For better or worse, new gTLDs are coming.
The only thing standing between the new gTLDs and the world is ICANN, the organization that runs the internet’s domain name system. With applications for new gTLDs in, it must now select which gTLDs will find their way onto the internet and which companies will run them.
It’s likely to be a tough, thankless job and one that will require strong leadership. And new leadership, as on Friday ICANN announced who its next chief will be. On October 1, Fadi Chehade, who is currently the CEO of cloud software provider Vocado, will assume the role of ICANN CEO.
Although he is not a domain industry insider and the new gTLDs process is one of the most important ICANN has ever managed, the organization apparently believes he’s the right person for the job and was willing to appoint an interim CEO until Chehade’s October 1 arrival.
Like his predecessor, Rod Beckstrom, Chehade will have a three year contract. Unlike his predecessor, he will be paid $800,000 per year. The salary, not surprisingly, has raised eyebrows and it is, at a very minimum, a reminder of just how important ICANN is today.
And it’s only going to become more important under Chehade’s reign. With more than 1,900 applications for new gTLDs sitting on ICANN’s desk, ICANN will soon usher in what is arguably one of the biggest periods of change in the domain name system’s history.
Adding intrigue is the departure of ICANN’s gTLD head, Michael Salazar, who resigned last week for reasons unknown. The timing, of course, is curious, but perhaps not illogical. The stakes are very, very high for ICANN’s new gTLD rollout, and with moneyed interests wheeling and dealing to get what they want, ICANN’s leadership finds itself in a tough spot for obvious reasons.
If the new gTLDs prove to be a hit with companies and consumers and the process goes smoothly, ICANN will be able to breathe a sigh of relief. If the new gTLDs are a flop or the process is bungled, ICANN, an organization already heavily scrutinized, could find itself facing a level of scrutiny it hasn’t seen before.
Either way, incoming CEO Fadi Chehade will almost certainly earn his $800,000 salary.