN process (I always like to think of it as a process), it is perhaps more important to have a clear message of what ICANN is, stands for, and actually does -- both in a formal and informal sense. There is the ICANN that has sessions over a week or so in three different places every year, and there is the ICANN that thrives between the cups of coffee and glasses of wine in the hallways and social gatherings. Distilling all of this into a clear message is key. That way people have an idea of what to expect. More importantly people don't feel let down after they engage with ICANN because of misplaced expectations of what ICANN can give to them.

Posted by Paul Henrich over 2 years ago.

Hi Grigori,

Thanks for your comment. You're right that there are sources all over the internet for this. I mentioned ICANNWiki because we're starting with a focus on ICANN. I would be interested to know how you find out about participants in internet governance as a whole. What websites do you use for this?

You may also be interested to know that we're thinking about how this could grow into a federated system.

ICANN Labs Discovery Track

Posted by Paul over 2 years ago.

Dr Fuller: Thank you, belatedly for your comment. It was great getting a chance to speak with you on skype about your experiences with ICANN and learning about how you see Passport and ICANN Labs.

ICANN Labs Discovery Track