Welcome to Istanbul!

Chad selfie at the baggage claim exit in the Istanbul airport posing with the welcome sign, a huge light display, and a large image of Mustafa Kemal Attaturk

Whoa! The route is through Russian airspace! No polar route or southern bend for me this time. Turns out Turkish Air is one of the 55 that still fly through Russia: www.businessinsider.com/airlines-…

See you in 13h40m 👋

Photo of a back-of-seat monitor displaying a map of the world with a plane icon in Tokyo and destination icon in Istanbul, and a flight path arcing north with Novosibirsk at the top

The last time I was at T3 Haneda was before the border opened last year. It was a total ghost town, not one restaurant open and I had to eat at 7-11. Now it is full of tourists having late dinner at 9pm at a ton of open restaurants along halls designed to look like old Edo streets.

Almost time for wheels up! (Osaka Itami Airport)

Small twin prop plane at the gangway getting ready for flight. The sky is just after sunset and is dark orange and dark blue&10;

Just left the house. It is now 🚎🚌✈️✈️

Osaka → Haneda → Istanbul

Attending the Internet Governance Forum - Stakeholders

Presentation in progress. A panel of people sit on a stage. The speaker is projected onto a large screen with captions on the screen saying:Promote the use of technology and digital services while regulating the activities of big tech firms and data usage.

(This is a post in a series about attending the Internet Governance Forum 2023 in Kyoto.)

To describe where the Internet Governance Forum fits in terms of internet governance, we have to also describe the other stakeholders in the system. Internet governance is polycentric. The IGF is just one part of a network of stakeholders that hold influence over how the internet works. Its key mandate is to bring various stakeholders together in a forum to discuss public policy, which is a key differentiator from other technology fora.

Being an initiative of the UN, you might think that nation states are the only important stakeholder, but the IGF was designed from the beginning with multistakeholderism in mind. In fact, multistakeholderism was probably one of the top three topics discussed during the week in Kyoto, possibly triggered by the actions of China at previous meetings as it tried to use its influence as a big stakeholder to try and force internet governance into mere bilateralism (You can read a little background here. I asked people who were at the meeting in Ethiopia who told me some of the stunts being pulled by the Chinese contingent there. This year it seemed pretty quiet to my eyes.).

The IGF holds dear a key belief of a singular, unbroken, and supranational internet. Thus it tries to include a broad number of regional and international actors to come and weigh in on important debates. Let’s break down the organization of the IGF first, and then connect that up to the wider web of who else is involved in governing the net.

Breaking down the IGF

First you have the MAG, or Multistakeholder Advisory Group, which is made up of 56 representatives from various stakeholder groups. They meet a few times a year in order to execute the annual meeting (you can see the list of current MAG members here). The MAG is supported by the Secretariat, which is the UN staff based out of Geneva that support the activities of the MAG. This group of just 6 people are the only full-time staff of the IGF, and are ultimately responsible for running a global hybrid conference with 11,145 registrants. 😱

Beyond those two main parts, there are something called NRIs, or “National, Sub-Regional, Regional and Youth IGF initiatives.“ This is a wider network of smaller fora organized either geographically or around a specific theme, holding their own annual meetings. There about 123 regional and national IGFs recognized by the global IGF in Geneva (here is Canada’s and Japan’s). Youth Initiatives can be part of regional IGFs or independently organized. They are the IGF’s way of capacity building by increasing youth participation in internet governance.

The stakeholder community

So, the MAG, Secretariat, and NRIs engage with other stakeholders, bringing them to the table for policy discussion. The IGF groups stakeholders into the following five categories:

  • Government
  • Intergovernmental Organization
  • Civil Society
  • Private Sector
  • Technical Community

When you apply to attend, you must identify yourself as coming from one of those groups. When I looked at the participants list I counted about 4000 organizations being represented. That is from 178 countries. So, I won’t list all the stakeholders, but I can give a few examples to give you an idea:

