Cerf steps down with cautious nod to ICANN reform

Robert Clark
05 Nov 2007
00:00

ICANN has a new chairman. New Zealand lawyer Dengate Thrush, who has been with the body since its founding, was voted in by the board last weekend to take over from Internet legend Vint Cerf.

Thrush is the first non-American to take the role as head of the non-profit body that oversees the Internet address system.

But I can't imagine the French or the Chinese celebrating this. ICANN now has a Kiwi chairman and an Australian CEO - natives of virtually the only two countries in the world that didn't join the Chinese and the EU campaign to bring domain governance under the ITU. The putsch failed, partly because of the ITU's own tepid popularity, but mostly because the US refused to budge.

Their complaint was that ICANN, which had been set up under the US Ministry of Commerce, should more properly come under an organization not affiliated to a single government.

The issue has not gone away. ICANN is a contentious organization, and will remain so no matter who runs it.

Naturally, Cerf's departure after seven years as chairman has attracted more attention. He wrote a farewell memo pointing to the tasks ahead, like embracing non-western language names, promoting IPv6, accommodating mobile addresses and better resolving disputes.

He admits there is "still work to be done" in establishing checks and balances that serve to make all aspect of ICANN's operation accountable and transparent, and in allowing independent reviews without also clogging up the policy-making process.

He cautiously refers to the possibility of a "more international framework" and even a fresh "organizational home" for government and NGO stakeholders.

The 64-year-old, who was one of the two architects of TCP/IP, keeps his job as Google's internet evangelist. His new task, apart from writing a number of books, is to devise an Internet architecture that will work across the solar system.

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