Four days later, Dengate Thrush finished his term as ICANN chairman and within a month joined a London company called Top Level Domain Holdings that plans to buy Web suffixes created by the plan and offer Internet registry services.
Dengate Thrush’s move and that of another former ICANN employee have drawn criticism from government watchdogs. The U.S. government is considering adding a conflict-of-interest provision to the contract for domain-name system support performed by ICANN since 1998.
“Given how quickly these two individuals sped through the revolving door, one can’t help but wonder if thinking about their next career move influenced their policy decisions,’’ said Sheila Krumholz, executive director of the Washington-based Center for Responsive Politics.
ICANN doesn’t restrict what employees, executives or directors do after they leave, though they are subject to confidentiality agreements, said John Jeffrey, the group’s general counsel.
“There are no ethical or contractual prohibitions on moving from ICANN to work in the industry, and, in fact, that’s what many people have done,’’ Dengate Thrush said. “Most people at ICANN are there because they’re in the industry to start with.’’
ICANN, based in Marina del Rey, Calif., oversees 22 generic top-level domains, known as gTLDs, including the dot-com, dot-org and dot-net suffixes, which together account for almost 120 million Internet addresses.
The group has about 130 employees and operates under a zero-dollar contract with the Commerce Department. It collects fees from companies such as VeriSign, GoDaddy.com and Top Level that generate revenue by helping businesses and consumers obtain domain names. For the year that ended June 30, ICANN reported $68.3 million in revenue, much of it from fees.
At a June 20 meeting in Singapore, ICANN’s board of directors voted 13 to 1, with two abstentions, to increase the number of domain names and consider almost any word in any language as a Web suffix. The vote capped years of deliberations over the program, which the group has said would provide companies with new ways to reach customers.
ICANN’s decision created a potential new market for companies such as Top Level, which is publicly traded on the London Stock Exchange’s Alternative Investment Market and says it’s working with groups seeking the rights to potential suffixes including dot-nyc and dot-eco.
The Web-suffix expansion has been attacked by trade groups representing large corporations and advertisers that say the change increases businesses’ costs.
The proliferation of new domain names will confuse consumers and force companies to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to defensively register domains to protect their brands, Bob Liodice, president of the Association of National Advertisers, wrote in an Aug. 4 letter to ICANN.