  • For Government there are many lawmakers and representatives of agencies from different countries. A politician from Nigeria asked some incisive questions at a DNS session I was in, and I had a good hallway chat with a person from USAID.
  • Representatives from the UN, the EU, ITU etc are in the Intergovernmental Organization category. I was in a couple sessions with an OECD policy analyst working on Data Governance and Privacy who I liked.
  • Civil Society includes human rights NGOs and other advocacy groups. The Internet Society, Wikimedia Foundation, Access Now, and the Green Web Foundation. I was very impressed with the well-spoken Anita Gurumurthy, ED for IT for Change in India. Many of these people spoke up about the IGF being held in Saudi Arabia next year, feeling like this stakeholder group is being shut out.
  • The Private Sector group captures companies and interested individuals. I registered as this group. But it does contain large corporate interests. Attendees from Microsoft, Google, Netflix, and Meta were there. The head of public policy Cloudflare gave a couple of good sessions, and the Global Product Policy at Mozilla was very well-spoken.
  • The final group – Technical Community – is a big one which includes reps from Standards Developing Organizations (SDOs) like the IETF and W3C, professional orgs like IEEE, as well as important internet organizations like IANA which delegates IP numbers to the five Regional Internet Registries who coordinate via the Number Resource Organization (NRO). There was a large ICANN contingent in Kyoto, and booths from various operator organizations such as ISPs, IXPs, and Telcos like NTT. However, I felt that the technical presence was a bit lacking. More about this in another post.

One other group that was well-represented was academia. There were many scholars and students there, especially from Kyoto which is a college town.

Pie chart showing participation by stakeholder group: Government 16%, Intergovernmental Organization 6%, Civil Society 24%, Private Sector 37%, Technical Community 14%, Media 2%, Children 1%

Source: IGF 2023 Participation and Programme Statistics

So, who does really run the Internet?

Infographic answering the question Who runs the internet? by showing that: No one person, company, organization or government runs the Internet. and listing out many of the stakeholders involved
An heroic attempt at explaining how no single entity runs the internet, from the Wikipedia article on internet governance.

Internet governance is continuously evolving as we try and solve complex problems as the internet not only expands in usage across the world, but brings new problems due to scale. Since the first event in 2006, IGF participation has grown, especially with the ability to attend virtually. Here are the registration numbers for the last 10 years (includes both in-person and online):

  • Bali 2013 - 2,000
  • Istanbul 2014 - 3,694
  • João Pessoa 2015 - 2,130+ (couldn’t find online attendance stats)
  • Jalisco 2016 - 4,000
  • Geneva 2017 - 3,680
  • Paris 2018 - 4,400
  • Berlin 2019 - 5,679
  • Online 2020 - 6,150
  • Katowice 2021 - 10,371
  • Addis Ababa 2022 - 5,120
  • Kyoto 2023 - 11,145

More and more stakeholders are taking an interest. Countries may make the laws and look for input (or don’t) from other stakeholder groups, but they aren’t necessarily the final stop on the power spectrum. For example Mark Nottingham points out (in an excellent post!) that what standards orgs do is a kind of ”architectural regulation” which:

… sits alongside other modalities of regulation like law, norms, and markets. Where the FTC uses law, the IETF uses architecture – shaping behaviour by limiting what is possible in the world, rather than imposing ex post consequences.

That makes Standards Development Organizations another kind of Transnational Private Regulator (TPR).

There are many ways to get your say and how we govern the internet is not set in stone. We still have another 2.6 billion unconnected, the ongoing threat of a splinternet, geopolitics and geoeconomics amongst other influencing factors. And we need need NEED to have this communication and coordination infrastructure up and running if we are ever to work together globally in defeating the biggest existential threat on the planet: the climate crisis. Ultimately, this is why I find the IGF process so fascinating and intend to become a more engaged stakeholder.


Today, November 5th in the year of our lord Buddha 2567, the weather was 28 flippin’ degrees celcius here in Osaka 🥵


Screenshot of NERV weather app showing the high of 28° C in Osaka Miyakojima-ku

Took the new bike for a ride down the river this afternoon. Hit the old Sakuranomiya Public Hall, which used to be the entrance of the Japan Mint; across the street is the current Mint building; the bridge beside the Mint lit up with Osaka Castle top right; the Imperial Hotel with a dinner cruise.

A classic 19th c building with pillarsEntrance gate of the Japan Mint building. To the left is a sign: Japan Mint. To the right a sign: 造幣局 An arched bridge over the river lit up in early evening. In the background distance is Osaka CastleEarly evening the Imperial Osaka Hotel is lit up. Below is the river in the foreground with a dinner boat passing by

Been prepping for my trip to Istanbul next week. Getting excited! So much to see so I have to be choosy. If you have recommendations please share! 🛫🇹🇷

“Some thoughts are come in to your head to die… but if brain is sick enough?” Genius 👏👏👏 ⌨️



And now for a little specialty coffee. This is an Ethiopian bean from Tamiru’s Sky Project. You can learn more here shop.glitchcoffee.com/en/produc…

☕️ #coffee

Pour over coffee setup with brass ball Brownie covered in walnuts on a wooden platter beside a small coffee cup and flask of coffee. A

Found a nice little restaurant in the Asahi Newspaper buildings in downtown Osaka for lunch with my wife. I used to come to these buildings 20 years ago to train in jujutsu. A lot has changed!

