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Sun exec joins Internet Society board

The company's chief research officer and director of its science office takes a post at the nonprofit, which deals with technical standards for the Net.

John Gage, chief research officer and director of the science office at Sun Microsystems, has been appointed to the board of trustees of the Internet Society, a nonprofit organization advocating global cooperation in creating technical standards surrounding the Internet.

Gage will replace late Net luminary John Postel, who Gage described as "the guiding spirit of the Internet." Postel died in October of last year. The post does not affect Gage's status at Sun.

The appointment comes at a time when governance over the Internet's inner workings is in flux. Along with his post on the Internet Society's board, Postel was head of the Internet Assigned Numbers Authority (IANA), the agency that ran the infrastructure of the domain name system. That government-contracted authority since has been transferred to the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), an international nonprofit organization.

"It used to be that Postel did it all" in terms of handling both the domain name system and the technical structure behind the Internet, Gage said today. "Now we're trying to replace [his] genius with bureaucracy."

But ICANN has had to face its share of criticism over its proposed bylaws, its choices for leadership, and other issues.

Whereas ICANN deals with the controversial domain name issue, the Internet Society is focused on "the Internet's development, availability, and associated technologies," according to its Web site.

The Internet Society "maintains the structure of technical import," Gage said. "ICANN deals with the political and governance issues" surrounding the Internet.

Gage said his chief goal in his new post on the Internet Society's board is to take the group's membership "into the millions" from its current roster of roughly 10,000 individuals, companies, and institutions.

"We have hundreds of millions of people on the Internet--we should have a larger percentage of that" involved in the Net's technical structure and direction, he said.

The Internet Society is "a form of world government," he added. "In some ways, it's what the dream of the United Nations was--no borders."

Gage has been involved in a number of projects that relate to public policy reagarding the Internet. Notably, he was the founder of NetDay, a grassroots effort to get public schools and libraries the resources and equipment they need to network their computer systems and connect to the Net.