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Vint Cerf takes ICANN hot seat

Dotty Queen Esther hands over the poisoned chalice

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Genial Internet veteran Vint Cerf will take over from Esther Dyson as ICANN chair at the end of the month for a one year, unpaid stint in the hot seat.

As an engineer Cerf worked on early ARPANET protocols and co-authored what became TCP/IP in the early to mid 1970s, and served the first chair of the Internet Society. He's also a Vice President of random billing specialist MCI Worldcom, where he's worked on and off since leaving ARPANET in 1982.

The vote was unopposed, reports AP, although Europe's At-Large representative Andy Mueller-Maguhn noted the obvious conflict of interest. It's come up before, and Cerf has a stock reply on his Web site Cerf's Up

"I've been confronted with conflicts of interest, especially as chairman of the Internet Architecture Board or as President of the Internet Society or as program manager in the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. In those cases where endorsement of a particular product or vendor might have produced significant material gain, I chose not to invest, not to accept compensation, and either to remain silent or to speak my opinions unburdened by conflicting personal interest."

Which could be tricky to achieve.

On the upside, Cerf is naturally conciliatory in tone and widely-respected. On the downside, he's never been prominent in championing the Internet as an international human resource, on social issues or on public ownership: "Gore provided much-needed political support for the speedy privatization of the Internet when the time arrived for it to become a commercially-driven operation," he wrote recently. Nor has he been particularly critical of ICANN itself, serving as a board member since its inception.

Last year Cerf petitioned his employer MCI Worldcom for a $1 million bridging loan for the cash-strapped quango, recommending that the request be kept private.

Either way he will enjoy a honeymoon period of sorts, given the ever more eccentric and regal statements from his predecessor, the celebrity venture capitalist and pundit Esther Dyson. Esther began distancing herself from ICANN - while still its interim chair - several months ago, with comments declaring how she'd like to have done things differently if only someone like um... herself was in charge. Even though she was. Sceptics have noted that where the published board voting tallies, Dotty Dyson did not record a single dissenting vote. ®

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