Tendon and Nyumen lunch set with some pickled vegetables Monaka with home made red beans for dessert

Attending the Internet Governance Forum - Experience

Pond and garden of the KICC on a nice day. To the right is one of the a-frame buildings of the center

(This is a post in a series about attending the Internet Governance Forum 2023 in Kyoto.)

The Kyoto International Conference Center is a sprawling complex on the north side of the city, at the very last stop of the Kyoto Municipal Subway line. The subway exit features a circular chamber with a 10m wide IGF logo on the floor welcoming visitors. Hallways are lined with posters for the event, and two escalators later you exit to the ground floor and a red carpeted entrance.

10 meter across circular IGF2023 logo on the floor of a subway station

Participants take selfies at a couple of entrance displays before heading into the building and passing through one of about ten metal detectors. On the left of this “new hall” are about thirty booths where you can complete your registration and retrieve your security pass for the five day conference. UN Security personnel augment the facility security, with prefectural and national police positioned outside the building at secure points.

Display with two maple trees, one green and one turned red with the season. In the background is a picture of the Toji pagoda, above is a sign for the 18th Annual Meeting of the Internet Governance Forum. Chad takes a selfie at the entrance sign for the conference in front of a meter-tall novely #IGF2023 hashtag

The Kyoto International Conference Center is made up of a number of buildings but at the center is the original concrete building finished in 1966 in the style of Metobolism (a la the Nakagin Capsule Tower that was torn down last year in Tokyo). It has nary a straight wall, with vaulted ceilings that remind me of the shinmei-zukuri architecture on display at the Ise Grand Shrine in Mie (see a trip report from a few years ago).

It was here at the KICC in 1997 where the Kyoto Protocol bound the world in an ultimately failed commitment to lower greenhouse emissions and avoid the climate crisis. Luckily the Internet Governance Forum is a gathering for dialogue, without any mandate for decision-making. This freedom of discussion gives participants a chance to speak their mind and not temper their views in order to release a singular consensus-circumscribed statement.

The schedule of 355 sessions was broken down by a few tracks covering the following themes:

  • Al & Emerging Technologies
  • Avoiding Internet Fragmentation
  • Cybersecurity, Cybercrime and Online Safety
  • Data Governance and Trust
  • Digital Divides and Inclusion
  • Global Digital Governance and Cooperation
  • Human Rights and Freedoms
  • Sustainability & Environment

Each of the above themes was its own track, but there were also the cross-cutting:

  • High-Level Leaders Track
  • Youth Track
  • Parliamentary Track
  • Intersessional Work
  • Newcomers Track

That is a lot of content! Every room was equipped with a multi-camera setup and a whole A/V staff so you can watch all the videos on YouTube (with Spanish, French, Japanese, Russian, or Arabic simultaneous translation).

Every session I attended started about 10 minutes late. The speakers were all accomplished public speakers, especially notable considering that for many English would be their second, third, fourth, or fifth language. People would float in and out of the room, either checking it out to see if it was worth it, or seeing what they could before having to rush off to another session which clashed on the schedule.

There are many different sized rooms. A session might be in the main plenary hall, which seats 2000, or in a smaller side room shaped like a classroom for only a couple dozen people. Up on the sixth floor were a bunch of boardrooms where the invite-only bilateral meetings were held. There was a whole other conference going on up there.

Inside of the main KICC lobby with the green carpet and not-so-accessible staircases everywhere

Between sessions people would leave the wood-panelled rooms, cross wide fields of thick green carpet traversing stairs going in every direction past banquet tables laden with silver-aluminum kegs of conference coffee (a very special global brand that might also be the outcome of some international global standards conference decades ago), down one hall and then another, to the Annex or second Annex. At every juncture you were pretty much guaranteed to see a handful of the 6,279 on-site participants perusing large displays of the floor map, packets looking for the best path to their next session.

Attendees came from 178 countries. Many represented in their cultural regalia: you could see sari, topi, gele, and more. I was there as a boring middle-aged white North American in a blue striped buttondown and black slacks. 😅

Along the halls were low leather couches where people would meet, holding paper cups of coffee while deep in discussion in many different languages. Many people seemed to know one another. Or they might be typing into a laptop catching up on work, or even napping on a bundled up jacket catching up on sleep as they suffered jet lag.

