Has community participation in ICANN meetings rebounded now that in-person meetings have returned? That’s one possible interpretation of data released by the Org today.
ICANN said that ICANN 74, which concluded yesterday, had 1,817 attendees, of whom 917 showed up in The Hague in person, their first opportunity to travel to an ICANN meeting since November 2019. The remaining 900 participated remotely via Zoom.
If we take the top-line number, that’s the highest attendance of the pandemic era, and comparable to the Montréal meeting immediately prior to the arrival of the Covid-19, ICANN 66, where 1,894 people showed up.
But the top-line number from Montréal does not include off-site Zoom participants, which were counted separately and amounted to 1,752 people.
So the number of people “attending” ICANN meetings one way or the other has either returned to pre-pandemic levels, or has been cut in half, or even quartered, over the last two and a half years, depending on how you’re counting.
The fact that the 66 was an Annual General Meeting, with a longer, more cluttered agenda and more opportunities to engage for a broader range of people than the mid-year Policy Forum, probably had some impact on the numbers.
The 2019 Policy Forum, held in Morocco, attracted 1,186 in-person attendees and 2.909 off-site Zoom participants.
Regardless of whether you think Zoom users count as full participants or not, 917 bums on seats is the smallest attendance for any meeting since ICANN started counting.