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New ICANN chief open to change

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers often has been criticized for being too secretive. Its new president says the organization is ready to turn over a new leaf.

    The Internet address authority has been criticized as secretive, but new president Paul Twomey says the organization is set to turn over a new leaf.

    Paul Twomey, the recently elected president of the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), believes the organization's next step is to look beyond nations that are part of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD)--an international group composed primarily of developed countries--to accommodate the interests of the global Internet community.

    Twomey said ICANN has three main objectives in the near future--the first is to be "very open and consultative with all the stakeholders." ICANN has been criticized for ending the practice of online voting to elect board members.

    "Formerly, there was a process of online voting. But in the view of the committee, it probably hadn't worked as well as it could have," said Twomey. He said the voting process was vulnerable to "branch stacking." He also pointed out that in North America and Europe, the number of people who voted was in the thousands. In Southeast Asia, the number of votes was in the millions.

    ICANN will now rely more heavily on its at-large advisory committee, which is charged with talking to other Internet organizations and individual users about how ICANN interacts with them.

    The other objectives are to fulfill obligations set out in a memorandum of understanding with the U.S. Department of Commerce and extend the outreach of ICANN to global Internet communities, according to Twomey. He added that the Internet has moved from being an OECD community to a truly global one.

    Twomey denied recent reports that he is in favor of governments taking control of the domain name system, saying the system is "an area of public/private partnership."

    "There are certain overlaps in public policy, and that's where government plays a role, and where dialogue should be the strongest," said Twomey.

    Perhaps the biggest problem facing ICANN is the interoperability of internationalized domain names--particularly domain names with non-Roman characters, according to Twomey. "This is a very complex issue, technically, in a business sense and in a linguistic sense," he said.

    "For example, the amount of trade that takes place across Asia-Pacific is...at the trillion-U.S.-dollar level, and the primary languages are Chinese, Korean, Japanese and English." If the domain name system in different languages can't talk to each other, then some of that trade will be jeopardized, he added.

    ICANN is also concerned about the introduction of IPv6, which will increase the number of Internet addresses available, and newly sponsored top-level domain names such as dot-health. "It's important to implement these in such a way it maintains the stability of the Internet," said Twomey.

    The Whois database, which administers the administration and contact details for domain names, is also under review as ICANN attempts to juggle accuracy and consistency with privacy concerns.

    ZDNet Australia's James Pearce reported from Sydney.