At about 11:30, for two hours, lunch was served in the two great dining halls where people would gather and discuss over bento boxes or a plateful of buffet food. There was also a cafe area with an outside patio where people could enjoy the warm October Kyoto weather (and a cigarette… except for that one handsome French guy who dressed really well and smoked a pipe! ).

Light from the sun setting streams through the windows above the cafe area where people have gathered and are in conversation

At the end of the day, usually close to 7pm I would trudge back from the Annex, past the garden and by the lounge area, down the main stairs and across the bridge over the canal (with many police standing around on watch) to the Event Hall where all the now empty vendors booths are located, then out the New Hall past the metal detectors and into the cool evening air only to head into the underground for the subway home.


Monthly Newsletter is out!


IETF got backronym game 👏👏👏

  • SIP Best-practice Recommendations Against Network Dangers to privacY (sipbrandy)
  • DANE Authentication for Network Clients Everywhere (dance)
  • Serialising Extended Data About Times and Events (sedate)
  • WebRTC Ingest Signaling over HTTPS (wish)

Attending the Internet Governance Forum - An intro

Asst Secretary General Jinhua Li and Japanese Prime Minister Kishida enter the stage

The Internet Governance Forum is a multistakeholder forum established by the United Nations and held annually around the world since 2006. The 18th edition was held in Kyoto, the city in which I reside, so I decided to attend.

I have been to a few technical conferences, barricaded in rooms with passionate technologists arguing over the most minute details of a newly forming standard, but the IGF promised something different. This is a policy forum to discuss the societal impacts of digital technology worldwide. It is “multistakeholder” in that participants come not just from the national governments of UN member states, but also inter- and non-governmental organizations, private sector, and the technical community. The forum brings together people from all over the globe (11,145 registered participants with 6,279 from 178 countries showing up in person in Kyoto) to talk about how we should govern this supranational resource we call “the internet.” It is certainly my kind of place!

Over the five day period I attended just 21 of 355 sessions. My approach was simply to spend the entire conference listening and learning. I did not speak up during sessions, but approached panelists afterwards or in the halls including people from more familiar technical forae like the IETF, ICANN, and IEEE, but also many human rights activists, politicians, and even more lawyers. High-level speakers included people like Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, former PM Jacinda Ardern, Maria Ressa, Meredith Whittaker, Vint Cerf, and more. I spoke to many people on duty in the vendor booth area, including the policy team of Wikimedia, The Citizen Lab, Github, LEGO, and more. Each time I chatted with someone I would ask the same three questions:

  • How many IGFs have you been to?
  • Has it changed over the years?
  • What is the goal of your organization in attending?

That was usually enough to kick off a conversation, sometimes leading to a second convo, and always to an exchange of business cards.

I wanted to find out a few things: 1) why do people go to IGF? 2) why should the average dev working on an app care? and 3) as someone who works in tech, has an MA in International relations, how have I not heard of this before?!

There are many answers to those above questions, and I spent the five days from morning to night learning a lot about the structures and actors involved in internet governance. Too much for a single blog post, so I think I will post a series of shorter notes in the coming weeks. Some topics I would like broach are:

  • How the event was structured and what it was like shuffling from room to room
  • how the IGF fits into the global internet governance regime as a whole
  • Multistakeholderism and its challeng{es|ers}
  • What trending topics were being covered in the sessions and in the halls
  • Some of my memorable sessions and interactions

Outputs from the forum are still being released, so there might be some other topics to report on. If you have any questions or requests please let me know and I will try to cover those as I progress.

Posts in the Attending the Internet Governance Forum series


Another of Japan’s charming manhole covers

Manhole cover featuring Myakumyaku, the mysterious 5-eyed amoeba-like mascot for the 2025 Osaka Expo

Took the train up to Kyoto to the old apartment to pick up some things and see how the real estate agency interior designer staged the place with all kinds of modern furniture. We took some family selfies on the tiny European couch and at the dining table with the fancy plates 😂

Under the bridge art in Osaka

Wall mural depicting a leaping blue whale, rainbow, and other sea lifeWall mural depicting whales, a sailing ship, rainbows, and cherry blossoms

Well, we made it. Moved to Osaka successfully. Still some unpacking to do, but we made good progress. Really helps being minimalist 😅

Today at lunch the kids and I counted through every move we‘ve done since we first left Canada: 2020 = 4, 2021 = 3, 2022 = 3, 2023 = 1. We are getting good at it.