Conflict of interest, whether real or imagined, looks bad for ICANN as it faces fresh criticism over its new TLD plans.
ICANN has a problem.
The key example is former ICANN Chairman of the Board Peter Dengate Thrush.
One month after pushing through a vote on the new TLD program in his last meeting as Chairman he took a role with publicly-traded Top Level Domain Holdings, a company focused solely on profiting from new top level domain names.
There are no rules prohibiting this move, as Dengate Thrush pointed out when I interviewed him about the new role.
I can’t blame him for jumping at the opportunity. I also don’t think putting the program up for a vote in June had anything to do with profiting from it — I think it had to do with getting the program approved before his term as Chairman was over.
But it doesn’t matter. The problem is it just looks bad.
Recently Internet Advertising Bureau joined Association of National Advertisers in opposing the new top level domains program. Interestingly, I haven’t seen them point to this specific conflict. But other groups, including Coalition Against Domain Name Abuse, have.
ICANN has received plenty of pushback on its new TLD plans both during the process of creating the applicant rules as well as after it was approved. Everyone has an opinion, and it would be wrong to point to Dengate Thrush’s move as proof that this is just a money grab.
But that won’t stop people from bringing attention to it, and that will bad for ICANN.