ICANN, the global coordinator for the Internet’s system of domains, reported spending $72 million out of its $74 million revenue in the six months leading up to December 31, 2023. This expenditure significantly exceeded the $67 million that had been budgeted for the period, marking a deviation from planned financial management.

The bulk of this overspend was attributed to activities within the Community and Engagement reporting segment. Specifically, costs associated with ICANN78, community programs, and meetings support were notably higher than anticipated. ICANN78, held in Hamburg last October, alone accounted for about $900,000 of the unexpected expenses, primarily due to increased airfares and the need to conduct more sessions than initially planned. Additionally, about $100,000 was spent on celebrating ICANN’s 25th anniversary, an event that, amusingly, hadn’t been factored into the budget.

The impact of these decisions

The financial overshoot has raised eyebrows, especially considering that ICANN described its revenue as “flat.” A breakdown of the numbers reveals a shortfall of approximately $1 million in both registry and registrar transaction fees, likely linked to a decrease in .com sales managed by Verisign during the period. This discrepancy highlights the challenges faced by ICANN in forecasting and managing its financial resources effectively.

To prevent future fiscal discrepancies, ICANN may need to implement stricter financial oversight mechanisms. This could involve more frequent budget reviews, enhanced scrutiny of projected vs. actual spending, and the establishment of contingency funds for unforeseen expenses. By adopting a more granular approach to financial planning, ICANN can better align its expenditures with its strategic objectives.

Celebrating 25 years of navigating the internet's vast seas, ICANN makes a splash with a budget that flows a little too freely.
Celebrating 25 years of navigating the internet’s vast seas, ICANN makes a splash with a budget that flows a little too freely.

What does this mean for the future?

The fiscal misstep by ICANN serves as a critical learning opportunity for the organization. With Hamburg’s meeting being the most expensive post-pandemic, costing around $5.4 million and attracting over 2,500 attendees, it’s clear that the scale and scope of ICANN’s activities have grown. However, this growth must be matched with more rigorous financial planning and management to prevent future budgetary overruns.

As ICANN moves forward, stakeholders will be keenly watching how it adjusts its financial strategies to ensure that such a significant discrepancy does not occur again. The organization’s ability to adapt and refine its budgeting process will be crucial in maintaining its credibility and effectiveness in coordinating the global internet’s naming system.


ICANN’s recent financial overspend highlights the complexities and challenges of managing the finances of an organization that plays a crucial role in the functioning of the global internet. As ICANN continues to navigate these challenges, the lessons learned from this fiscal misadventure will undoubtedly shape its financial management strategies for years to come.