Lebanese-Egyptian Entrepreneur Fadi Chehade to Lead Internet Expansion as New ICANN CEO

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It may come as no surprise to entrepreneurs in the Arab World that a successful Lebanese-Egyptian IT entrepreneur will now lead the complicated task of restructuring the internet.

This weekend, it was announced that Lebanese IT entrepreneur Fadi Chehade has been selected as the next CEO of ICANN, the Internet Corporation for Assigned Numbers and Names, to lead a major restructuring and expansion of the internet's address system. 

Chehade will replace Rod Beckstrom, who served as Director of the U.S. National Cyber Security Center and will step down as CEO on July 1st. COO Akram Atallah, who previously worked with Chehade, will take over as CEO in the interim, The Huffington Post reports

While Chehade isn't an insider at ICANN, his work developing a system called RosettaNet called for a diplomatic approach that will be needed with the next expansion of domain names on the internet. When building RosettaNet, Chehade was able to demonstrate to companies like Microsoft, Hewlett-Packard, Dell, and IBM, that allowing their machines to directly communicate and standardize certain protocols would enhance efficiency rather than compromise competition. 

"Fadi has an amazing track record of success and the obvious leadership qualities to help carry ICANN into the next stage of its evolution," said ICANN board chairman Stephen Crocker at a news conference in Prague, Naharnet reports

Expanding the number of available top level domain names on the internet will be a dicey job. Currently only country domain names (like .lb) as well as generic top level domains .com, .org, .net, .gov, .edu, and .mil are available for broad use, while a few other sponsored domain names are available for limited use and non-Latin character country codes (like .مصر ) are currently under testing. 

ICANN has received proposals for over 1,409 different domain names, including .love, .google, and .music. As .com addresses dry up, it could open up new opportunities for companies with similar names to retain a local brand. For instance, perhaps the Apple Records (now at applerecords.com) could take apple.music, leaving apple.com to the technology company. 

Yet it's a controversial move sure to create a headache for companies hoping to maintain brand and name consistency worldwide. "Anything new like this is going to create angst and controversy, and it's going to create opportunity," Chehade said.

Chehade's life story points to his perseverance, however. After being smuggled out of Beirut, he arrived in the U.S. in 1980 with $482 at the age of 18, completed a computer science degree on scholarship, then an MA in engineering management from Stanford, and went on to found several successful software companies and a supply-chain management service company. Now a U.S. citizen, he most recently served as the CEO of Vocado, the provider of online tools for administering educational institutions.

Not only did he work with Atallah at CoreObjects, they served as boy scouts together in Lebanon in their youth. "We were in the same boy scout group when we were teenagers. This is a friendship and relationship that will help me in performing my duties," Chehade said.

Their story of staying connected over the years through the internet demonstrates the power of staying in touch with entrepreneurs both locally and in the diaspora, as it can lead to powerful cooperations. 

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