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'Uncle of the internet' named ICANN chair

Steve Crocker, man who wrote first ever RFC document

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The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers has named internet veteran Steve Crocker as the new chairman of its board of directors.

Crocker is noted for his work on the ARPANET, the internet's predecessor, in the 1960s and 70s, as well as his involvement with the Internet Engineering Task Force since its inception.

He's also known for writing the first-ever Request For Comment document. RFCs are now used as the standard format for describing IETF internet standards.

Crocker, an American, replaces Peter Dengate Thrush, a New Zealand intellectual property lawyer known in the ICANN community for his forthright, occasionally confrontational negotiating style.

His appointment came as absolutely no surprise to anybody following ICANN politics closely.

Crocker has served as vice-chair since December last year, and directors have been dropping hints about his selection all week here at ICANN's 41st international public meeting in Singapore.

He was described on Monday by ICANN chief executive Rod Beckstrom, as "one of the uncles of the internet", an apparent reference to the fact that Dengate Thrush's predecessor in the chair, Vint Cerf, is usually described as one of the "fathers of the internet".

The election, which was carried out by ICANN's board in a secret poll, also saw Bruce Tonkin, chief strategy officer of Australian domain name registrar Melbourne IT, named vice-chair.

Crocker beat nominees Cherine Chalaby and Sebastien Bachollet to the chair, while Tonkin beat Bachollet and Ray Plzak in the vice-chair race. It was the first time ICANN had revealed the names of unsuccessful candidates in these elections.

The appointments follow ICANN's historic vote to approve its new generic top-level domains (gTLD) program. On Monday, the organisation announced plans to let any company apply to run dot-anything domain names, potentially increasing the number of domain extensions by hundreds over the next few years.

Dengate Thrush's experience as a barrister was undoubtedly a boon to ICANN during its recent talks with international governments, which had been pushing for stronger trademark protections in new gTLDs, but he was also criticised by some for pushing too hard for the program to be approved on his watch, before it was fully ready.

Dengate Thrush is departing as chairman due to the expiration of his time on the board, which is subject to strict term limits. ®

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