ICANN Chief to Step Down

The organization that oversees the Internet’s domain name system is going to have to find a new leader.

Today at the opening session of ICANN’s international meeting in Mexico City, Paul Twomey announced his intention to step down as the group’s president and CEO by the end of the year.

Twomey has headed the organization since 2003, following a four-year stint as chairman of ICANN’s Governmental Advisory Committee. At the request of the board of directors, Twomey said he plans to remain with the group for a transitional period after his replacement is named. During that time, he will serve in the new position of senior president.

Tributes poured in from Internet luminaries in response to Twomey’s announcement.

“I can think of no other person who has had more influence on the course of ICANN’s evolution than Paul,” Vint Cerf, Google’s chief Internet evangelist and a former ICANN chairman, said in a statement. “We owe him a great debt for long and faithful service and I owe him personal thanks for his counsel during my time on the board. The board will be challenged to find a worthy and capable successor.”

As head of ICANN, Twomey helped set the stage for the most dramatic expansion in the Internet suffixes, known as global Top-Level Domains (gTLDs), since the nonprofit’s inception.

Internet addresses have traditionally been confined to familiar suffixes like .com and .org. But in June, ICANN’s board approved a measure to allow site operators to select their own gTLDs, inviting the potential for a virtual land grab.

“The potential here is huge. It represents a whole new way for people to express themselves on the Net,” Twomey said at the time of the board’s decision. “It’s a massive increase in the ‘real estate’ of the Internet.”

ICANN is planning to open the application period for new gTLDs in the second quarter. Global TLDs are distinct from country-specific suffixes like .ca (Canada) and .au (Australia), which are referred to as country-code Top-Level Domains, or ccTLDs.

Prior to his tenure at the helm of ICANN, Twomey held a variety of tech posts in the public and private sectors, serving as the Australian government’s Special Adviser for the Information Economy and Technology. He was also the founding CEO of the National Office for the Information Economy, the Australian government’s top IT agency.

Immediately before taking over at ICANN, Twomey founded Argo [email protected], an international investment and consulting firm.

In a statement, Twomey said that he had previously expressed his intention to step down, indicating that he plans to continue work on Internet issues, but in a different capacity.

“While I am deeply and personally committed to ICANN and its success, I think this is the right time for me to move on to another leadership position in the private or international sectors,” he said.

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