PRAGUE, June 24 -- The new chief executive of the domain name overseer ICANN promised during the opening ceremonies of a meeting here that every decision he makes in his new job will be "in the public interest."
This past Friday, ICANN announced the hiring of Fadi Chehadé, an entrepreneur with limited experience in the insulated world of domain names, as its CEO. He will start in October. The organization faces some of the biggest controversies in its history -- including the accusation that it has drifted from a public-interest nonprofit overseeing a critical global resource to an industry association beholden to big-money domain interests.
Fadi Chehadé is a US citizen who grew up in Egypt and Lebanon. He left the Middle East in 1980, when he was 18. He earned a computer science degree and put himself through school by working restaurant jobs. A master's degree at Stanford followed, as did time at Bell Labs and entrepreneurial stints that put him in the negotiating spot with some of the world's largest technology companies, including IBM.
During his speech to kick off ICANN's nearly weeklong meeting in Prague, Chehadé emphasized his plan to listen to the full range of voices in the Internet community. He teared up when thanking his family for supporting him in what many would call an impossible job. With the last line of his speech, he made clear his awareness of ICANN's most pressing reputational problem.
In addition, criticism over the new domain expansion, which will take the Internet from 22 generic top-level (gTLD) domains to more than 1,900, has taken some unexpected turns. And calls for ICANN to turn over its administrative duties to the UN's International Telecommunications Union or some other multinational have grown stronger than ever.
ICANN also said it has replaced the manager of the domain expansion program. That program has been delayed by technical problems and marred by the unexpected release of some confidential applicant data.
Since the list of applications for gTLDs was announced, trademark holders have been increasingly concerned that they will have to shell out even more money for brand protection. And the public-interest community is considering the effects of multinational corporations trying to stake out a wide range of generic names.
ICANN also suspended the controversial "digital archery" method it intended to use for processing domain applications. The system would have relied on Internet connection speeds to reward the fastest responses with better places in line for application processing. Unofficially, a number of applicants and others complained that digital archery gave hot-wired developed countries an unfair advantage and opened up an avenue for profiteering by companies claiming to be able to beat or game the system.
One of these companies, Pool.com, is a subsidiary of Momentous, one of the largest Internet registrars, which is owned by the chairman of ICANN's nominating committee. That group chooses candidates for the ICANN board and other parts of the organization.
— Beau Brendler is chairman of the North American Internet user advisory committee to ICANN (NARALO) and was a voting member of its executive committee (ALAC) for three years.