June 10, 2013, 12:09 PM

ICANN gears up for the arrival of new web domains

The web-address group announces organizational changes.

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The Internet Corporation of Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), the not-for-profit organization that oversees web addresses, has created two new executive positions as it prepares for the arrival of a slew of new web domain names.

Chief operating officer Akram Atallah will become president of the newly-created Generic Domains Division on July 1, ICANN says. The organization is also seeking a leader for technical and security operations, a new position that will report directly to CEO Fadi Chehadé. “This is an important commitment to our mission and community, and we are very active in identifying candidates to fill this critical role,” Chehadé says.

ICANN coordinates the names and numbers that make up Internet addresses worldwide. It is overseeing a process to enable retailers and other organizations to buy web addresses that reflect their activities. For examples, organizations can bid for such domain names as .camera, .Nikon or .Rome.

ICANN says it received last year 1,930 applications for new generic top-level domain (gTLD) names, or the strings of letters following the “dot” in a web address, like “dot-com.” Of those applications, 751 are for contested gTLDs—or domain names that another company or group has asked ICANN not to approve. Among those, ICANN says, are  .app and .Amazon.. ICANN also says 230 of the domain names requested in 2012 drew more than one applicant.

Currently there exist 22 top-level domains, such as .com, .edu and .gov, and 250 country-specific web address endings, such as .uk.

In the coming months, the organization will sort through the applications and objections to them in order to determine which applicant, if any, will be permitted to own a particular domain. Some retailers have contested applications for domain names related to a specific retail category—for example .shoe, which some retailers say could confer an unfair advantage to one shoe seller over all others. Barnes & Noble Inc., for one, in March filed an objection to Amazon.com Inc.’s application to purchase the .book domain and several related domains like .read and .author.

The forthcoming staff appointments will enable ICANN to handle efficiently all the new domains as it begins to approve them, Chehadé says. Atallah, in his role leading the Generic Domains Division, will oversee gTLD operations, engaging with the operators of domain name systems—the DNS services that turn a web address like InternetRetailer.com into a string of numbers that a computer can understand—and online community services, Chehadé says.

Replacing Atallah as chief operating officer on July 1 is Susanna Bennett, chief financial officer and vice president of human resources at semiconductor manufacturer Jazz Technologies Inc.

“It is particularly exciting to partner with the passionate team at ICANN at this time of dramatic international growth,” Bennett says. “The Internet’s impact around the globe is phenomenal and in no small way ICANN’s multi-stakeholder model has effectively framed the Internet’s growth.”

ICANN says it will also make the following changes to its organization on July 1:

• Vice president of stakeholder engagement for North America Jamie Hedlund will become a special advisor to Chehadé and continue to lead North America government relations.

• Replacing Hedlund will be vice president of business engagement Christopher Mondini, who will also upgrade his current position and become vice president of global business engagement.

• Senior director of inter-governmental development Nora Abusitta will become vice president of public responsibility programs.



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