In the 1970s, Vint Cerf played a leading role in developing the Internet's technical foundation. For the past seven years, he's faced the more daunting task of leading a key agency that oversees his creation. After fending off an international rebellion and planting the seeds for streamlining operations, Cerf is stepping down this week as chairman of the Internet Corporation of Assigned Names and Numbers. "My sentence is up," Cerf said with his characteristic sense of humor, which he and others credit for helping him steer the organization through several high-profile battles from which it emerged more stable and stronger.
Cerf, 64, who's also a senior executive at Internet search leader Google Inc., joined ICANN in 1999, a year after its formation to oversee domain names and other Internet addressing policies. Cerf was elected chairman in 2000 and leaves the unpaid position after Friday's board meeting in Los Angeles because of term limits. When he joined the board, many questioned whether ICANN would survive. Now - though some people still complain that ICANN is arbitrary, secretive and slow - the focus is more on improving it than replacing it. Under Cerf, the organization withstood power struggles and ballooned in size. "In some respects it has gained credibility," said the retiring chairman. "It is now part of the Internet universe as opposed to a thing that was open to some serious debate."