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ICANN Board member quits

Michael Palage takes handcuffs off

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A director of internet-overseeing organisation ICANN has resigned from the board, claiming he will be able to do more working from the outside.

Michael Palage was due to stay on the board until June 2008, but decided to quit because he says a "conflict of interest" meant he was unable to participate effectively. A key member of ICANN since its inception, Palage is an IP lawyer and IT consultant and has represented a number of internet registrars since 1998. He currently acts as a consultant to big-player Afilias.

His advisory role for companies caused him to abstain on the controversial board vote over the dotcom registry. It has also seen him receive a number of threatening letters from right-wing Christians in the United States over the proposed .xxx domain because he had advised the company behind it in its original bid several years earlier.

Palage told The Reg that the threatening letters had no impact on his decision, but confessed that not being able to contribute his knowledge and experience to the ICANN Board because of his conflicts of interest was "incredibly frustrating".

"I have been unable to actively participate. I had the ability to contribute, but have not been able to meaningfully do so," he said.

The decision to quit now, just after the ICANN meeting in New Zealand, is because of what Palage sees as the crucial issue of new global top-level domains (gTLDs) that will begin in earnest at ICANN's next meeting in Morocco in June.

"The next six months are critical," he said. "There have been three big issues [dotnet, dotcom and dot-xxx] which I haven't been able to contribute fully to and ICANN is now at its biggest crossroads with the new TLDs. ICANN has to get the new TLD process nailed down. And if I didn't step down now, I would have been handcuffed."

Palage said in his resignation letter to the Global Names Supporting Organisation (GNSO) - the part of ICANN that will select his replacement - that "this decision has been made easier because of some of the change which is currently taking place within the ICANN Board", and reiterated that when talking to us, promising that the heavily criticised ICANN Board was definitely moving toward to a new process of greater transparency. "Things are moving in the right direction."

Trust in ICANN is at an all-time low thanks to its murky relationship with both the US government and lead internet registrar VeriSign, and its apparent dismissal of its own members' views.

ICANN is also under severe pressure from the rest of the world over its US-centric approach to the internet. The next stage of global top-level domains are likely to see a large number of applications from groups across the world and may just be the pressure valve that prevents ICANN from exploding. But only if the process is handled properly, and the shambles that has surrounded the .xxx domain is evidence that the current system is fundamentally flawed.

Palage told us he feels he can make a "serious impact" on the new gTLD process. "I've no intention of going away," he said. And no wonder - as one of the most qualified men on the planet for advising companies on how to create and build their own piece of the internet, his skills are likely to be very much in demand. ®

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