Following up on Part 1 of this article, in which I discuss the Domain Name System (DNS), IP Addresses and domain names, Part 2 explores the origins of ICANN, which is charged with the management of the DNS.
(Part 3 will delve into a rising debate over ICANN’s approval of new Generic Top Level Domains (gTLDs).)
ICANN is a non-profit corporation based in Marina del Rey, California.
Because of the U.S.’ pivotal role in the creation and development of the internet, the U.S. government essentially created ICANN.
In 1998, the U.S. National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) (part of the U.S. Department of Commerce) wanted to improve the management of domain names and IP Addresses.
In its “Green Paper,” the NTIA proposed to create a private sector non-profit with an international board of directors. ICANN was the result.
ICANN is run by a Board of Directors, which consists of 6 representatives from 3 Supporting Groups and 8 independent representatives.
The Supporting Groups are:
1. GNSO – Generic Names Supporting Organization, which handles policy related to Generic Top Level Domains (gTLDs).
2. ccNSO – Country Code Names Supporting Organization, which handles policy related to Country Code Top Level Domains (ccTLDs).
3. ASO – Address Supporting Organization, which handles policy related to IP Addresses.
There are also several Advisory Committees, representing the interests of governments, individual users, internet & technology experts and commercial & non-commercial users.
Currently Paul Twomey is the President/CEO of ICANN and Vint Cerf is the Chairman of the Board of Directors.
Because of its enormous power in creating the architecture for the internet and because the effects of its decisions ripple globally, ICANN is often the subject of much controversy.
The ICANN critic’s argument is usually along the lines that ICANN was never meant to decide internet policy and was never meant to determine who can sell & register domain names – ICANN was only meant to be a bottom-up informed technical steward of the internet.
Since its creation, many have questioned the scope of ICANN’s mandate and jurisdiction.
For example, in 2002, ICANN decided to limit public participation in its meetings. That same year, ICANN contested an audit of its accounts by one of its publicly elected board members.
In 2003, a company called VeriSign began redirecting users who typed in unregistered domain names to a VeriSign website offering VeriSign products. ICANN forced VeriSign to stop this practice, and VeriSign sued ICANN – contesting the latter’s authority to regulate VeriSign’s activities.
Continue reading Part 3, where I will delve into the controversy over ICANN’s approval process for new top level domains.