ICANN Picks Cerf's Successor

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ICANN sought to allay fears that come with leadership change as it announced a new chairman for the group, replacing the charismatic Vint Cerf.

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN) elected Peter Dengate Thrush, a board member who has been involved in ICANN since its inception, as its new chairman.

This will be the third chairman of the organization, which has also had three CEOs and many board chairmen, Cerf said. "The point is, this is a highly resilient organization that is fully capable of going through these kinds of changes," he said.

ICANN is a nonprofit organization that handles Internet management functions, some of which were originally performed by the U.S. government. For example, ICANN coordinates domain names and is currently working on ways to enable non-Latin words, such as Chinese characters, in domain names.

Earlier this year, ICANN CEO Paul Twomey said that the group was very concerned about the issue of filling the chairman position once Cerf stepped down. Cerf is widely known and respected, so following in his footsteps won't be an easy task.

But ICANN leaders said that Dengate Thrush is appropriate for the role, given his history with the group and even longer history involved with the Internet.

In addition, Cerf said it's significant that Dengate Thrush is from New Zealand. "This is the first time in ICANN history that the chairman of the board has been drawn from someplace other than the U.S.," Cerf said. Dengate Thrush, combined with other board members who are also from various different countries, points to the increasing globalization of the Internet, he said.

The international make up of the board is important against the backdrop of an ongoing effort to make ICANN fully autonomous. That's been a thorny issue for some people who want to push the management of the Internet away from a U.S. government function and toward an autonomous body.

Dengate Thrush, however, downplayed the importance of his nationality. His election is just another sign of the maturity of the organization, he said.

Cerf has been a member of ICANN since 1999 and chairman since 2000. He has said that he plans to distance himself from the organization, at least initially, and will instead focus more on other activities including his position as chief Internet evangelist at Google. He is considered one of the fathers of the Internet for his role in creating its basic architecture.

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