In the last post, I was discussing the new Asia domain and who is in charge of organizing requests for site addresses. Dotasia was granted this license or right by ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers). This of course raises the question of who ICANN is and what authority they have. I looked at the About section on their website to find the answer to these questions. All of the quotations are from the ICANN website.

  • Who are these guys?

ICANN is officially listed as a private non-profit corporation in California.

  • Under what authority do they operate?

When the internet first went online, many of the initial domains, computer servers, and users were located in the U.S. As a result, some responsibility fell to the U.S. government to regulate these things occurring within their borders. As the internet grew to become an international space and with a growing number of locations and sites, the U.S. recognized a need to pass this responsibility to another independent group made up of private internet stakeholders. My understanding is that as they were formed out of a government White Paper, it initially gave the group credibility within the U.S. which lead to other groups and nations respecting ICANN initiatives.

“In its 5 June 1998 “Statement of Policy, Management of Internet Names and Addresses,” 63 Fed. Reg. 31741(1998) (commonly known as the White Paper), the United States Government declared its willingness to recognize a new, not-for-profit corporation formed by private sector Internet stakeholders to administer policy for the Internet name and address system. The White Paper envisioned a transition process during which the not-for-profit corporation would enter various agreements to facilitate ending the United States Government’s role in the Internet number and name address system in a manner that ensures the stability of the Internet.”

  • What do they actually do?

“The mission of The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (“ICANN”) is to coordinate, at the overall level, the global Internet’s systems of unique identifiers, and in particular to ensure the stable and secure operation of the Internet’s unique identifier systems.”

“Within ICANN’s structure, governments and international treaty organizations work in partnership with businesses, organizations, and skilled individuals involved in building and sustaining the global Internet. “

While ICANN is an authoritative body, they cannot tell governments what to do on the internet. Instead, they work with governments and internet stakeholders to suggest common agreements and treaties that ensure standards relating to DNS (Domain Name System). Wikipedia describes DNS as a phone book for the internet. This means they try to create standards for how computers can find and connect to each other over the internet and they work with businesses and governments to implement these standards.

So who controls the internet?

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