ICANN, the Internet naming authority, has responded to criticism of its lack of openness and accountability. It has appointed Techworld’s news editor, Kieren McCarthy, as general manager of public participation.
McCarthy has been a long-standing critic of ICANN, standing for election to its board in April last year. The non-profit organisation asked McCarthy to build and run an online participation website at its recent Sao Paulo conference in December, the first sign that the authority was taking the critics’ comments to heart.
Of his new position, McCarthy said: "The more I looked at the job, the more interesting it became. Basically, ICANN is making vital decisions about the future of the Internet and yet hardly anyone knows who it is, what is it deciding, or how to interact with it. It's my job to change all that. And the fun part of it is I will be travelling the globe finding and talking to the people that are doing the most interesting things with new Net technologies to see if I can use them to make ICANN a brand new model of international, open, online decision-making.
"And what all that means is that anyone whatsoever who is interested in the expansion of the Internet should be able to see how these big decisions are made and - if they feel particularly strongly - have a direct input, alongside the governments and big business and so on. Using the Internet to bring a new type of democracy to the world."
He said that after 10 years as a journalist it would be an interesting experience to work on the other side of the fence. "Of course, if I fail to do all that, at least I will be able to make the kind of changes in ICANN that as a journalist I have been complaining about for years. I look forward to having to explain to someone like myself how come everything is taking so long..."
He will be starting his new job in February but the effects of the new mindset at ICANN are already being felt. The authority has launched its own blog, produced its first annual report and published the first full minutes of its most recent Board meeting - just two days after the event.
It will be a busy time for McCarthy whose book on the battle for Sex.com registration is due out this spring.