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Head Of ICANN To Resign At End Of Term

August 18, 2011

The head of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), which oversees the Internet’s infrastructure, announced that he will not seek another term and will be leaving the organization come next July.

Rod Beckstrom, the chief executive officer of the group, said he would complete his three-year term, a term that has been marked by moves to expand and internationalize the Internet address system. But these efforts have also brought Beckstrom and ICANN into conflict with governments, brand owners and others.

“I am incredibly proud of ICANN’s achievements throughout my tenure. In two short years we have advanced this organization to a new level of professionalism and productivity, and turned it into a genuinely multinational organization that will serve the world community long after my time here,” Beckstrom told AFP in a statement.

The announcement of Beckstrom’s departure could touch off more international conflict over control of ICANN and Internet governance. The organization, which was started up by the United States government, gained greater independence from the government in 2009, around the time when Beckstrom became president and CEO.

But some governments, including Russia and China, want to exercise greater control over Internet governance, perhaps through an organization like the International Telecommunications Union, which is run by the United Nations.

During Beckstrom’s tenure, ICANN has moved to reflect the increasingly international nature of the Internet, including adding the ability to render addresses in non-Latin alphabets and approving a plan for a vast expansion of so-called generic top-level domains (TLDs).

ICANN has also been piloting the shift to Internet Protocol version 6, the next generation of Internet addresses designed to replace the dwindling pool of 4.3 billion unique identifiers in the original system.

But another move, the soon-to-be-added .xxx domain, has been strongly opposed by a number of governments.

“ICANN’s potentially momentous change seems to have been made in a top-down star chamber,” Randall Rothenberg, CEO of the US Interactive Advertising Bureau, said in a letter to ICANN this week.

“There appears to have been no economic impact research, no full and open stakeholder discussions, and little concern for the delicate balance of the Internet ecosystem. This could be disastrous for the media brand owners we represent and the brand owners with which they work. We hope that ICANN will reconsider both this ill-considered decision and the process by which it was reached,” he said.

ICANN has not made plans to search for a successor to Beckstrom, who said at the time of his announcement that he remained “committed to leading this critical organization with the utmost dedication, and to living up to our common vision: One world, one Internet.”

Since 1998, ICANN has operated under an agreement with the Commerce Department’s National Telecommunications and Information Administration.

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