Dr Willie Black has resigned as the chairman of UK domain registry Nominet, citing the need for new challenges now that the company has settled after nine years of extraordinary growth. He wil leave on 8 December.
The decision has come as a surprise to many, for whom Dr Black is the .uk Internet domain. He founded Nominet in 1996 as a private, not-for-profit company, limited by guarantee with just three staff. Nine years later, Nominet has registered over 3.6 million domains - making it one of the biggest domains in the world - has 130 staff and boasts a turnover of £10 million.
In an official statement, Dr Black explained: "The challenge nine years ago was to set up a stable registry for the .uk domain name space. I feel satisfied that Nominet now has a strong and effective senior management team, financial stability, provides excellent customer service, and has gained substantial respect both from the industry and from government. Now that this has been achieved, I feel that it is the right time for me to move on and apply the knowledge I have gained to new challenges elsewhere."
Nominet's managing director Lesley Cowley reiterated Willie Black's central role, mentioning the initial challenge of setting the company up, and then dealing with the hypergrowth that soon followed. She told us that with new systems and a capable senior management team in place (of which she is one), that things were relatively calm and "understandably Willie decided to take a bit of a rest".
According to the statement, Dr Black plans to take up a number of non-executive director positions, although these have not been made public and Ms Cowley wouldn't expand. "But with his excellent skills, I am sure the phone will be ringing," she told us.
Dr Black is a key figure in the Internet. He has been involved in the DNS since its earliest days in the 1970s. He helped develop email, and in the early 90s, ran the Joint Academic Network (JANET) in the UK. He was, until recently, head of European registry organisation Centr, and is hugely respected across the world. He is a passionate advocate of not-for-profit domain organisations and has been a persistant and constructive critic of Internet overseeing organisation ICANN. "People at ICANN will probably miss him and his notable contributions," Cowley said, although she doubted that it will see the end of him.
As for the chairman role, Cowley told us the exact process has yet to be decided but that the company is looking for a capable successor to lead the board, devise strategy and act as a figurehead for the company. There is likely to be a public advertisement for the job to which she said she expected lots of highly experienced people to be interested in taking.
According to Nominet's 2003 accounts, the highest paid director - which we will assume is the chairman - received, including pension, £137,457. Not a bad wage, but the real attraction to the Nominet chairman job will be the kudos and the chance to be right at the heart of the Internet as it goes through the next revolution to become an integral part of society's life. ®